Imagine walking on one of the world’s most accessible marine volcanoes, where the ground hisses beneath your feet and pools of thick, bubbling mud spring up from the sulfur-tinged Earth. This is the scene on White Island off the coast of Whakatane, where a lunar landscape full of geothermal vents rises up from the cobalt sea. There’s no lava on White Island—since the vent is underwater—but the steam and sulfur are eerie enough for first time volcano visitors. The remains of an abandoned sulfur mine helps add to the scene of destruction, where ten workers lost their lives in a 1914 lahar. Today, White Island is best accessed by boat from Whakatane, or by helicopter, plane, and flightseeing tours that circle the steaming vent. It’s also a popular fishing site with spectacular offshore diving, and while volcanologists continue to study the geothermal vents, there’s really no saying when White Island will suddenly erupt again.
Strong, sturdy, closed toed shoes are required for walking on White Island, and all the tours—both boat and air—are entirely weather dependent. Boat tours depart from Whakatane, while flightseeing tours depart from Taupo as well as Rotorua.