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Hells Gate Geothermal Park

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by Melanie Lynn (subscribe)
Going wherever the wind blows me and enjoying the ride.
Published July 25th 2012
If you have dreamed of travelling to outer space and seeing an alien terrain with your own eyes, but never made the cut for NASA, then going to Hells Gate in Rotorua is the next best thing.

Hells Gate
Welcome to Hells Gate

Clouds billow from the earth as you arrive at the entry of Hells Gate. On closer inspection I discovered they were man made and couldn't help but wonder if like most theme parks, the name was all razzle dazzle, but that the actual adventure would be far less impressive than the name itself. However this couldn't be further from the truth at Hells Gate.

Hells Gate
The Naturally Extraterrestrial Terrain of Hells Gate

It may take you a moment to adjust to the smell of sulfur permeating the air, but once you do you will be able to fully enjoy the uniquely historic New Zealand Spa experience that awaits you.

Hells Gate
The Bubbling Mud Inside the Mud Volcano

At the Hells Gate Spa, you can smooth and soften your skin in the traditional mud bath. It is an invigorating and uplifting experience. Soaking in the hot mud, I could actually picture my mental bucket list checking off 'soak in New Zealand mud baths' with a giant red tick.

Hells Gate Mud Spa
Hells Gate Mud Spa

According to park information, the Maori have been using the mud and sulfurous waters on this site for over 700 years. After your mud bath, enter the healing waters of the sulfur spa. Here you can bathe with an unforgettable view over the active geothermal park.

Hells Gate Spa
Hells Gate Sulfur Spa

Although the Mud Bath and Sulfur Spa are exotic experiences that must be had if you come all this way, the true out-of-this-world encounter lies on the Geothermal Reserve Walk. If you have never been to an active geothermal site before, nothing short of a Mission to Mars movie can prepare you for what you will see.

Hells Gate
Geothermal Walk

When we first set out on the walk, although I was amazed at the bubbling mud and steaming earth, I confess I was a mite disappointed. It felt like somewhat of a 'Zoo' experience where all the animals were in cages and half of them were sleeping. My disappointment lasted only momentarily as I realised this was the 'show' section of the establishment and we hadn't really even started on the main walk.

Hells Gate
Hot Lakes

We headed up track into a lush forest where gorgeous Kakahi waterfall was visible from our lookout. The information pamphlet told us that this water was about the temperature of a hot shower. The Maori Warriors used to bathe in the falls after battle cleansing their wounds with the antiseptic properties of the sulfurous water.

Hells Gate
Kakahi Falls

The steaming clouds rising off the waterfall was our first indication that this was no ordinary hike. Then the forest began to thin and suddenly, an utterly alien terrain stretched out before us. Boiling lakes and bubbling mud surround you inches from the footpath and huge steaming clouds rise ominously from the active earth.

Hells Gate
The Steaming Cliffs

You get the feeling that the earth is very much alive here. I actually found the 'WARNING" signs almost unnecessary. The steaming landscape itself commands such a healthy level of respect, that nothing short of the apocalypse would have persuaded me to leave the marked path anyway. It truly feels as though you have dropped into some kind of warp and been whisked away onto a Martian planet.

Hells Gate

Amongst the amazing things you will see are a collection of bubbling hot lakes and mud pits.

Hells Gate
Bubbling Mud Pit

Hells Gate is also home to the largest mud volcano in New Zealand. According to my informative pamphlet, every six weeks or so the mud volcano was due for an eruption and erupted over a 5 metre area... As we gazed in wonder, I couldn't help but hope it didn't decide to erupt while we were standing next to it.

Hells Gate
Mud Volcano

The Steaming Cliffs of Hells Gate contain the hottest water in the reserve. So hot, in fact, that the boiling water can reach heights of up to 3 metres.

Hells Gate
The Steaming Cliffs

The 'Cooking Pool' is a spot that remains at a constant temperature of 98 degrees enabling it to cook an entire adult pig within 2 hours.

Hells Gate
The Cooking Pool

On my way back, inside the cool forest I marveled at the beautiful New Zealand fern frond hanging daintily and wondered how it was able to survive in such a harshly unforgiving environment.

Hells Gate
Little Forest Fern Frond

Hells Gate is one of those, must see in your lifetime, bucket list locations that is a truly unforgettable life experience.
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Why? An amazing geothermal experience.
Phone: 64 7 345 3151
Where: State Highway 30, Tikitere, Rotorua, New Zealand
Cost: Cost varies on package. From $20 - $200
Your Comment
This is where my people are from and I grew up here.
If you get the opportunity - take a tour through Waka. It's a little village in Rotorua where people still live in little houses that their great great great grandfathers built.
It is also full of mineral baths and residents still cook there dinners in the little steam holes and in the hot springs.
Sweet corn cooked in the mineral water is so yummy and healthy - until you smear it in butter if course...
by d.kui (score: 1|20) 3968 days ago
Wow. Cool article on a fascinating place I've never seen. Enjoyed the pics. Thanks so much.
by Linda Moon (score: 3|2686) 3977 days ago
Thanks for the reminder! You covered it so well. Love this place, I remember the first time I flew into Rotorua, I accused my friend of the smell! Takes a few days to get used to. he he he
by Lexa T (score: 3|1070) 3977 days ago
Thanks ladies! Glad you enjoyed it :)
by Melanie Lynn (score: 2|570) 3975 days ago
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