We got a chance to visit Wai-O-Tapu Park on our cruise around Australia and New Zealand on board the Sapphire Princess.
The New Zealand thermal park with the Maori name meaning “Sacred Water,” is 27 km from the city of Rotorua and is in New Zealand’s volcanic zone centrally located on the North Island.
The park is known for tourism as well as education, so there are booklets, pamphlets and maps are available in a few languages.
This geographical marvel of a park is famous for its colorful volcanic activity and even has the Lady Knox Geyser that draws crowds every morning. There are champagne colored water and bubbling mud pools that you reach mostly by foot over bridges and platforms.With thousands of years in the making, the place is truly a thermal wonderland and a global sensation.
The park’s unique features are its diverse natural landscapes, the geyser as mentioned earlier that erupts daily at 10:15 am, and the vast mud pool that is the site of a mud volcano that was destroyed by erosion almost a century ago. The pools of thick bubbling mud are quite mesmerizing to watch.
The best time to visit this park is from spring to fall when the days are longer, and you can extend your stay and make the most of the day.
The park is open every day in spring through fall 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and in winter 8:30 am to 6:00 pm.
The visitor center is where you can purchase the tickets and get information on the different hikes through the park. There are also souvenirs and gifts available at the gift shop, which make lovely keepsakes of this fascinating place and New Zealand.
You don’t need to buy anything in advance though it might get somewhat crowded when the large cruise ships are in town and bring hundreds of visitors in buses.Prices for adults are NZ$32 and for children NZ$11 which covers ages 5 to 15. Children under five get to go in free so a family can get in for NZ$80.Conditions
Wai-O-Tapu Park Conditions
The vast outdoor park has small boarded and mesh-reinforced walkways that are relatively comfortable to traverse by foot, but not very easy to navigate by wheelchair because not all of them are smooth. Also, you should be aware that it’s very slippery after a rainfall because of the muddy environment.
The park has secure lockers for storing belonging, and there are toilet facilities for people a with disabilities as well as picnic areas.
Autism Travel Tips
- There is a self-serve café where one can purchase hot and cold beverages and food. If your child has specific dietary needs, you will need to take this into account as the facilities do not provide a vast selection of allergy or food sensitivity options on the menu. There are facilities for picnics, so if your child enjoys that, it is an option.
- The weather can be unpredictable so bring a jacket in case it gets cold all of a sudden.
- As the park is outdoors and large, travelers need to come with appropriate shoes. Closed, walking shoes are ideal and not flip-flops or sandals.
- If your child has tactile sensitivities, you should pack a poncho because in some areas they may experience some sprinkling or misting which settles on the skin and can leave them feeling damp and uncomfortable.
- If your child is sensitive to smell, be aware that the area has an unyielding sulfur smell because of the volcanic activity. It is advisable to bring a mask to mitigate the strong odors.
- Some children may find the bright colored waters somewhat scary so make sure you explain ahead of time what they’re going to see. Furthermore, prepare them for the fact that they cannot touch anything since many of the fluids in the lakes are toxic.
- There are no toilet facilities out in the park, only at the Visitor’s Center so make sure to let your child know the importance of this before you embark on the tour.
- During the summer months, it might be wise to wear insect repellent to make sure you’re not bitten by mosquitos and other biting bugs.
- There are no shelters from the sun, so there is no resting place with shade. Carry extra drinking water and wear sunscreen and hats to prevent sunburn.