There might be very few places in the world left unexplored by man. Yet there are some that remain sublimely hidden, familiar only to those off-the-beaten-path adventurers and campervan hire travellers that seek and take joy in places unbeknownst to the horde.
Orakei Korako is one such place. Set in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, an easy drive away from the towns of Rotorua and Taupo, this geothermal world is certainly a must add on anyone’s bucket list. It’s a natural wonderland, effervescing with natural wonders such as silica terraces, geysers, hot springs, and a thermal cave. And it’s a site not to be trifled with.
How to Get There
Whether by car or by campervan hire, driving to Orakei Korako is an easy undertaking. It is, after all, only 45 minutes away from the town of Rotorua and 25 minutes away from Taupo. From Rotorua, simply drive down State Highway 5 and turn right on Tutukau Road. On the other hand, you may travel north along State Highway 1 from Taupo past Wairakei and take a right turn on Tutukau Road.
Alternatively, leave your campervan hire at the car park and travel in style by air: both Rotorua Volcanic Air Safaris and Taupo Float Plane offers scenic flights to the Hidden Valley on a floatplane.
What To See
Thread your way along network of ramps and walkways that meanders through the park for impeccable views of Orakei Korako’s exquisite geothermal wonders that include mud pools and hot springs. The centerpieces are, of course, the silica terraces, which form the base of the park, and Ruatapu Cave, the only geothermal cave in the country.
Orokai Korako’s silica terraces might just be the largest of its kind in existence today, and are spectacular to behold. During your visit, start at the Emerald Terrace whose surface is beautifully lined with yellow, green and black algae. Work your way to the Rainbow and Cascade terraces to see the geysers, before finally making it to Golden Fleece Terrace where old reed-like grasses have been saturated with silica and fossilized.
Notable landmarks in the silica terraces area include the Sapphire Geyser, Hochstetter’s Pool, the Map of Africa, and the clear blue water of The Lookout crater.
Also called Aladdin’s Cave, the Ruatapu Cave is said to have been formed by a hydrothermal eruption. It’s apparently one of the only two geothermal caves in the world, making it a unique sight to witness. It’s certainly worth a visit, if only to see its hot underwater pool that sits at its base about 24 metres down. The pool, known to many as “The Pool of Mirrors,” is clear and gorgeously jade green in color, and may be seen safely from the cave’s viewing platform.
Where To Eat
In between explorations or before you drive back into town in your campervan hire, pop into the park’s MudCake Café.
It’s a lovely place to relax with a refreshing beverage or refuel with the sandwiches on hand, whilst enjoying sweeping views of Lake Ohakuri or catching up with the outside world using the complimentary WiFi.