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Day Tour To White Island, New Zealand’s Most Active Volcano

Exploring White Island, New Zealand’s Most Active Volcano

When you have lived and worked in the same town for so many years sometimes you can feel like a break. Though, finances can be tight and lets be honest you have likely explored most the accessible locations around you. This was the exact predicament I was in. Taupo, located smack bang in the middle of the North Island in New Zealand is where I call home most of the time. I have lived here since I was 12, driving the same roads everyday. For god sake, I have lived in five different houses in a one kilometer radius! Life gets boring and sometime you need a small break to refresh yourself. Checking out my options online I decided to book somewhere I always have wanted to visit though never knew was actually possible, White Island.

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

About White Island

White Island, also known as Whakaari by its shorten Maori name, is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. The island is part of a submarine mountain that rises 1600 meters from the surrounding seafloor. It is located 48 kilometers from the east coast of the North Island with the closest towns being Whakatane and Tauranga.

Back in the day sulfur mining was attempted here, though due to a lahar incident in 1914 which killed all workers, production was stopped. The remains of the buildings are still standing, though seriously worn overtimes from the harsh environment.

White Island is actually a private island and was declared as a private scenic reserve so you need special permission to land on the island. Though, authorized tour companies in the area run regular day trips to explore this magnificent place. Allowing like-minded tourists and locals the opportunity to explore the out of this world landscape of White Island which should certainly be added to your NZ bucketlist!

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Booking with White Island Tours

I decided to book with White Island Tours for our visit. They are the main tour provider for the island and also have great knowledge of its history, the surrounding area and most importantly, know how to keep visitors safe. There is also the option to explore White Island by a helicopter tour, though our budget did not stretch that far.

White Island Tours also operates its own accommodation called White Island Rendezvous. There are numerous room options to choose from and it is in the same location as where the tours depart from. Since I was booking the tour about a week in advance my budget accommodation options were limited. So I decided to book at White Island Rendezvous. Also if you book an accommodation and tour package they will provide a discount, just check out the deal options on their website.

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My Experience Exploring White Island

Driving To Whakatane

Finishing another day at work James and I jump in his car and drive towards the east coast to Whakatane. The trip takes longer than expected as we have to backtrack an hour in and take a detour thanks to a road closure. It’s a beautiful drive surrounded by rivers, pine trees and quiet highways. Nothing else is really towards the direction of Whakatane, as its not considered a tourist town. This prevents us getting slowed down by the regular camper van occurrences on the popular New Zealand road trip routes.

Arriving at the White Island Rendezvous we check in easily and settle into our room. Being only a short walk from the harbor and town we decide to go for a walk and explore the area before it gets dark.

The harbor is lit beautifully with the sun setting for the day. The boats moored up and the seagulls in search for their dinner. Its time for our dinner as well so we decide to walk a couple minutes into town and splurge on our favorite thing, Indian Food. Though, with a room booked and after working all day we head back to eat and chill out watching tv.

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The Next Day

Waking up early to check in for the tour they take our names and we are given a contract to sign. All the formalities are sorted and while everyone does that we head next door to the cafe on site. We relax and enjoy a delicious breakfast of coffee and a danish before heading out for the day.

Soon its time to head over to the launch and jump on board. It is absolutely massive and with plenty of seating for everyone. The trip to the island takes a while seeing as it is 49 kilometers from the coast. Though, during the trip we are given helmets to protect our heads in case of any falling rocks as well as a gas mask as the sluphur fumes are so strong it will makes breathing extremely difficult.

As we head further from shore the coastline disappears into the distance until there is nothing but ocean surrounding us. Though somehow friendly dolphins emerge from the depth and play alongside the boat perfectly jumping out of the water. We slow down a little and they easily match the speed of the boat gliding through the water. Everyone’s cameras are going off and mine is no exception. It is the first magical moment and there would be plenty more during the day.

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Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Arriving On White Island

With the island approaching in the distance it is everything I have ever seen in in photographs. With deep blue waters, a barren island and heavy smoke rising into the sky; a easily recognizable site. Closer to the island the water changes to a lighter milky sort of color. The bright yellow and orange patches become more noticeable on the landscape also.

A zodiac boat is released into the water which bring us to the island. A rocky wharf jets out into the water and we climb up wooden planks and make our first step onto White Island. With helmets on and gas masks strapped around our necks we split off into groups and are given lollies to provide relief against the strong sulphur.

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Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Exploring White Island

I am use to the rotten egg smell of Rotorua and have been visiting there for years. To my surprise, I felt as though White Island was on the same smelly level. I was honestly expecting it to be worse.

