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ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HELLS GATE ROTORUA THERMAL PARK

INSIDE: Everything you need to know about Hells Gate Rotorua including Photos!

This is the Ultimate Guide to Hells Gate Rotorua Thermal Pools

This place is magnificent, captivating, and full of Maori culture and stories.

Plus, it’s the chance to see boiling hot, bubbling Rotorua Geothermal Pools!

Half way through the guided tour of the Geothermal Park, Ned said he didn’t need to go back to school, as he would learn so much more on the road!  (It’s true!)

That’s the power of Hells Gate Thermal Park.

Read our EPIC guide to the Rotorua Hells Gate Geothermal Park & Mud spa below.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, we may receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you.

Hells Gate Rotorua entrance sign pic

Guide to Hells Gate Rotorua  (Skip ahead if you need to!)

This is the world’s longest post!

Use the contents menu above to skip ahead if you need to.

All the important information about Hells Gate Rotorua can be found in the INSIDE SCOOP near the end of the post.

  • Where it is
  • How to get there
  • Entry Fees
  • Activities to do
  • Facilities on site, including details about the Rotorua Mud Bath and Sulphur Spa retreat
  • Cafe and Shop, and MORE.

Alternatively, scroll through the pics and interesting facts below to learn all you can.


RELATED: Ultimate Guide to the BEST Things to do in Rotorua with kids

Hells Gate Rotorua kids

Things to do at Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Bath Spa

Geothermal Park, Maori Wood Carving, Mud Foot Soak, and Mud Spa. 

Do it all at Hells Gate.

Hells Gate thermal park Rotorua sign pic

The Hells Gate Story

“This must be the gateway to Hell!”

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw spoke these words (above) during his visit in the early 1900’s.

As a confirmed atheist who didn’t believe in God, his colleagues were always threatening him with damnation – eternal punishment in hell – if he did not change his ways.

When he visited Hells Gate in Rotorua for the first time, these bubbling, boiling hot pools sparked his imagination as to what hell might look like in real life.

The local Maori’s who showed George around loved his eccentric character so much, they allowed the area to be named Hells Gate in his honour.

It’s the only Maori-owned geothermal pool with an English name!

Hells Gate Rotorua walk pic

How was Hells Gate created?

It’s thought that there’s a magma spike protruding up from the Earth’s core.

This is the heat source powering the Hells Gate Geothermal Reserve.

Over the top of this spike are a number of chambers of super-heated steam under pressure, along with a number of gases including carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

Hells Gate thermal park walk 2 pic

These chambers allow the entrance of water which is immediately flashed off into super heated steam.

This steam can reach temperatures in EXCESS of 300 degrees celsius!

Above these steam chambers are a number of underground water reservoirs that are heated by the steam and the surrounding ground heat.

Hells Gate Rotorua walk sign pic

What is a Geothermal Pool?

The various pools on the surface at Hells Gate are fed from the underground water reservoirs through cracks or fissures in the rock.

The chemical properties of these pools differ due to the source of the steam water, the input of steam and gases from below, the material surrounding the underground reservoirs, and the heat input.

It makes for some serious Geothermal activity, and one of the best walking tours we’ve ever taken!

Image - Hells Gate thermal park walk after sulphur bath

Moon Landscape at Hells Gate Rotorua

The journey into Hells Gate Geothermal Activity zone is like landing on another planet.

To look back and see rolling hills covered in luscious green trees is strange.

But it’s not as if there’s no life here.

In fact, the life here may just hold the key to human creation.

But more on that later…

Photo Hells Gate Rotorua Ink Pots

Geothermal Pools at Hells Gate Rotorua

Let’s have a look at the different Geothermal pools in Rotorua.

Ink Pots

These pools appear as a black crack in the ground.

The black graphite like colour is created by sulphides (Sulfides en-us ) in the water.

This pool is 20 metres deep, with a temp of 98 degrees celsius and a pH of 2.0.

It’s hostile!

Hells Gate Rotorua sulphur bath pic

Sulphur Bath

Although this is called a “bath”, bathing in this pool is not possible due to it being highly acidic.

Mere seconds in this pool and you’ll be unconscious.

Within days, your flesh and bones will have dissolved.

It’s the ultimate disappearing act.

Maoris used this water as a lotion for septic wounds and also diluted it down to use as an insecticide. This 18-metre deep pool is 98 degrees celsius hot – almost boiling!

Hells Gate Inferno pools pic

Inferno Pools

The Inferno pools include Sodom and Gomorrah pools (named by George Bernard Shaw, as the thought they resembled that infamous ‘wicked place on earth’)

Plus, the Infants pools, and Spraying Pools (pictured below).

Water in these pools is hotter than boiling point at 100 celcius.

Sodom and Gomorrah can erupt up to 2 metres high.

