White Island, New Zealand

White Island is located in the Bay of Plenty of the east coast of the North Island.  It was so named by Captain Cook who was the first European to sight the island.  Its volcano is still very much active and the island is about 2km in diameter which makes it perfect to explore on foot.  The nearest towns to White Island are Whakatane and Tauranga. 

Boat rides to White Island

Boat trips to White Island leave from both Whakatane and Tauranga.  However, since Whakatane is the closest, it often attracts more tourists.  The boat ride from Whakatane to White Island takes approximately 90 minutes and there are a number of tour companies to choose from.  Along with the 2 hours or so spent on the island itself, your entire trip could take about 5 hours so make sure that you have booked a place to stay in Whakatane at least for one night.  In Whakatane itself, you can enjoy some of the loveliest beaches, walking areas and the very popular Awakeri Hot Springs.

Please Note

Due to the tragic events of the volcanic eruption on White Island on Monday 9th December 2019, tours to White Island have been suspended until further notice.

What to expect on White Island

Due to all the intense volcanic activity, walking on the island is often compared with walking on the moon.  There are numerous craters and a distinct absence of plant life.  The smell of sulphur is understandably strong and it is the island’s sulphur content that lead adventurous entrepreneurs to attempt mining the substance.  Unfortunately, the sulphur content was not as dense as they had hoped and the mind rocks were ground up and used as fertilizer.  Even so, it was determined that the fertilizer was inferior and mining was stopped.  Today, you can see the remains of the factory and other structures on the island. 

While there is a lack of plant life on the island, it is a very popular breeding colony for Australasian Gannets.  The fact that the island is no longer freely accessible and visitors require permits means that the delicate balance of nature is being preserved and protected.  Visitors can therefore enjoy a truly unspoiled piece of nature.

There are a number of craters that tourists can visit and, one of which even contains its very own lake.  These, along with the mud pots, vent holes and rising steam makes for a truly out of this world experience.

If you are susceptible to becoming seasick but would still love to visit White Island, another option is to view the island from above.  There are various companies that offer flights in the area but only select operators are permitted to land on the island itself.  If you are visiting Rotorua or Tauranga, then you can fly to White Island from both centres. Whether you visit by air or sea, White Island is definitely worth the trip.