The rocky terrain stretches throughout the entire interior of the island with paths made by the tour companies to follow. We are instructed not to go off the track for our safety. Though, they give us the crazy opportunity to taste the water from a small stream. I politely decline and by the disgusted looks of those who accepted, I made the right decision. Along the stream are where a lot of the orange the bright yellow material congregate. I am by no means a science orientated person, but I am going to assume it’s the sulphur reacting with the environment.

We make our way further up a steady slope and more inland. The crater walls standing high above us with impressive canyons and impressions deeply lining them. Its difficult to tell how high up these cliffs are. Usually you would have trees or buildings to assist your brain in working out perspective. Though, apart from the rocks scattered around the landscape is barren.

We arrive at a vent heavily producing a cloud of smoke into the air. Remains of the old sulphur mine dot the location, heavily rusted and worn. Suddenly the wind changes direction and this massive smoke cloud covers our group. It is so difficult to breathe. Even when sucking on the lollies to produce extra saliva to help break down the sulphur we are breathing in. I put up the gas mask up to my face and take in a few breaths. It honestly makes such a difference.

Seeing The Crater

Further up the track we are at the main activity spot of White Island, the massive crater. Our tour guide tells us that the terrain is always changing. Sometimes there is water in the carter lake and other times its drained away or is evaporated. The whole landscape of the crater use to be a lot different we are told, where you could walk around it. Then one day when the tour group arrived the sides had collapsed and completely altered the landscape.

Following the path we are led back around to where we started. Here we are given time to explore the old sulphur factory. The walls are barely standing in place and structure only just visible having been beaten by the extreme conditions since it was abandoned in 1914.

We spend about an hour and a half exploring the island. Its just crazy to think this is even earth. I have never seen such a dramatic landscape full of the brightest yellow and orange hues. Though, when its time to leave we climb back down the dodgy wharf, then the awaiting zodiac to takes us all back to the launch.

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Explore White Island, New Zealand | New Zealand's Most Active Volcano | Whakatane | North Island | Backpack New Zealand | Travel | Backpacking | Surlphur | Geothermal | Amazing landscapes | Photography | Backpackers Wanderlust |

Opinion On White Island

I honestly think White Island is one of the best experiences you can do in the North Island. With a mind blowing landscape it should be on your list of places to visit in New Zealand. It may not be the cheapest experience if you are backpacking around New Zealand. Though, it is worth every dollar and you will not find any other place like it. Even though Whakatane is not a commonly visited place for tourists, it makes a perfect overnight detour between Tauranga and Rotorua.


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2018-11-11T08:23:04+12:00

64 Comments

  1. Emma September 16, 2017 at 7:57 am - Reply

    This honestly looks amazing. I had never heard of this place before but your beautiful photography has more than convinced me I need to go when I finally make it back to New Zealand.
    http://www.mytravelbugbite.com

  2. Brooke Abel September 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    Totally adding White Island to my must do list for NZ! Although I’m born sure how I will handle the sulfur smell haha. I can’t wait to visit and might pick your brain for recommendations when I go! Great post!

  3. Danielle from Boots not Roots September 11, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photos! Looks like an awesome place to visit!!

  4. Gabby Beckford September 11, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Your photos are AMAZING! What an experience xx

  5. Anshula September 11, 2017 at 9:15 am - Reply

    This sounds so wonderful! The shot from the on-site cafe looks so delicious! P.S. The way you described the experience is almost cinematic (I really want to visit now).

  6. Ticket to Adventures September 11, 2017 at 8:30 am - Reply

    What an exciting experience! This is something I really want to experience when I go to New Zealand. Thank you for sharing! Your photos are very beautiful.

  7. Selam @ www.swtliving.com September 11, 2017 at 6:55 am - Reply

    These photos are incredible! I can’t imagine all that New Zealand has to offer if you found this to do 🙂

  8. Emma @ theweekendabroad.com September 11, 2017 at 5:35 am - Reply

    I need to go to New Zealand! Incredible.

  9. Jamporter September 11, 2017 at 1:51 am - Reply

    What an otherworldly landscape! This looks like such a cool (if smelly) activity. I love especially that it’s not on the usual tourist path!

  10. Susan September 11, 2017 at 12:38 am - Reply

    This looks like a great experience! Thanks for sharing your advice. I want to explore more of the North island!

