Read To Travel

At Hell’s Gate


Rotorua, New Zealand is home to remarkable sulphur deposits and geothermal activity. Spiraling towers of steam constantly flow out of the ground, giving the area a unique atmosphere. Believing he was looking upon the fiery gates of hell, George Bernard Shaw named the 50 acres of bubbling heat “Hellsgate.” Hell’s Gate features the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest hot waterfall (40 degrees Celsius), Kakahi falls, and the biggest active mud volcano in the country.

The Maori have respected this area as a place of healing for nearly a millennium. Warriors bathed in the heated waters of Kakahi to treat their wounds from battle and remove the “tapu” (meaning “sacred” or “spiritual restriction”) of war. This is the only Maori owned thermal park in New Zealand.

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The Reserve

The tour through the park can take anywhere from forty-five minutes to over an hour depending on how long you spend on the path. I was really surprised to see no large boundaries or walls keeping the path-goers from entering the boiling mud, though there were small path markers and ‘be careful’ signs. Walking through the geothermal park was incredible and at times a little scary. The Earth is a beautiful, living thing, with so many intricacies and varieties that most people are not exposed to. Having grown up in suburban New England, it felt surreal to be feet from bubbling, boiling geothermal mud. To be standing meters from the largest active volcano made of mud that could technically erupt at any moment when I had previously never been within a hundred miles of a volcano back home was insane.

I could feel the heat from the ground touching my skin as I watched the steam rise. The temptation to feel the soft mud was extinguished by the constant eruption of bubbles at the pools’ surface. While we walked the windy path through rising steam and hot air, I knew I was somewhere significant. That’s the feeling I have gotten from many natural places in New Zealand, that where I have stood holds significance much stronger than I realize and that many have looked at the same scene before me.

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The Spa

Tourists visit from all over the country and the world to experience the healing qualities of Rotorua mud. Not all mud is created equally and each type is used for a different healing quality.


Black geothermal mud: arthritics and rheumatism

Icy white geothermal mud: burn relief

Warm grey geothermal mud: exfoliation


My friend Anna and I opted for the Ultimud Package because, well, go big or go home. But you could easily just pay for entry to the park or to the sulphur and mud baths!  It was AAAAMAZING.  We had ample time in a private mud bath where we could take photos, relax, and rub the revitalizing Rotorua mud all over our bodies.  We staggered our one hour Miri Miri massages one after the other.  So while one of us was getting the full spa treatment, the other relaxed in the sulphur pool and drank tea in the private lounge.


The Ultimud Package includes

  • Geothermal Reserve Walk
  • Private New Zealand Spa Mud Bath
  • New Zealand Sulphur Spa
  • One Hour Full Body Massage
  • Manuka Tea
  • Towel and Robe

Price for one adult: $240

Tips: Book in advance. Bring your camera.  Don’t wear any jewelry or makeup.


Read To Travel visited Hell’s Gate Spa without any compensation. I paid for the Ultimud Package because I wanted to experience the best. All of the bubbly photos are my own.

Tara Higgins

Tara Higgins

Tara loves all things London and wants to spend the rest of her life reading books in beautiful places. She can often be found nestled up in a bookshop, drinking a pint at the pub, or searching for the best pizza slice in town.