Volcanic History

New Zealand has a strong presence of volcanos, geysers, volcanic lakes and hot springs, making it home to some of the world’s most fascinating geothermal activity. Many of these features are clustered around the North Island, and particularly the Taupo Volcanic Zone, where the Earth’s crust is thought to be as little as 16km thick. A lot of New Zealand’s landscape can be attributed to past volcanic eruptions and these draw in many tourists each year. The Taupo Volcanic Zone extends from the centre of the Bay of Plenty region northwards to the White Island and the area is dotted with geological fault lines, geothermal activity and volcanos.

The White Island is one of the world’s most accessible live volcanos, and can be found just 49km off the coast of Whakatane, in eastern Bay of Plenty. The White Island’s peak reaches 321m above sea level, however this is just the tip of a much grander submarine mountain, with 70% of the volcano’s mass rising from the seafloor deep below.

This unique structure allows visitors a direct look into the crater complex, without the usual steep mountain climb first. Visitors look on in awe at the hot volcanic streams, gassy mud pits and lake of steaming acidic activity. The White Island volcano illuminates the skies around with the most remarkable colour display from its discharge of sulphur, rock and minerals. It’s a wonder on our doorstep and we recommend taking advantage of its accessibility and grandeur.

Tahua – Major Island

Even closer, and just 35km north beyond the shores of Tauranga, an impressive dormant shield volcano ‘Tuhua’ or Mayor Island can be found. Thankfully its last eruption was over 6,000 years ago but this past volcanic activity has shaped the earth into fascinating land formations.

The most striking feature of Tuhua is its natural glass coating, which was formed by a rapid cooling of silica-rich lava. This is called the black obsidian, which was highly valued by early Maori for its usefulness in creating cutting tools and weapons. The island is surrounded by marine reserve – a popular spot for divers exploring the reef and its many subtropical visitors like kingfish and pink and blue maomao.


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The Bay Explorer

Bay Explorer are local boat tour specialists who are passionate about all our region has to offer. We are proudly Kiwi owned and operated, with plenty of experience running day trips from Tauranga.

Departure Point

Corner of Wharf Street & The Strand
New Zealand 3110

Ph: 021 605 968
Intnl: +64 21 605 968

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