  11. Lana P. September 11, 2017 at 12:17 am - Reply

    This something I usually call “the nature art”. I loved your pictures and fun stories from that adventure, and will save your article into my huge collection of travel inspiration articles, for the time when I get an opportunity to go to New Zealand 🙂

  12. Mae-Gene September 10, 2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    I loved reading this – I’ve never heard of White Island before, but will definitely have to visit when I get a chance to visit New Zealand again! Your photos make it look amazing, and it’s definitely strange seeing the smoke from the volcano AND photos of dolphins from the one trip! Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

    • Tash @ Backpackers Wanderlust September 22, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Yeah you must! Its amazing and slowly becoming more popular! haha its unlike any other place I have been, totally add it to your bucket list!

  13. gab_gone_dutch September 10, 2017 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    great pictures, I love areas like this with sulphur smoke (or is it steam?) billowing out from the ground. so other worldly! will put it on my list for when I get to visit NZ one day 🙂

  14. Ainsley Duyvestyn- Smith September 10, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    You saw dolphins!! My family has bach over looking white island yet I have never done this trip. One day… 🙂 Looks incredible!

  15. Wandering Darlings September 10, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Wow I’m so gutted I didn’t go there now. What a fabulous experience. Such beautiful pictures!! Aldo super jel you get to call Taupo home!

  16. Ruth Rieckehoff September 10, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    This place blew my mind! First time I hear about it and I am glad I did. It looks so extreme. You have illustrated the place in an incredible way.

  17. Tessa Elliott September 10, 2017 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Wow! Your photography is so amazing. I am such a sucker for active volcanoes – this one looks amazing! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  18. Joy Sheehan September 10, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

    This volcano is absolutely stunning! It looks like such a fun adventure! And how neat it’d be to see those dolphins in the wild!

  19. Magdalena Eliza September 10, 2017 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Beautiful photos! What a pitty we didn’t make it to the volcano when we were in NZ in March!

  20. Laura September 10, 2017 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Your photos are incredible! I’d love to visit here 🙂 xx

  21. becksplore September 9, 2017 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Wow it looks great! Amazing how close to the volcano you can actually get! And the dolphin is so cute! I still haven’t made it to New Zealand yet but definitely planning on going one day! 🙂

  22. Corinne September 9, 2017 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    That looks SO exciting. What an adventure. Your photos really captured the experience. Shared this to a friend in NZ! 🙂

  23. Amanda Koh September 9, 2017 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    Amazing photos! I’ll be visiting NZ next January so I’ll definitely want to consider this now 🙂

    • Tash @ Backpackers Wanderlust September 22, 2017 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Good time to visit! It will be nice and hot, even better if youre gonna stay into February as well as this is when everyone goes back to work/school and the touristy things wont be so busy

  24. Suzannah Smith September 9, 2017 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    I’m really looking forward to visiting White Island, NZ really is the best!

  25. mysimplesojourn September 9, 2017 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    The place looks really fantastic and your pictures did justice to the landscape. Great post.

  26. Gerry Berry September 9, 2017 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Fantastic post! Take me there 😀

  27. Stella Marie Encina September 9, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    first of all , your photos are gorgeous. i am not sure i am going to do the same activity if i am around the area but it really looks exciting and that you had a great time!

  28. GlobeTrove September 9, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    This reminded me of a trip that I took in Indonesia to visit a volcano called Ijen. They had sulphur mines there too. The sulphur would escape and look blue in the night. I have never heard of White island before. I’m adding it to my list for when I finally get to visit NZ

    • Tash @ Backpackers Wanderlust September 22, 2017 at 9:51 am - Reply

      Oh interesting! I am dying to experience Indonesia! I have been to Jakarta but want to explore more of the country. Imagine seeing it blue at night, that would be amazing!

  29. Megan Oh Con Skee September 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    eeee! i’m looking for things to do when I head to NZ next year! pinning this!!

  30. Bri - Wondering & Wandering September 9, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I didn’t know this was on my bucket list until I read this! this looks like so much fun!!

  31. DiariesftWindowSeat September 9, 2017 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Oh my gossshhhhh. How did I go to New Zealand and not go here? This place is so on my bucket list now. Also, I love your photos! They are gorgeous 🙂

  32. Stacey Gilkes September 9, 2017 at 11:07 am - Reply

    Whoa this is so cool! Now I’m disappointed I didn’t do this when i was in NZ. I think I’m going to have to go back and do everything I missed out on LOL!

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Your typical New Zealander, now discovering the world one country at a time. With a high-end backpacking style I prefer to glampack across the globe by embracing the best of each destination. All of which I share right here on Backpackers Wanderlust. 

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