Waimangu Volcanic Valley (New Zealand) draws visitors from all corners of the earth. Photographers come for the colours, tourists for the uniqueness, hikers for nature, and scientists to study the world’s youngest geothermal system.
It’s a virtually untouched, ever-changing landscape that was created in just four hours in 1886. The eruption of Mt Tarawera created this valley (also called the Tarawera Rift), enlarged Lake Rotomahana, and destroyed the famous Pink and White Terraces. At the same time, nature was left a clean slate to rebuild.
Table of contents
- 1 Formation of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley – ‘How the World Began’
- 2 Our Self-Guided Walk Thru the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- 3 Pink and White Terraces
- 4 Sailing on Lake Rotomahana, An Active Volcanic Crater
- 5 Prefer a Tour?
- 6 Practical Information on Visiting the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- 7 Have you visited the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Formation of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley – ‘How the World Began’
June 10, 1886 started out as a normal day in the central North Island of New Zealand. Visitors arrived in what is now the Waimangu Volcanic Valley to see the famous Pink and White Terraces. Suddenly, and without warning, Mount Tarawera exploded in what became the largest recorded of New Zealand volcanic eruptions.
In just four hours, everything changed. About 120 people were killed. The landscape was wiped out, the 17-kilometre long Waimangu Volcanic Rift was formed, and nature had a blank canvas to regenerate a new ecosystem. Today, scientists (and everyone) who visits get a window into how the world began.
Waimangu is a peaceful place. A space so big that walking through we rarely saw anyone else. We found the general manager’s comment to be true, “Look ahead and behind, the park is yours.”
Our Self-Guided Walk Thru the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Understanding the history makes the experience stronger, so be sure to follow the Waimangu Volcanic Valley Map and guide that is provided when you enter.
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Pink and White Terraces
This photo predates the Mount Tarawera eruption which left the Pink and White Terraces under the enlarged Lake Rotomahana.
Sailing on Lake Rotomahana, An Active Volcanic Crater
One option available at Waimangu Valley is to explore from Lake Rotomahana via boat. The continuous commentary was fascinating and our captain was available to answer questions. He did point out when we over the Pink and White terraces, now only remnants, fully submerged under 60 metres of water.
Images from our time on the boat
Prefer a Tour?
If you’re a person or family that prefer a tour, these are the best we could find:
Practical Information on Visiting the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
- Entrance to the Visitor Centre for the Waimangu Volcanic Valley is about 25 km south of Rotorua in the Central North Island of New Zealand. It is a must-see on the North Island.
- Be sure to pick up a Waimangu Volcanic Valley Map at the visitor’s centre before you set out on your walk, or download a map here.
- The main walking trail is about 4km and leads from the visitor centre to Lake Rotomahana.
- If you don’t want to walk all or any of the trail, there is a shuttle bus to the lake that makes several pick up stops along the way.
- Allow at least two hours if you only want to walk, at least 3.5 if you are planning to include the 45-minute boat trip.
- There are several walking options as well as a shuttle bus between selected points. We opted to walk from the entrance the 1.5 km to Bus Stop 1 and then take the shuttle bus to the boat dock.
- The boat takes only 35 people six times per day, so it is recommended to book in advance. ⇒ Click here to check prices: Waimangu Valley Entry and Lake Rotomahana Cruise
A visit to Waimangu Volcanic Valley is one of several surreal experiences available when in Rotorua New Zealand. Waimangu is one of my two favourite geothermal attractions.
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Have you visited the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Disclaimer: We worked with Destination Rotorua, the local tourism board. We were provided with complimentary entrances, tours and sample items to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.