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Exploring the Back Roads of New Zealand's North Island: Orakei Korako, the Hidden Valley

Updated on July 27, 2017
annart profile image

Ann loves to travel at home and abroad. The British Isles have so much to offer from South to North, from East to West.

Wonders in a Hidden Valley

Nestled in a Forested Valley, hidden from View
Nestled in a Forested Valley, hidden from View | Source

Hidden Wonders

New Zealand's North Island provides a tourist's paradise of scenery, beaches, mountains and geothermals. Many areas are well-publicised but Orakei Korako is a relatively recently discovered gem.

It's probably the best example of a geothermal valley and is also referred to as the Hidden Valley, long unknown and even now, fortunately, not on the regular itineraries of travel packages. The name Orakei Korako comes from one of the two large geysers which were at one time visible, before being obscured by the lake.

If you find the Hidden Valley, you are in for a treat! I have never seen anything which stamps the power and beauty of nature so firmly on one's mind.

Take the Boat across the River

Approach across the River
Approach across the River | Source
Colours and Shapes
Colours and Shapes | Source

Facilities, Access & Variety of Natural Attractions

The approach is not difficult but the entry road is not well publicised, being off the beaten track between Taupo and Rotorua, on the banks of the Waikato River, 25 minutes' drive from Taupo and 45 minutes from Rotorua. You can also travel by road shuttle or down the river. The valley is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

A café and visitor centre are near the jetty, from where you take the ferry, the only access to the thermal park.

More than 20 geysers spout here, there are hot springs, bubbling mud pools and large silica terraces.

The colours and textures are phenomenal, from the vibrant orange of sulphur to the deep greens and turquoises of the pools, some of which reach boiling point.

Lake Ohakuri

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lake Ohakuri from the lower terraceFlowing over rocks into the Lake
Lake Ohakuri from the lower terrace
Lake Ohakuri from the lower terrace | Source
Flowing over rocks into the Lake
Flowing over rocks into the Lake | Source

Creation of the Lake

The ferry takes you across Lake Ohakuri, a lake which was created by a man-made dam across the Waikato River. Two of the largest geysers (one of which was the Orakei Korako) were drowned by this lake; the resultant stretch from bank to bank is calm and easily crossed by the ferries.

The ferry arrives at the base of the lowest terrace, Emerald Terrace, over which water enriched by silica flows into the lake. It gives the impression of a large white slide, streaked with orange and flowing over rocks like ice and snow.

Rainbow, Cascade & Golden Fleece Terraces

The wonders of this place never cease. You walk across a boardwalk track which provides easy walking but is not suitable for wheelchairs or for those relying on 'walkers'. The tracks take you past lakes of mud, pools and geysers, then up and down shaded tracks through dense foliage.

I've been told that In the 1960s, you were allowed to wander where you wished, the river was shallower and crossed by jet-boat and there were no facilities. It was even more of a hidden valley then.

Each terrace offers sights of beauty, colours through the spectrum, and a variety of terrain from rocky to flat to muddy lakes of bubbling pools. The Golden Fleece Terrace is 5 metres high and 40 metres long.

Walkways to Guide you through the Terrain


Map of Africa

It will take you 1 to 2 hours to walk round the thermal park but you can spend longer to fully explore the whole area, providing you don't miss the last boat at 4pm in the winter or 4.30pm in summer.

The Map of Africa is a beautiful dark green pool amid an orange and white landscape, an extraordinary sight which gives you a feeling of being on a different planet. Nature provides scenes with which no landscaping of man can compete.

Pools, Sulphur & Geysers

The Deep Green Pool called Map of Africa!
The Deep Green Pool called Map of Africa! | Source
White/grey Rocks, Mud & Steam
White/grey Rocks, Mud & Steam | Source

Hubble Bubble

Hot Mud bubbling up to a Wide Pool in the middle of a vast mud-filled lake
Hot Mud bubbling up to a Wide Pool in the middle of a vast mud-filled lake | Source
How Deep does it Go?
How Deep does it Go? | Source
Hot, Hot, Hot!
Hot, Hot, Hot! | Source

Diamond Geyser & Soda Fountain

Diamond Geyser is unpredictable. One can wait a long time for it to 'perform' but it's worth waiting for. Eruptions can last from a few minutes to several hours. The boiling water which shoots from the depths can reach up to nine metres.

In the cockney vernacular, a 'diamond geyser' (pronounced 'geeser') is someone who is a kind, well respected person. Hence the caption beneath the photo!

Another feature ot the valley is the Soda Fountain. It had been dormant for 17 years but re-emerged, bursting into life in 1984.

Diamond Geyser

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Do they mean That or Me?!There She Blows!
Do they mean That or Me?!
Do they mean That or Me?! | Source
There She Blows!
There She Blows! | Source

Ruatapu Cave

The Ruatapu Cave, reached by a track through lush foliage before steps take you down to a turquoise pool, is one of only two caves in the world known to be found in a geothermal area.

This cave extends 45 metres with a vertical drop of 23 metres, to a pool of turquoise-clear, warm, acid water, rich in sulfates. Its chemical properties enable it, uniquely, to clean jewellery.

It is a wondrous part of this park, the water is deep and beautiful, the air still and peaceful, away from the drama of bubbling mud and erupting geysers.

Outside the cave is a plaque in memory of a local guide, who directed visitors here but who died in Libya in World War II. You can see the full text below.

Cave Dedicated to a Guide

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Plaque erected in Memory of Atama Mikaere

Leave war and strife behind you.

