Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the Mount Tarawera Eruption. I used to spend hours wandering through the Buried Village reading the tails of the guide Sophia and the poor people who lost their lives. I’d pour over photos and models of the Pink and White Terraces, once regarded as the 8th wonder of the world, and lament how we would never see them again. I thought that I had seen everything there was to see about Mount Tarawera. That was until I went to Waimangu.
At Waimangu I cruised over the now hidden remains of the Pink and White Terraces on Lake Rotomahana.
I saw glimpses in the stone of how they may have looked.
I saw Mount Tarawera looming from a whole new angle on the calm waters of Lake Rotomahana.
And I got a glimpse into what it must have been like for travellers coming to New Zealand to be completely immersed in this wild wonderland or steam, boiling mud and geysers.
But if all that is not enough to make you want to visit Waimangu, maybe I need to backtrack a little and tell you about the day we visited Waimangu.
We really put Waimangu to to test going with not only our 10, 11 and 12 year old girls but also our camping companions and their 6 year old boy. I know it looks like our kids are outdoorsy in a lot of our posts but remember that this is a highlights reel you see. So while they definitely go on a lot of epic adventures they are much like any kid out there and the prospect of a 1.5 hour walk wasn’t sending them into a frenzy of excitement. Emma was fairly sure that her little boy wouldn’t last the whole walk either.
So don’t be put off if the excitement of your kids isn’t matching yours at the start of the journey – they will love it! And spoiler alert – they all made it to the end without being carried!
For starters there is a Cafe onsite. It made a great start to our journey with yummy and nutritious food in our bellies. And it also made for excellent bribery at the end (as is the gift shop).
We went on the guided walk which I’d thoroughly recommend as it is super interesting and keeps the kids really engaged.
Our guide was really knowledgable and had a great, uniquely kiwi sense of humour. He rattled through stat after stat and helped us measure the water temperature in the various places we went to (you can hire your own infrared digital thermometers to check out the temperature of geothermal lakes, streams and geysers)
The favourite part for the kids though was learning about a tree with leaves that are colloquially called Bushman’s friend leaves. The reason being that it’s a natural alternative to toilet paper in the bush. And guess what they will be on the lookout for now!
They also learnt how to spot a silver fern. Which to my somewhat amazement they parroted back the next day on the Redwood Tree Walk. And in no time at all were actually stopping to smell leaves and look at the world around them.
The walk starts with trip back in time as we stand in front of a mural depicting the homestead that visitors used to stand in and stare out at this geothermal wonderland. Our guide brings it to life in a way posters can’t.
The first thing your guide will tell you before you set off is that the walk is pretty much all downhill. Cue general murmurings of excitement from not just our kids but the others on our walk too.
The only uphill part is around 60 steps up to Inferno Crater – a naturally blue lake which rises and falls as it heats and cools.
Was the view worth it – well you can be the judge of that…
The geysers are so incredibly close. And I noticed that not one person stepped back from them as our guide told us the story of the four who lost their lives in 1903 in a geyser explosion.
Another great thing about this walk is that it moves quickly from impossible vista to impossible vista so there is very little time for kids to get bored.
One of the highlights for me was frying Pan Lake – one of the world’s largest hot water springs with a surface area of 3.8 ha!
We went on what started out a rainy day. It soon turned into a sunny day that had us all peeling off our layers. And then back to overcast again. I was somewhat wishing for it to rain while we were there because rain does amazing things to steam but it didn’t. If it does rain on your journey though don’t let it put you off.
Our guided walk ended at bus stop one and took about an hour. We decided to walk on to bus stop 2 by ourselves. In hindsight it was probably a step too far because we went from no complaints for the kids to a few grumbles. Our advice – if you are with kids, stop at bus stop 1. If you are not, keep on going!
The last part of our journey was a boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana.
For me to be in the spot where pink and white terraces were with exploding cliffs with silica stone puts you as close as you will ever be to this hidden wonder. And the AR experience on the Waimangu app puts you even closer to it.
The cruise is 45 minutes and takes you right around the lake – again with commentary as you go.
My favourite part had to be pulling up next to a geyser that erupts every 8 minutes and seeing it go from nothing to plumes of smoke and water before my eyes. And then in other parts of the lake the incredible stillness that belies the violent past.
Kiki was probably the most engaged of all the kids and was out there on the front of the boat with me taking pictures of all the amazing sights around us and had the app downloaded on her phone.
Despite our earlier fears all the kids made their way around with no carrying and it was a great day out exploring.
If we can learn any lessons from history it is that these geothermal wonders are constantly changing and what we see today future generations may never see. So grab the opportunity, make a day of it and explore the steaming wilderness that is Waimangu.
Getting Lost would like to thank Waimangu for hosting us for the day. As always the views in this article are our own.