Hells Gate Inferno pools boiling point pic

Spraying Pools

The Spraying “pool” is surface water interacting with the super hot ground.

Nicknamed ‘The Frying Pan’ effect, it sizzles!

Hells Gate Rotorua fossils pic

Hells Gate Fossils 

There’s fossils to be found too!

Hells Gate Rotorua wetlands walk pic

The Wetland Bushwalk at Hells Gate

Half way round, there’s a strange turn of events with a walk that leads into and through a luscious wetland area.

This wetland zone is full of birds, and the Southern Hemisphere’s only hot water Waterfalls.

Hells Gate Rotorua wetlands sign pic

Check out the Waka Kereru bird traps. 

These are traditional bird traps used by the local people to collect this important food source. 

Hells Gate Rotorua yellow trees pic

Golden trees

The wetland is also home to trees turned golden with yellow lichen.

Hells Gate Rotorua wetlands kakahi falls pic

Kakahi Falls

Can you imagine bathing under a hot water waterfall?

What a find.

Sadly, you can’t anymore, as it’s protected but just imagine how excited the locals were to come upon it.

Hells Gate Rotorua wetlands - pic of silver fern with jack

The Story of the Silver Fern

Here’s a story for you.

Maori warriors laid silver ferns along the paths when they set out for combat, the underside face up.

The ferns would catch the moonlight and shine silver, a corridor of lanterns lighting the way home, in the vein of Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb-drop escapades.

Upon return to the village after the campaign, the last man standing would turn the leaves over, effectively turning out the lights as they retreated.

This ensured no other tribes could follow or launch an offensive attack.

The silver fern has taken it’s place as New Zealand’s icon in popular culture and sport, to symbolise the Kiwi spirit of setting goals and taking action to reach them, without fear or retreat.

Hells Gate Rotorua after wetlands walk pic

Hells Gate Mud Spa Mud Collecting

Spot the lads who work in pairs each day, collecting buckets of mud to be used in the Hells Gate mud bath and spa retreat.

It’s tough, heavy work lugging full buckets to and from the Hells Gate mud pools.

The workers walk on wooden planks pathways laid over the mud plains to reduce the risk of falling into the mud.

They definitely don’t want to do that – some spots in this geothermal area imitate quicksand.

Fall in the wrong spot and the mud will gobble them up to the waist, trapping them till help arrives to pull them out.

Hells Gate Rotorua devils cauldron pic

Devil’s Cauldron

The Devil’s Cauldron has three different types of geothermal mud, each with unique physical and chemical properties.

The rising steam creates eye-catching patterns of bubbles and expanding circles.

Black mud has been used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism for years.

Rotorua yellow rock pic

Yellow rock

Along the pathways of Hells Gate in Rotorua, you’ll see yellow-coloured rock.

This is caused by hot gases rich in hydrogen sulfide escaping from the steam and gas vents in the geothermal fields.

When the boiling hot gases escape, and reach the surface, they cool and oxidise, forming yellow crystals of pure sulphur.

Hells Gate Rotorua mud volcano pic

Hells Gate Mud Volcano

Wander up the ramp to see something unusual.

Hells Gate Rotorua mud volcano close up pic

Hells Gate Mud Mountain

Unique in New Zealand, the Hells Gate mud volcano has grown to a height of 2.4 metres and is still growing.

Hells Gate Rotorua mud volcano game of thrones stones pic

Game of Thrones Rock

Once every 6 weeks or so, the top hardens and in 2-3 days, the pressure builds to a point of eruption.

This spews over an area 5 metres in diameter, creating obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass.

Hells Gate Rotorua mud volcano games of thrones obsidian pic

Obsidian

Obsidian is produced when lava from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth.

Fun Fact: The sword in Game of Thrones is made from Obsidian, or as they call it, Dragons Glass.  Tools, jewellery and arrow heads are also made from it.

Hells Gate steaming cliffs pic

Steaming Cliffs

The hottest pool in the park! 

When the wind blows, it’s completely hidden by steam.

Rotorua goop

Hells Gate Mud Goop

Next to the Steaming cliffs, our guide Ray showed the boys a magic trick.

Hells Gate Rotorua goop chalk pic

This muddy substance changes from solid rock to slippery goop in seconds.

Hells Gate Rotorua goop in hands pic

It’s exactly the kind of fun kids like!

Getting their hands dirty in nature.

Hells Gate mud source of goop in ground pic

The All Natural Hells Gate Mud Mask! 

We laughed at the absurdity when Ray applied a DIY mud mask from this source to soften his skin!

And when he left it on for the rest of the tour! 

Hells Gate Rotorua life on mars pic

Life on Mars

There’s “land coral” at the cooking pool.

These heat-loving bacteria live on the nutrients in the water and over time get coated with silica to produce coral-like formations.