Erected to the memory of Atama (Adam) Mikaere. His spirit hovers in this lovely cave where, as a lad, he guided and delighted visitors with his manly bearing.

He rests in the far Libyan Desert, killed in action 1941, aged 22 years.

Also in memory of his brother Witaiana Mikaere, killed in action 1941, aged 19 years.

A Wondrous Place

One of the hidden wonders of the world, Orakei Korako makes you feel insignificant in the midst of its natural phenomena.

It is a privilege to be in the presence of such awesome beauty and power.

Make an effort to find the Hidden Valley and you will not be disappointed.

There is nothing like it.

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© 2013 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      17 months ago from SW England

      You won't be disappointed, Pamela!


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      17 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Dear Ann, You really insprire me to pack my bags and go!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      17 months ago from SW England

      Thank you, Pamela, for popping in this morning. Yes, I love NZ and it is probably the most beautiful place I've ever visited. The colours and the scenery are spectacular.


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      18 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Dear Ann,

      That area in New Zealand is absolutely fascinating. I would love to visit and take in those sights in person. I loved all the pictures and great information. I had a friend in high school that became a nurse, and the moved to New Zealand. I understand she loves it.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      Thank you for your kind comments, Kenneth. I love writing and I love photography, the passion for both of which I get from my father who was a much better photographer than I.

      I appreciate your support.


    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Ann,

      Simply fascinating work! Loved how you laid this out. Very magical looks in your photography.

      You are not just a Very Talented Writer, but a Very Talented Photographer.

      Keep up your fine work, Ann.

      Write soon.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Makendra: Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      There's a terrific amount of kngedwloe in this article!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      DDE: NZ is stunning all over but the Hidden Valley is outstanding in its beauty and its uniqueness. I've never seen anything quite so impressive apart from the Northern Lights!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Ann

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Newzealand looks a beautiful place the photos are outstanding.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Well, thank you, tobusiness, for such a kind comment! I'm glad to rekindle the travelling bug in you and I hope you get to see this magical place sometime. Ann

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Ann, you've rekindled the travelling bug in this old girl! Your New Zealand articles are superb, the images are incredible powerful.

      Well done.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      prasetio30: Thank you for your comments and the vote. I hope you manage to visit this wonderful place and I appreciate you visiting here!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow...fantastic and beautiful place. I had never heard about this place before. Thanks for sharing with us. I'll put on my travel list. Voted up :-)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      rebeccamealey: Thanks for your kind comment and for the votes. This place truly is awesome and I don't use that word very often. I appreciate you stopping by.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Hi Dolores. It is an 'outofthisworld' spot. The best bit is that they don't shield you too much from the mud etc; it makes you part of it all. Apparently, they used to let people just wander about as they pleased! Haven't heard of anyone disappearing into the bubbling geysers!

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Ann

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      How awesome! The next best thing to being there. Votedawesome and beautiful.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Ann, thanks for sharing this awesome spot with us! I've always thought of New Zealand as a sort of magical faerie land, even before I found out they shot the Lord of the Rings there. But this spot is so weirdly beautiful! I do think that I'd like some railings on that walkway though!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      mylindaelliott: Thank you for reading and for commenting. It is indeed an amazing place.

    • mylindaelliott profile image


      6 years ago from Louisiana

      It sounds and looks amazing.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you Eddy. Great to hear from you. Glad you enjoy armchair travelling with me! A little sunshine in Somerset today and I'm off to see my children & grandchildren for a couple of days. Cheers to you! Ann

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      What a truly beautiful and interesting hub annart. Just the job fir my armchair travelling ;a great asset to any rainy day .Here's to so many more for us both to share on here and I send you lots of love from my little corner of Wales.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you sallybea. I'm sure you enjoyed the place as much as I did; I just love everything about New Zealand and I've been fortunate enough to visit much of both islands.

      Yes, I had already linked yours and would be delighted if you could do the same for mine. Thanks again. Ann

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      6 years ago from Norfolk

      annart - this is such a beautiful place. I have been fortunate to travel there when I went to visit the North and the South Islands. From a photographers point of view it is wonderful - I was fascinating to see one an Aboriginal man boiling a few eggs in a pot in one of the hot baths.

      I would be very happy to link my own Hub 'Exploring the Back Roads of Paris and a French Market - Marché Pyrenees' to this one in the Back Road series if you would like to do the same.

      Thank you,


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you Jamie, glad you like it; definitely the stuff of dreams! They say it's the best of its kind. I greatly appreciate you stopping by. Ann

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      6 years ago from Reno NV

      I will have dreams of this place you described. Beautiful and a great addition to the series. Jamie

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      always exploring: Thank you for reading and for your kind comment. It's the place itself that inspires the presentation and gave me the dramatic photos! Good to see you.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      CraftytotheCore, thank you for such a lovely comment. It is amazing, not to be missed if you're in New Zealand. Thanks for popping in to read. Ann

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is interesting and informative. I would love to see this in person. Excellent presention...

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow What A Place! I would love to visit there. As always, your photos and writing are exquisite!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      I found the others by pure chance; there are probably more as we speak and I guess it's difficult to always find them all. Glad you like it and thanks for linking mine too. You're welcome, I think it's a great idea of yours and it seems to have taken off so well! You should be proud - you've started a hub craze!! Or should I say fashion? Well done!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fantastic! Well done, Ann, and thank you so much for taking part in this series. You linked some I wasn't even aware of. I guess I'd better get busy. I'll link yours to mine and then go read the others. Thank you very much.


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