By Richard Moore
From top to bottom: tranquility
in a cave pool; the silica terrace; and the
blue and white sky view from inside a cave
(images courtesy of
Orakei Korako is a hidden gem near Taupo where you can stroll
about with few other visitors to get in the way of your camera,
or disrupt the relative tranquility of an active thermal area.
It is well off the main State Highway One - 21 kilometres
in fact - but the countryside is pleasant and Orakei Korako
is well worth a detour.
It is a fairly compact thermal area that you can walk around
in an hour, 90 minutes or take all afternoon if you'd prefer.
Orakei Korako contains geysers, huge silica terraces, a sacred
cave, mudpools, a rock that looks like an elephant's head
(honest) and a picturesque view back across the river to the
café, office and accommodation centre.
To go the final distance to Orakei Korako you need to take
a short boat ride across the Lake Ohakuri. The service is
on an on-call basis and when you are ready to be picked up
all you need to do is press on a buzzer and the guys will
pop on over to get you.
It is worth suggesting that you take along a bottle of water
on your trip around - particularly on a warm day - and if
you have children then some snacks wouldn't go astray as there
are no facilities on the site itself.
From the boat ramp and jetty you can take yourself up excellent
walking boards to the unpredictable Diamond Geyser. The geyser
is an on-again, off-again spout that can be steamy or, when
erupting, send boiling water up to eight metres into the air.
It gets its name from the look of the millions of water droplets
pushed into the air that "sparkle like diamonds".
A short climb will take you up to the Rainbow Lookout and
from there you can look down on the Emerald Terrace. It may
not seem like it, but there is more than 20 million litres
of hot water that flows down the silica terrace each day.
Now, another interesting thing about Orakei Korako is that
its silica terraces are among the largest in the world and
it has the most active geysers of any geothermal area in New
The Rainbow and Cascade Terrace was formed way back in 131
AD during one of Lake Taupoi's major eruptions. The water
flowing across them is 60 degrees Celcius and that allows
algae to form giving them the most gorgeous colours. Just
beyond the terraces is the phenomenon known as both The Cloud
and the Golden Fleece. It is a wall of silica standing up
to five metres high and runs for about 40 metres. It too began
life around 1900 years ago, back in 131 AD.
Following the walkway further you come to the Artist's Palette,
which is said to be the most dangerous and unpredictable place
in the area. Its silica crust can be only 20 mm thick in places
and eruptions from the spring can occur at any time. The hot
water from below again creates perfect growing conditions
for algae and they give the brown, green, yellow, orange and
pink colours that give it its name. Across the expanse are
some 120 clear-blue rock pools as well.
One of the highlights of Orakei Korako is the sacred Ruatapu
Cave. It is one of only two caves in geothermal areas in the
world. You journey down to the cave down a fern-surrounded
set of stairs and descend about 40 metres into the reasonably
At the bottom is the sacred pool where - it is said - you
can touch the water and make a wish. The locals say it will
come true if you tell no-one about it. Seems someone must
have been reading my thoughts because, to date, my wish has
not been realised. A particularly moving sign in the cave
mentions Adam Mikaere, a local guide who loved the cave and
who died many years ago in Libya in 1941 during World War
Next up it's the Mud Pools and the Soda Fountain. The fountain
seems a little cantankerous as one day it will be full of
water and the next will be empty. No reasons are given for
its changeability. Then back to the jetty, call up the ferryman
and relax in the café that offers an excellent view
from outside tables.
Now I have to say that the tranquil waters of Orakei Korako
are mighty inviting and it has to be said that staying overnight,
or for a weekend, at Orakei Korako's cabins looks a pretty
fine way to relax.
Children (16 & under): $8.00
Families (2 adults & children 16 & under): $52.00
Under 5s: Free
Hours of Operation:
Orakei Korako opens at 8am with the last boat to the island
at 4pm in winter and 4.30pm in summer.
Korako (official site)