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Craters of the Moon is a geothermal walkway with Lunar Landscapes – hence its name. Craters of the Moon showcases the natural thermal activity of Taupō including bubbling craters, steam vents, interesting plants and colourful soils. Being relatively flat and only a 45 minutes walk, this activity is a great experience for all ages! Whether you’re a visitor or a local, you need to do this at least once!
Hot springs for centuries have provided hot water for cooking and bathing, a hot ground for ovens, and mud for medicinal purposes. About 20% of electricity used in New Zealand is generated using geothermal energy and most of that is generated from within the Taupō Volcanic Zone. In 1958 when the power generation started using geothermal resources in Wairakei, the heat flow from underground increased x 10 which consisted of numerous eruptions of pumice, mud and steam across the area you walk through. However, do not worry, the Thermal activity peaked in 1970 and has low ever since. It does pay to note, that all though activity is at an all time low, the craters are simply sleeping, they are not dead, therefore changes still happen. At the time of inception, Wairakei was the first geothermal power station to be opened in New Zealand, and only the second in the world!
In the late 1980’s the Department of Conservation was managing Craters of the Moon and then in 1991, the Craters of the Moon Trust was formed with the objective of protecting local visitors and tourists against theft and vandalism which plagued the Department of Conservation facilities in the Wairakei Tourist Park at that time. The Craters operation started out in a second-hand caravan however, has now grown into the visitor kiosk that is present today. The visitor kiosk at Craters is an eco-friendly off-grid energy user, with geothermal floor heating, an electricity supply provided by solar photovoltaic cells, and water supplied by tanks onsite.
Thermal activity is very common in New Zealand because we lie on the edge of two colliding tectonic plates, the Pacific and the Indo-Australian Plates. The Pacific Plate is pushed downward beneath the North Island and the deeper it goes, the hotter it gets! Craters of the Moon is still a live and expanding geothermal area. You will experience steam vents and craters that are continuously slowly forming and changing as under ground steam finds new passages to the surface. You never know, it may look very different on your next visit.