State Highway 5 at 247km is the second shortest of New Zealand's eight national highways but it is the North Island's direct route to an amazing geothermal world which steams, hisses and bubbles.
State Highway 5 extends from State Highway 1 at Tirau, on the plains of the Waikato River to State Highway 2 close to the Hawkes Bay coast at Bay View, 10 km north of Napier.
The highway leaves State Highway 1 at Tirau, heading east and climbs to cross the Mamaku Range to Lake Rotorua. The highway skirts the southwestern edge of the lake and heads for the city of Rotorua.
At the junction at the end of Old Taupo Road which runs along the western side of Rotorua Te Puia is well worth a stop before you leave the city.
The amazing Waimangu Volcanic Valley was formed during the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.
At Te Puia Pohutu Geyser hoses scalding water 30 metres into the air.
New Zealand's iconic Te Puia binds threads of Maori culture for future generations
The core of Te Puia is the powerful, boiling earth energy of the Whakarewarewa Valley.
For about 700 years its people have been nourished by geothermal gods. Today the legacy of the past generations is knowledge and history handed on in stories and song.
In 1963 the NZ government framed legislation to set up the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute to foster and protect the customary art forms of Maori.
Carving, weaving, kapa haka (Maori performing arts) have been taught and cemented for the future with hundreds of artists.
Te Puia numbers its visitors in millions and it funds itself through their interest in what it represents and teaches.
New Zealand's most recognised tourism attraction is founded on the fiery, steaming, hissing, bubbling wonders of Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley.
Many of the staff and the guides who lead visitors through New Zealand's iconic Maori experience are direct descendants of the first people to settle in the Whakarewarewa Valley.
They continue traditions of guiding and hospitality to New Zealand and international visitors which go back about 120 years.
In that process the early guides helped raise the world's knowledge and appreciation of the Maori culture.
These are the threads that bind the fabric of Te Puia and fit it for its role as Kaitiaki (guardian) of Maori culture for future generations.
A geyser blast off at Rotorua
As guardian of this treasure, Te Puia protects the culture for future generations and sustains it through its schools of learning and visitor experiences. Te Puia shares Maori traditions and their importance with people from all over the world.
Te Puia has done significant work on developing the geothermal valley and tourism products it offers including night tours, banquets next to the geysers, future-proofing their Kiwi breeding program and promoting their arts and crafts institute.
Summer: 8am 6pm (last tour starts at 5pm)
Winter: 8am 5pm (last tour starts at 4pm)
Hourly from 9:00am
Daytime Maori Concerts
10:15am, 12:15pm, 3.15pm
Rotorua has spectacular geothermal activity, fantastic mountain biking, scenic walks and excellent trout fishing. Plus the healing waters of mineral springs.
The volcanic landscape is unique and links to living Maori culture, natural hot springs and plenty of options for adventure, Rotorua is one of New Zealand's most famous destinations.
Whakarewarewa Village hot spring bathing
Whakarewarewa , The Living Thermal Village brings traditional Maori living to life
Whakarewarewa, The Living Thermal Village gives a clear picture of Maori lifestyle and traditions in a geothermal city where the forces of nature steam and hiss and it is just around the corner from Te Puia off Tyron or Sala Streets.
The living Maori village of Whakarewarewa is set in a landscape of erupting geothermal activity, hot thermal springs and bubbling mud pools www.whakarewarewa.com
Although visitors have been coming to Whakarewarewa since the 1880s an opportunity arose for the local tribe to set up their own independent business. The Whakarewarewa Thermal Village Tours began in 1998 under the umbrella of the Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust.
The village experience is not owned by any particular organisation or individual rather it is a way of life, a legacy passed down through the generations which continues today.
The people of Tuhourangi - Ngati Wahiao (a Maori family tribe) have lived in and around the geothermal activity of Whakarewarewa for over 300 years.
The land upon which the tours are guided belongs to many numerous family groups, who generously allow visitors to participate in their communal lifestyle incorporating Maori culture and traditions.
Boiling mud pool Rotorua
The geothermal activity is used in everyday life with hot springs and steam vents used for cooking (natural cook tops and ovens) and the natural mineral waters used for communal bathing.
In this active community events within the village change with the pace of village life and visitors can find themselves part of tribal gathering, funerals or weddings.
Guides share stories of the Maori migration from the legendary homeland Hawaiiki to Aotearoa, New Zealand.
The heart of the village is the Whare Tupuna (ancestral house) is of great significance to the people of this village. This building preserves and retains carved and woven panels which display the genealogy, history and culture of the Tuhourangi, Ngati Wahiao tribe.
