The whole damn town of Rotorua smells like sulfur, unfortunately (see for reference: thermal hot springs full of bubbling mud pools), but it’s also a beautiful, cool place that truly is a must-visit when (not if!) you’re in New Zealand. Rotorua is a roughly 3-hour drive from Auckland, and you can also fly directly there from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. Since I lived in England and love driving on the wrong side of the road (sorry, sorry, I meant the opposite side of the road), we opted to rent a car and away we went!
We visited Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Spa, which was so named by George Bernard Shaw when he visited the Maori-owned pools in the 1800s. Hells Gate features boiling hot pools, sulfur dips, New Zealand’s largest active mud volcano, hot water lakes, and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest hot water fall.
Hells Gate is the only geothermal area in New Zealand that’s still completely Maori-owned, which is kind of a big deal in a country with such a rich, interesting history that’s embraced rather than suppressed. Taking the cure at Roturua has been used for hundreds of years (at least 150 by Europeans, and about 700 by Maori) to treat arthritis, rheumatism, eczema, burns, muscular pains, and acne.
E. and I climbed into the mud pool and began slathering each other up, then showered and took a dip in the sulfur pools, before showering yet again and touring the area. I was more interested, of course, in the beauty and spa aspect of Hells Gate (where you can also have massages), but E.’s inner-geek was sparking because of the hot springs and the geothermal activity.
It was a rare geek-meets-chic activity blend!
Hells Gate Mud Spa and Thermal Waters is open year ’round: click here for more information!