Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Champagne pool 400 foot aerial
Champagne pool from 400 feet above shot with a DJI Phantom Pro

Rotorua is geothermic, so it’s no surprise there are multiple attractions to tour the geysers, mudflats, and pools. The images of the Champagne pool were a major decision factor for visiting Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.

Thousands of years of volcanic activity helped make Wai-O-Tapu what it is today. As one of New Zealand’s most colorful and distinct geothermal sightseeing attractions, this was a “must-do” for our visit to Rotorua.

overlook facility wai-o-tapu
Preparing for our day at Wai-O-Tapu. You can smell the sulfur pits from here!

There is parking near the Visitor Center and at Lady Knox Geyser. We allotted 2.5 hours on our itinerary for this park. Arriving right when the park opened gave us great lighting for pictures, and it was practically empty, so we felt like we had it all to ourselves.

At the visitor center, there is a gift shop, a cafe, and the park’s only bathroom facilities. A picnic area is located just outside of the center.

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Small boardwalk crossing over the artist’s palette to the Champagne Pool.

This natural landscape is unique because of what lies below the surface. Extending over 11 square miles makes this one of the extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand.

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Looking at the champagne pool from the artist’s pallet pool.
hot champagne pool wai-o-tapu
That Champagne pool is a boiling 212 degree Fahrenheit!

There are plenty of well maintained and easily accessible pathways located throughout the park that get you incredibly close to the active geothermal pools.

boys champagne pool wai-o-tapu
The boys posing next to the BOILING champagne pool – those “safety rails” seem a little too low to me!
champagne pool aerial wai-o-tapu
Champagne pool from 200 feet above shot with a DJI Phantom Pro.
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The water overflows the Champagne Pool and works its way down across this large flat.
sentiment deposits wai-o-tapu
The textures formed by the sentiment deposits formed beautiful patterns across the flats.
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Overlooking Frying Pan Flats.

The largest mud pool in New Zealand is at Wai-O-Tapu and was originally the site of a large mud volcano destroyed through erosion in the 1920s.

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Standing next to Thunder Crater.
lime pool wai-o-tapu
Lime colored geothermal pool. Not much more to say other than it was REALY bright lime!
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Trying our best to look into the bottom of Rainbow crater.
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It was intense seeing the mud bubbling at the bottom of the inferno crater.

Lady Knox Geyser

Outside of the entrance of the Park is a Geyser with a scheduled eruption. We made our way through the park first, then headed over to the Geyser early for good seating.

lady knox geyser close up wai-o-tapu
Lady Knox geyser just prior to its forced eruption.

After what seemed like an extremely long wait, an employee came out and explained the history of this Geyser. This area used to be a prisoner washing area, and one of them discovered, if they poured detergent down the geyser, it would erupt. At the end of the employee’s story, he poured a bag of soap flakes into the mouth of the geyser and stood back. A few minutes later it erupted.

lady knox geyser wai-o-tapu
Lady Knox Geyser is activated by pouring detergent into it.

This was the first geyser I’ve ever seen in person, and it was underwhelming. I’m not sure if I built it up in my mind too much, but the rest of the family seemed to feel the same.


  • Purchase tickets online and look for deals.
  • Get there early to beat the crowds to get the best pictures and enjoy the natural beauty of this place.
  • Skip Lady Knox Geyser. If you are dealing with the crowds, most will leave the park to go watch the Geyser. There’s a better geyser at Whakarewarewa village.
  • Grab a map of the park to plan your day.
  • If you are smell sensitive, pack strong mints to mask the smell.