Every pool, geyser or fumarole in the entire valley has a name. These features are named after ancestors, events or incidents and are a part of the history of the tribe.
Visitors can take part in interactive activities which may include weaving, displays of musical instruments, learn a waiata-a-ringa (action song) or just chat with some of the local residents on their journey.
Whakarewarewa is the only place where you can enjoy a traditional geothermal hangi meal cooked from the natural steam hot pools as well as a cultural show during the day.
7 days per week, 8.30am 5.00pm
Closed Christmas Day
Guided Tour Times:
Hourly first tour at 9am, last tour at 4.15pm
Cultural Performance Times:
11.15am and 2.00pm
(Included in price of admission)
Traditional Geothermal Hangi Meals:
Served Daily between 12.00pm 2.00pm
Last Tickets Sales at 4.00pm
Redwood Forest Rotorua
There are giant Californian Redwoods in Whakarewarewa Forest and visitors walk, jog, bike or horse trek on the forest trails. The Redwoods forest is a favourite with mountain biking enthusiasts.
Planet Bike is situated on Waipa State Mill Road where you can hire mountain bikes.
State Highway 5 continues south through the Rotorua-Taupo thermal area to the upper reaches of the Waikato River it follows the river's upper valley past Wairakei and Huka Falls to Taupo, on the northeastern edge of the lake of the same name. Between Wairakei and Taupo, the highway runs concurrently with State Highway 1.
There are many tourist attractions and activities on this section of about 100km of State Highway 5 between Rotorua and Taupo. With no stops the drive from Rotorua to Taupo takes about and hour.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley Self Guided Walking Tour
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the only hydro thermal system in the world wholly created within written history, and is the direct result of a volcanic eruption - the Tarawera eruption of June 10 1886. It is the world's newest geothermal system.
It is the only hydro thermal system in New Zealand where all the surface features are contained within a single geological structure, the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley, the creation of which can be pin-pointed to an exact time and event.
Waimangu gives a new meaning to colourful
A range of easy walking, advanced hiking, and boat cruise experiences ranging in duration from 45 minutes to over four hours are available at Waimangu.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the site of the world's largest recorded geyser, Waimangu Geyser, which played regularly between 1901 and 1904.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the home of Inferno Crater, the world's largest Crypto Geyser which means geyser-like feature and Frying Pan Lake, the world's largest Hot Water Spring in terms of surface area.
Inferno Crater and its relationship with Frying Pan Lake is always a spectacular and interesting feature of a visit to Waimangu.
Recently a young boy told the Waimangu staff that the best thing he liked about his visit was the amazing disappearing lake.
Staff members think that is a great way to describe the lake in Inferno Crater because In an inter-related cycle with Frying Pan Lake, that lasts about 38 days, the water in Inferno Crater fluctuates from overflow to about 8 metres below overflow (thus the description disappearing).
It has even been known to recede as much as 12 metres below overflow which a larger magnitude than other known geyser like hot springs.
Amazing Waimangu Volcanic Valley
for the Waimangu Walking and Hiking attractions and the Lake Rotomahana Boat Cruise for visitors to download and use. Waimangu is Qualmark accredited, and is a multiple New Zealand Eco-Tourism Award winner. Waimangu is easily accessible, and is just 20 minutes south of Rotorua, and 40 minutes north of Taupo.
WHAT TO BRING AND WEAR:
Flat shoes or sandals, camera, comfortable clothing, rain or sun protection as necessary, baby pushchair if needed.
For Advanced Hiking option, good walking shoes with treaded soles recommended.
Waimangu can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical abilities. Equally enjoyable in autumn, winter, and spring, Waimangu is a year-round eco-experience.
The Waimangu walking options are wheelchair accessible. Inferno Crater can be accessed by 50 steps. Access to the valley and boat is only possible for those visitors who can move or be moved in and out of their wheelchair for negotiating bus steps, jetty steps and boat steps. Waimangu should be contacted for further details on specific arrangements.
Open daily from 08:30
Waimangu Volcanic Valley (Easy Walking/Advanced Hiking) -
3.45pm for 5.00pm close except January - 4.45pm for 6.00pm close
Lake Rotomahana Cruise
Lake Rotomahana Cruise (Cruise only) -
3.15pm for 5.00pm close except January - 4.15pm for 6.00pm close
Walk-Hike and Boat Cruise -
2.00pm for 5.00pm close except January - 3.00pm for 6.00pm close.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland's Artist's Palette and Champagne Pool -
give a new shade to colour and Lady Knox Geyser plays every day.
Waikiti Valley Thermal Pools is a short 5 minute drive off the highway and well worth a relaxing stop.
