The North Island of New Zealand is full of geothermal wonders. So of course you have to include a mud bath/sulphur spa on your New Zealand itinerary. For day 1 of our family tour, we started the day at the Hobbiton Movie Set then travelled 1.5 hours to get to our next stop: Hells Gate to experience a natural wonder and to indulge in some pampering. Anybody up for a mud facial? Let's tick that off the bucketlist.
You can opt to do the geothermal walk without the spa for $35 per person, or do the spa without the walk for $75 per person. But we were already so we might as well go for the NZD$90 (NZD$215 for a family of 4) package for the geothermal walk and mud and sulphur spa, right? While you have the option to book online, we opted to just walk in and book and pay there because we weren't sure how the day would actually turn out. I didn't want to risk wasting a pre-booking. Walking in was no problem at all.
The Geothermal Walk
It's true what they say, Rotorua's geothermal wonders smell like rotten eggs. You can smell it from the parking lot. Gag reflex acting up. Once you get used to it, you can start the walk and you won't regret it.
According to their website, the walk is approximately 45 mins-1 hour long along 50 acres of the geothermal reserve. It is a self-guided walk. We walked at a leisurely pace and enjoyed staring at the bubbling and boiling waters... There were plenty of warning signs and while it was absolutely tempting to get closer and closer... don't. Some of those waters are above 100 degrees Celsius. Boiling hot.
While I have been to hot springs before, this was nothing like it. You could actually see the water or the mud boiling to a point where it was spouting up some water or steam. It is pretty scary to imagine what would happen if one fell in...
Hells Gate is also home to a large mud volcano so it's really no wonder why they run a mud spa. They definitely have tons of fresh supply right there.
After we finished our walking route, we found a section where we could avail of free wood carving. This was a pleasant surprise as we didn't know this was included in the tour (although I probably should have read about it).
We got to choose from pre-drawn symbols which stood for words like 'love' or 'loyalty'. I chose the simplest one and while the demonstrator made it look so simple to do, it was NOT as easy as it looks. I guess I have no future in wood carving but this was sure a fun activity for the whole family.
The Mud Bath
The mud bath/spa section of Hells Gate was a lot smaller than I had imagined. However, it was just as enjoyable. The staff were friendly and were smart enough to advice us to remove our wedding rings and not to put them on until 24 hours after so that they don't stain due to the sulphur on the skin.
We didn't book our own private mud pool but they limit the number of people in 1 pool anyway so we got to enjoy one mud pool to ourselves. The square bucket in the above photo is where you can dip your hands in to grab some mud to lather on. We obviously got too excited and didn't realise that there were actually guidelines that said that you're not supposed to put mud on your forehead or anywhere near the eyes... Oops.
The hot pools were too hot for my 5-year-old niece (although they say that these are safe for kids above 2 years old as long as they stay hydrated). She dipped her feet in instead. But everyone else enjoyed and like to think that the steam and hot pool opened up and cleansed our pores.. and the mud exfoliated and rejuvenated our skin. Lather me up!
Jeannie in a Bottle Blog Tips for Hells Gate:
- Bring your own towel - this will save you some towel rental money.
- Bring water and stay hydrated.
- Only wear the swimwear and use the towels that you are happy to dispose of.
- Follow website instructions for washing your sulphur-stained clothes and DO NOT put them in the dryer with your other clothes.. Take it from us. Lesson learned the hard way. Some clothes were just too permanently stinky that they had to be disposed of.
Have you been to New Zealand North Island before? What was your favourite experience? Are you into mud baths too?