The Round Trip tour in and around Waimangu Volcanic Valley has been running in some capacity since the early 20th century. Post-lockdown travel has shown that New Zealanders are keen to learn more about this historic area, so the operators of Waimangu, Totally Tarawera, Buried Village and Nature Connections put their heads together to revive the tour.
“We’ve been working together for years to deliver the Round Trip as a charter for groups, but decided it was about time we made the trip available to everyone,” said David Blackmore, Waimangu general manager.
Prior to the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, visitors flocked to Lake Rotomahana to see and bathe in the mineral waters of the Pink and White Terraces, thought to be the eighth Natural Wonder of the World. Local iwi, Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangitihi, along with European settlers, created the first tourism hub at Te Wairoa, hosting, entertaining and guiding these early visitors.
The eruption, however, ripped a 17km rift in the earth’s surface, blasting the lake to 20 times its original size, sadly burying the terraces and the surrounding settlements. The people of Tūhourangi and Ngāti Rangitihi lost their homes and whānau in the eruption, with many survivors relocating to Whakarewarewa Village.
In 1900, the newly formed Waimangu Geyser was reported to be shooting plumes of hot water up to 460 metres high. The geyser became the world’s most powerful at the time, kicking off the original Round Trip tour and marking the return of international tourism to this area.
Now, Waimangu Volcanic Valley has re-established the tour, with a scheduled weekend departure for independent travellers interested in learning more about the 1886 Tarawera eruption, the way it reshaped the environment, uncovered geothermal valleys and reformed the region’s lakes.
The full-day experience combines a guided walk through Waimangu Volcanic Valley, a boat cruise across Lake Rotomahana to the sites of the buried Pink and White Terraces, a walk over the Isthmus Track linking to Lake Tarawera, an eco-tour on Lake Tarawera that includes a stop at Te Rātā Bay and Hot Water Beach, and a visit to the Buried Village of Ta Wairoa, before returning to Rotorua.
Blackmore said he hopes the trip will provide a meaningful way for New Zealanders to learn about their history.
“What we’re seeing with New Zealand travellers is that there’s a real interest in the Tarawera eruption. Many studied it at school, and are fascinated to walk through the valley created by the event, and see how much the landscape has changed and regenerated.”
The full-day tour is a great option for domestic visitors, who tend to take their time when travelling.
“Where often international travellers were rushed and stopping off on their way to another activity, domestic visitors take their time and spend longer uncovering the stories and history of the place.
“The Round Trip allows people to see the full story, combining Waimangu Volcanic Valley with an experience on Lake Tarawera and the Buried Village of Te Wairoa.”
The Round Trip tour will run year-round every Saturday, with additional departures during school holidays and summer peak season. This activity is suitable for nearly any fitness level, and a packed lunch is included.
Tickets are available through the Waimangu Volcanic Valley website.