Craters Of The Moon

Craters Of The Moon is a well known Taupo tourist attraction visited by thousands of people every year. It’s located to the south of the Wairakei Gold Course on the same side of  State Highway 1 (SH1). It’s run by a charitable trust, The Craters Of The Moon Charitable Trust which was established in 1991.

It covers a very large area of land and is mostly covered with prostrate Kanuka and low vegetation including moss. When looking across the valley it looks like one giant green and brown vegetation carpet interrupted  by steam coming out of the ground at different places.

The Carpet-Like Flora

In the old days, when the entrance was further south down SH1 it was not safe to leave your car in the car park as there were many break ins while their owners were walking around the attraction. But in recent times (three years ago) a staffed kiosk has been built at the end of the very pleasant half kilometre tree-lined Karapiti Road. So the car park is much safer than it used to be.

The kiosk has lots of tourist souvenirs and some information about the attraction including a one page brochure on where to walk. There is a self serve coffee facility at the surprisingly cheap price of $2 a cup and there are also lavatories behind the shop.

The Kiosk

There are two tracks; the Main Track which goes in a loop from the kiosk around the valley itself and a higher track which branches off and then rejoins the Main Track. The higher track and much better views albeit at a distance but there is quite a steep climb at both ends of it to walk it.

The Main Track has much better up-close views of the mud pools and the vents that are the most popular sights. There are lots of signs warning visitors not to stray off the tracks and walkways as there can be unseen steam and mud hazards.

The principal feature of the Craters Of The Moon is that it is always changing. Indeed one of the first signs at the start of the Main Track walk has two photos comparing the area in 1963 to the area today and there is a marked difference. Change is the only constant here!

The Main Track takes around 45 minutes to walk while the higher track with the great lookouts takes around 20 minutes or more if you have trouble with the steep sections of it.

The tracks are either gravel or cross-membered platform paths which in the latter case are used because of the unstable ground which can have steam coming from it such as in the video below.

The Main Track also has some observation decks at particularly interesting features where there is a big steam and mud producing hole in the ground. These decks enable people to get close to the geothermal actions without risk to their safety and they are very robustly built so there is no need to worry about them.

Viewing Platform Of Mud Crater

The largest hole or crater is to the east of the Main Track and also has a viewing platform. It usually is producing a lot of steam so theat it is difficult to see the bottom of it. But if you are patient you will get your photo as the wind carries the steam away.

There have been eruptions in the valley, the most significant of the recent ones was in 2002. What remains are the two craters past the first lookout and when the eruption happened they spewed mud and pumice all over the centre of the area.

Before the two tracks were put in there were quite a few injuries to visitors. These tended to happen when they wandered off the dirt tracks and got burned by steam or boiling mud. The current system is much safer.

The Craters Of The Moon is open from 8.30am to 5.30am and there is an admission charge of $8 for adults and $4 for children over five years old.


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