Kuirau Park, the only free, geothermal public park in New Zealand, can be found near the city center of Rotoura. While not a traditional hot springs resort, it does boasts some foot baths guests can use. Other highlights include geothermal areas with boiling areas fenced off for safety, such as the famous mud pools.
From sports fields to a couple of foot baths, there are plenty of ways to spend time outdoors here.
Maori folklore says that the gods were upset when a mythical creature pulled a girl swimming in the main lake of the now park to the very bottom. In response, they made the water boil to kill the creature. The girl’s name was Kuiarau, and today, it is named after her. The billowing steam serves as an otherworldly warning against swimming.
Another of the pools fenced off today is Waiparuparu. While it was a popular 19th century swimming spot, it was also a choice source of sinter, porous silica used to build chimneys in nearby villages.
In the Paparangi pools, kakahi, or freshwater mussel shells, are often uncovered. As long ago as 1300, Maoris used them for cooking.
While it is rare to see eruptions in these mud pools used to vent underground heat, it’s not unheard of. In 2001 and 2003, eruptions blew mud and rocks 33 feet high. The instability is part of the reason bathers are only allowed within a certain distance.
The Foot Baths, Mud Pools, and Other Activities
There are multiple mud pools on the east side of the park, where the geothermal activity is, though they are unsafe to swim in. A long, rectangular foot bath is the best place to enjoy clear mineral water. There are multiple options throughout the park set up with wooden benches on all sides, the most popular of which is between the children’s playground and the lake.
Kuirau Park is a lovely place to simply relax and enjoy the day. Read a book, plan a picnic, or visit Quota Scented Garden, donated for garden-lovers and, in particular, the blind. You can also take a walk around Kuirau Lake if you’re careful to stay on the boardwalk. The temperature of the water ranges from 104-122℉ (40-50℃).
Those who want to fully immerse themselves can check out the aquatic center host to several non-thermal options. A badminton club and sports field are available for athletics and picnic tables and barbecues, for leisure. If you happen to visit on a Saturday morning, the local farmers’ market offers all kinds of fresh produce to make your meal.
From Auckland, follow SH 1 southeast for around 108 miles. Once you have passed through Tirau, take the first exit at the roundabout and stay on State Highway 5 for around 31 miles. Turn left onto State Highway 30A. You’ll see signs for the airport, city center, and Whakatane. Merge onto Pukuatua Street, then turn left on Kuirau Street.
The park will be on the right. Parking is available along the road and in lots on the south end of the park.
Address: Kuirau Street, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand