Where to begin?  There is so very much to say about Rotorua and my time there, what with all the incredible geothermal activity including my AirBnB’s steaming front yard and the also incredible Māori history and culture which in many ways lives on today.

Each of these topics could occupy a person for years, no doubt, but since none of us are going after our PhDs on these topics (that I know of), I’ll give just the briefest overview of the information gleaned from the tours I took and the bit of reading I did.

Let’s jump into the geothermal activity and Hell’s Gate in particular with its  Sulphuric Acid lakes, boiling mud, hot water waterfall, as well as its Spa offerings of mud baths and sulfurous water soaking pools all side by side.  With bodies of water exceeding 110 degrees celsius (230 F) and other bodies of water holding a pH balance more corrosive than battery acid, one must watch where they step for sure. 

It was the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who upon visiting this particular geothermal area in the early 1900s, said, “This must be the gateway to Hell.”  The name stuck and the area has been called Hells Gate ever since.  Take a look at the “Inferno Pool”, which inspired his comment.

It doesn’t look as though my video widget has been fixed, no surprise there, so cut and paste you must.  My continued apologies.  


Hell’s Gate, whose Māori name is Tikitere, is also home to Kakahi Falls, which claims to be the tallest thermal waterfall in the southern hemisphere.  The hot sulphurous waters are said to have been used by Māori men only and especially to heal battle wounds.  The sulphur in the water holds antiseptic properties, which I imagine came in handy back in the time before antibiotics.  Though the women and children were not allowed to use the Falls, they did have a nearby lake of healing sulphurous waters of their own aptly called, Medicine Lake.  Cut and paste the link to watch the video, please.


Rotorua is a part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone which is second only to Yellowstone National Park for geothermal activity around the world.  Rotorua actually sits inside the caldera of a very large dormant volcano, a Rhyolite Caldera to be precise.  These are the most explosive of earth’s volcanoes, but often don’t even look like volcanoes, as is the case here. There are 45 major Fault Lines in New Zealand and like Alaska, the Rotorua area experiences regular earthquakes.  And also like Alaska, New Zealand sits within the Pacific Ring of Fire where the majority of earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes take place.

The next video from Hell’s Gate shows boiling mud pools.  These pools form where steam and gas rise from underground into rainwater ponds.  The acidic gas transforms rocks on the surface into a clay, which mixes with the heated pond water and becomes mud.  The steam then heats the mud to the point of boiling.  If you’d like to watch the video, you know what to do now.


You may also note the Sinter terraces in the video and following photo.  These are created from the mineral deposits left by the overflowing hot springs.  Over time, much time, the minerals build up layers of unique and fragile formations.  You can see the yellow from the sulphur and yes, much of the area has a strong rotten egg, sulphur smell, especially near my AirBnB which I have to say took some getting used to. 

After the almost 2 hour walking tour throughout the Hell’s Gate geothermal complex, I enjoyed a mud bath experience followed by a nice long soak in a pool of sulphurous waters.

That’s me in one of the mud baths at Hell’s Gate. Only 20 minutes allowed for health and safety reasons.  The mud is super fine like silt and is gathered daily in buckets from particular mud pools at the top of the reserve.  It is then carted down to the boxes you see (my elbow is resting on one).  The water is piped into the pools and comes directly from particular pools  as well and is monitored frequently for temperature and pH level.

After rinsing off and an optional dip in the very cold plunge pool, you can relax as long as you’d like in one of the sulphurous water pools.  A pretty cool way to spend a very misty morning.   

The previous day, I visited a Māori village called, Te Puia, which is directly associated with the Village where I stayed.  They share the same Geothermal Field, called the Whakarewarewa Valley which houses the shared Meeting House, Communal Baths, Cooking Boxes etc.  Te Puia Village occupies the upper section of the field and is not inhabited while, Whakarewarewa Village is a living village and occupies the lower section of the valley and this is where about 30 of the ancestors of the original Chief live today.  It was really cool to stay there and be able to walk to the end of the AirBnBs driveway and step right onto the geothermal walkway which wound around the field of steam vents, mud pools, steaming lakes, and a tiny mini geyser.  

During my tour of Te Puia, I not only got to experience the Kiwi Breeding Habitat and upper geothermal field, but I experienced Pōhutu erupting.  The Pōhutu Geyser claims to be the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere as well as one of the most active, erupting about 20 times a day to a height of up to 98 ft. While it didn’t reach a height of 98ft during the eruption I witnessed, it was rather impressive and went on for about 20 minutes.  Take a look and who believes it, this video is actually working.  Yay!

And one more video from a more expanded angle showing the surroundings.  Who knows why one video works and the next doesn’t, but this is a great video, so cut and paste please.  


And before we go, I’ll leave you with another photo showing a view of part of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley.  It’s pretty cool what happens when two tectonic plates collide, in this case, the Pacific and the Australian.

Next up will be about the cultural evening I spent at the traditional Mitai Māori Village, so stay tuned.


A note about commenting, should you be so inclined, which I hope you will because I love hearing from folks following along!

If you type your name (first name only is fine) in the Name Box, your comments won’t show up as Anonymous and I’ll know it’s you.  Also, should you choose, you can fill in your email address in the provided box next to the Name box.  If you do this, you will get an email telling you I have replied to your comment and what I said.




  • Heather Smith

    December 13, 2022

    You in the mud bath is a perfect “Margie Moment”! What an interesting place!

    • Margie

      December 14, 2022

      Hi Heather! The mud bath was a fun experience for sure. I had to be careful not to get it near my eyes because they said it would sting badly. Glad I was successful on that front. An interesting place, for sure.

  • Melissa Shuttleworth Lucas

    December 15, 2022

    I am loving all these updates and amazing photos and videos! You are having a trip of a lifetime…after other trips of lifetime too! I’m so happy for you and all your adventures! Thanks for taking us all along for the ride through your writings and photos!

    • Margie

      December 28, 2022

      thanks Melissa! It a great trip, for sure. I’m so glad you are following along and also for letting me know you are following along. I really love the sharing/interaction. Many blessings for a fulfilling new year!

  • Tena

    December 28, 2022

    This is the post I’ve been working my way to with bated breath. To see the boiling mud is such a treat after reading about the area in Molten Mud Murders, which grabbed my attention and didn’t let go, especially since you were about to leave for New Zealand when I read it. It is not the prettiest place you’ve shared with us, but is is definitely the most interesting to me so far. I remember visiting Yellowstone long ago and seeing the hot pools sitting in openings in the crust of the earth. The brilliant colors and being able to look into the depths was breathtaking!

    • Margie

      December 28, 2022

      I love how you started at the beginning and are working your way through my NZ posts and I knew you’d particularly enjoy this one. 🙂


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