Welcome to the rumbling belly of the shaky isles: Waiotapu


Waiotapu means sacred waters in Maori. It’s an active geothermal area at the southern end of New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone just outside of Rotorua. It’s a place of surreal colour, beauty and otherworldly wonder. It’s no exaggeration that you haven’t seen anything like this before. The alchemy of mineral deposits mixing over thousands and sometimes millions of years has caused remarkably odd combinations of colour, not found elsewhere in nature. You should go there and see for yourself the Lady Knox Geyser, Champagne Pool, Artist’s Palette, Primrose Terrace and boiling mud pools. The Park is well set out and has great amenities and guides, it’s easily accesible by foot although there is no disabled access to many parts. It’s an easy 3 hour walk that covers 18 square km. It was well worth the journey.

If there was a place in the world where Smeagol could possibly live, this would be it.


Wai-O-Tapu is wedged right on the edge of four volcanic calderas within the zone. A geothermal wonderland, it was discovered in 1886 and the spectacular sinter terrace, Champagne Pool, pink and white terraces. Some of these natural wonders shook and morphed during the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886.

Artists Palette

A spectacular feature at Wai-O-Tapu is the Artists Palette. Earthquakes over the decades have tilted the spring and causing mineral deposits to flow and then streak across the surface, which follows the direction of the wind.


A cacophony of colour can be found in the Artist’s Palette including

Blue – Alkali chloride

Cloudy yellow/green – Acid sulphate

Orange – Antimony/Arsenic

Green/Yellow – Sulphur/Arsenic

Grey – Carbon


Leave a Reply