Other attractions on this stretch include -
Taupo Puzzle World
Rock n Ropes
Taupo Horse Treks
Wairakei Terraces is situated in Waiora Valley at Wairakei.
The steam of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station is a dead giveaway that you have arrived at Wairakei.
A short detour off the Highway will take you to Huka Falls which are free to view and one of the most spectacular waterfalls you will see anywhere.
Huka Falls crashes down
At the Huka Falls, the Waikato River which is normally 100m wide but it is squeezed through a narrow 20 metre wide gorge and over a 20m drop.
Every second up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the gorge and shoots out over 8 metres beyond to create a beautful blue-green pool. The wonderful color of the water is a signature of Huka Falls.
This area is also home to a collection of tourist attractions that are only a short drive from Taupo.
So putting them off until tomorrow is easily done if you are ready to find a nice place to put your head for the night.
Huka Falls Cruise
Huka Prawn Park
Huka Falls Jet
The Honey Hive
Taupo Volcanic Centre
Friendly Great Lake Holiday Park overlooks blue Lake Taupo
Great Lake Holiday Park on Acacia Bay Road is handy to Huka Falls and only a short drive out of the city.It isthe closest Holiday Park to most of Taupo's many attractions.
Great Lake Holiday Park isone of more than 50 Kiwi Parks in a chain which offer accommodation throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand.It is set in five acres of sheltered park-like grounds, amongst 3,000 acres of farmland.
This quiet location makes Great Lake Holiday Park a pleasant experience with sweeping views across Australasia's biggest fresh water lake.
Great Lake Holiday Park is close to Taupo CBD and 1.5 kms to northern boat ramps and Acacia Bay. Lake Taupo is often called the Trout Fishing capital of the world. Taupo also has a selection of golf courses from International standard to nine holes.
Great Lake Holiday Park offers a variety of quality accommodation to suit personal requirements and caters for singles through to groups.
There are 1, 2 and 3 bed roomed self-contained units, access units, deluxe cabins, standard cabins, powered and non-powered sites.
Great Lake Holiday Park self-contained unit
Great Lake Holiday Park offers refurbished clean communal bathroom and kitchen facilities. There are free gas barbecues with outdoor table-seating, volleyball, trampolines, children's playground, games room, internet kiosk, Wi Fi hot zone, card phone, on site shop, private spa.
From Taupo there are easy day drives to explore the National Park - the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing or skiing, Napier-Hastings wine country, Rotorua thermal activities and Waitomo Caves.
Lake Taupo region is New Zealand's largest fresh water lake and the biggest lake in Australasia.
It is one of the last true wild trout fisheries in the world. Get hooked and get a local restaurant to cook the catch.
Rainbow and brown trout were released in Lake Taupo more than 100 years ago. It is open for fishing all year.
A guide is a good investment and you will need a separate fishing licence to the rest of New Zealand.
There are geysers, steaming craters, boiling mud pools and some of the largest silica terraces in the world.
Ski on an active volcano - Mt Ruapehu is home to the Turoa and Whakapapa ski fields, the largest in New Zealand.
In the Whirinaki and Pureora Forest Parks some of New Zealand's rarest flora and fauna still thrive.
All Seasons Holiday Park Taupo fits families
All Seasons Holiday Park, Taupo, is ideally situated if you decide to stay in Taupo while taking in more of the available activities in the area.
All Seasons Holiday Park is a member of the Kiwi Holiday Park chain and part of more than 50 inKiwi Holiday Parkswhich offer accommodation throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
Clive, Carole, Sue and Ivan Reid and team take pride in their park and their ability to help with advice and bookings for tours, trip and activities.
All Seasons Holiday Park's Park Motels are about comfort, quality and a little bit of luxury while on holiday. The Park Motels offer two bedrooms, a spacious lounge and dining area, a modern bathroom and fully equipped kitchen.
Standard Cabins at All Seasons Holiday Park provide comfort for travellers on a budget. The Standard Cabins sleep up to four people, with a double bed and a set of bunks all in one sleeping area.
Bring your own bedding if you choose to stay in the Standard Cabin or hire the required items from the office. All Seasons Holiday Park provides pillows and bottom-sheets for all beds.
Powered sites are private and spacious. The Motorhome, Campervan, RV or Caravan sites are divided by hedges to ensure privacy.
Tent sites are set in landscaped grounds with picnic tables and modern communal facilities are nearby. Communal facilities include a thermal mineral pool, private indoor spa, spacious TV and games room, modern kitchen and dining, barbecue and laundry facilities.
All Seasons Holiday Park is 1.5 km from Taupo CBD.
Editors Note: Also see -