Geothermal Features in the Bay of Plenty
Geothermal surface features provide a tangible example of the amazing processes occurring underneath our feet. Surface features include geysers, mud pools, or hot ground. We are very fortunate in the Bay of Plenty that we have so many surface features, and so many types of surface features - they are an increasingly rare occurrence all over the world.
Because surface features are so rare, it is important we enjoy them and protect them for the future.
Great Geothermal Surface Features to Visit
Pohutu Geyser (Rotorua)
Located within the Whakarewarewa reserve, at Te Puhia off Sala Street, Pohutu Geyser is one of the very few geysers still active today. Many other geysers have been destroyed by development or have ceased naturally. Pohutu Geyser plays 2-3 times an hour.
Pohutu Geyser has been one of the key features of Rotorua for many years, and it is a little known fact that when Fenton Road was originally built it was angled to provide an optimal view of Pohutu all the way to the lake edge, unfortunately vegetation growth and property development have since obscured this view.
Whakarewarewa Village (Rotorua)
The access to Whakarewarewa village is off Tryon Street, but the easiest way in is to turn in past the BP on Sala Street, and then take the first right which leads you to the carpark. The gateway to the village is the historic bridge and if you're fortunate you might even see some modern Penny-divers jumping from the bridge into the Puarenga Stream below - you'll be impressed at the drop.
Whakarewarewa village is permanently inhabited, and you will
wander past people's homes as you enjoy the sites the village has
to offer. The geothermal features are dynamic and impressive, and
the village provides a unique view into the idea of life within a
geothermal surface feature.
Apart from the geothermal surface features, the other drawcard to the village is the food. Delicious hangi pies and corn traditionally cooked in a geothermal cookbox and served piping hot.
There is also a very pleasant lake walk that takes in some very representative geothermal vegetation types.
Sulphur Bay (Rotorua)
Sulphur Bay is somewhat hidden and often over looked, tucked away behind the Energy Events Centre and Government Gardens, the Bay is where the geothermally influenced Puarenga Stream enters Lake Rotorua, this area also has some of its own geothermal springs. Easiest access is to go to Government Gardens, down Queens Drive, past the Museum, and then past the impressive Energy Events Centre, round the back and you should be able to get some good views out across the Bay.
The warm, shallow water of Sulphur Bay makes it very popular
with the local birdlife, and you will often see the little rocky
islands absolutely packed with water birds. This is a must-see
sight for bird lovers.
The water is also an interesting colour as the geothermal minerals start to settle out and mix with the lake water. The other great way to see the Bay is to land at Rotorua airport on a nice day, the geothermal plume is an impressive sight.
Ohinemutu village is nestled between the Hospital Hill and the lake, and the area has a unique feel about it. Vehicles should park at the top of the hill (access off Lake Road).
Once you get down to the village you can see just how central the geothermal surface features are to every aspect of life, there are cook boxes and vents, and hot streams that trickle down to the lake. This is one of the most dynamic areas in Rotorua, the geothermal fluid is so close to the surface that you can never be sure what you will see, so watch your step.
It is also important to note that the people of Ohinemutu have always welcomed visitors to freely visit their area, but would appreciate it if you respected the privacy of their properties.
Most visitors to the village also stop by St Faith's Anglican church - a beautiful church, famous for it's architectural union of European and Maori styles. Postcards are a must though, as no photos are allowed to be taken inside the church.
Kuirau Park (Rotorua)
This is one of the best places to visit for free, with plenty of facilities for the whole family, and maintained by Rotorua District Council. There are several convenient carparks to access Kuirau Park, these can be accessed from Pukuatua Street and Ranolf Street.
Kuirau Park's greatest feature is Lake Kuirau, a large geothermally active lake - there is a pleasant walk around the lake (probably a 10-15 minute stroll) with information boards about the lake and the vegetation. There are some great examples of petrified wood. There are two other smaller lakes in the park as well.
There are also free foot baths about 40cm deep, two covered and one open air, all about 40 °C, and it can be lovely to go there, pull off your shoes and soak your feet. These pools are cleaned out daily by Rotorua District Council Reserve Staff. One of these is very near the children's play area and offers a lovely view across Lake Timaru. The other two pools are better accessed off Ranolf Street and are near a children's splash pond (only filled during summer months), and the sensory garden.
The park has many different types of geothermal surface features, including a plopping mud pool, and is a very pleasant area to explore at a stroll. As with any geothermally active site, please stick to the paths and avoid areas where the ground is steaming - this is particularly important for Kuirau Park where most of the features are 70-95 °C.
Waitangi Soda Springs (Rotoehu)
The Soda Springs are something of a hidden treasure, located off Manawahe Road (if you're driving Rotorua to Whakatane this is the road to the left just before you go into the trees that leads to Rotoma), they have recently been redeveloped for use. Unusually this is a run-of-the-river site, with a weir creating a a pooling area where you can bathe.
The site is supplied by both hot and cold springs, making the temperature just right for bathing. They are a bit of a drive, but the springs are said to be very therapeutic.