They look like something you’d find on Mars.

There’s LOTS more to that story, but it’s one you have to hear in person!

Hells Gate Rotorua sulphur lake pic 800

Sulphur Lake (Medicine Lake)

Sulphur Lake has been used by Maoris for hundreds of years to treat aches, pains, arthritis and skin diseases.

The Hells Gate Mud Spa baths at the entrance are filled to the brim with this extremely fine grey mud.

Photo - Hells Gate maori carving jack

Maori Carving House

End the tour with a free foot soak in the Mud foot pool

Or take a turn at Maori wood carving.

Click here to read all about it!

Hells Gate Rotorua tour guide pic

DO NOT MISS THIS TOUR.

It’s the most fun we’ve ever had learning! 

This is just a taste of some of the things you’ll see on your guided tour.

There’s plenty more.

Pop Hells Gate park on your bucket list for your next trip to Rotorua.

Special thanks to our guide Ray who kept the kids entertained for over an hour without one ‘I’m bored‘ being uttered.

Photo - family at mud spa pools at hells gate rotorua

Rotorua Mud Spa Retreat

Is the free foot soak not enough?

Book into the Hells Gate Mud spa and Sulphur pool swim for a full body immersion in the therapeutic mud bath and sulphur pool.  

Book in, and you’ll soak in this glorious mud for 40 minutes straight!

Be warned: The Hells Gate Sulphur Spa will leave you with a lingering pungent scent on your skin for days! 

Take a look at our guide to the Hells Gate spa here.

It includes pricing, and how to book tickets. 

Hells Gate Rotorua cafe shop pic

Hells Gate Thermal Park Shop

The Hells Gate Shop sells a range of Kiwiana Souvenirs, including Mud products to take home.

You can buy their own Alite brand of mud products including:

  • Body mineral salts
  • Milk honey mud soap
  • Mud body mask
  • Body massage oil
  • Body lotion
  • Mud face scrubs
  • Mud body polish
  • Mud face masks.  These come in individual packs which are perfect for gifts!

Hells Gate Rotorua end of walk pic

THE INSIDE SCOOP: Hells Gate Rotorua

Correct at time of publication on Roam the Gnome. Please check with venue for updates. We apologise in advance if there have been any changes we are unaware of. All prices in NZ dollars (or US dollars as stated)

Address: Hells Gate Rotorua Geothermal Park is located at State Highway 30, Tikitere, Rotorua. It’s Rotorua’s most active geothermal field.
Telephone: 07 345 3151
Email: [email protected]
Website: Click here

Hells Gate Opening Hours

The Hot Pots in Rotorua are open from: 

  • Monday – Sunday
  • 8.30am – 10.00pm (Summer 1 Oct – 2 Apr)
  • 8.30am – 8.30pm (Winter 3 Apr – 30 Sep)
  • Open daily except Christmas Day.
  • Bookings are essential after 6:00pm

Hells Gate Rotorua return walk

Hells Gate Geothermal Park Entry Prices at gate

NB: These Hells Gate prices do not include entry to Mud Spa, Sulphur baths, and Twilight Spa. That’s extra. 

  • Adults $39 NZ
  • Child $19.50 NZ
  • Kids 4 and under FREE
  • Family $95 NZ (2  adults, 2 kids aged 5-15 years)

Save with Klook – Book Hells Gate tickets here. 

Hells Gate Mud Bath Tickets 

Click here to book Hell’s Gate tickets for the mud spa with Klook.

Massage, facials and other therapies also available for additional fee.

PIN hells gate thermal park

Hells Gate Rotorua Deals

The Special Combo best value package, which included entry to the park, Geothermal Walk guided tour, and a visit to the Mud spa and Sulphur spa, was tops.

You can also try googling for a Hells gate thermal reserve deal:

  • Hells Gate Groupon
  • Hells Gate Grab One

Hells Gate Rotorua terrain pic

How to get to Hells Gate in Rotorua

By Car: Travel east from Rotorua on SH 30. Approximately 5 minutes past airport, turn right toward Whakatane and proceed 3kms to Hells Gate.

Hells Gate parking

Free parking out the front.

Map of Hells Gate New Zealand

Facilities at Hells Gate Geothermal Pools Rotorua 

Nearest takeaway coffee and/or food options: The Hells Gate Cafe on site sells all the regular food & drinks. 
Toilets: Yes, including baby change table. Next to the cafe, and another block of toilets at the spa.
Disability access: Yes
Closest ATM: Hells Gate has credit card and EFTPOS facilities.
Shade: No. BYO hat and sunscreen for the walk.

Toadstool Rating: Hells Gate Rotorua Review

This is the best geothermal park in Rotorua. A must do experience. Make it a priority.

hells gate rotorua review

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