Navigating the Volcanoes of New Zealand

New Zealand is famous for its many volcanoes. These volcanoes have formed much of the geology of the country, especially in North Island. Though scenic, they can be dangerous, and their eruptions have caused many deaths. There are also many inactive volcanic regions that have formed some of the most beautiful parts of the country.

Taupo Volcanic Zone

The Taupo Volcanic Zone is a very active volcanic zone, which is located on North Island, and formed by a subduction zone in the crust. It gets its name from Lake Taupo, which lies in a caldera that was created by extreme volcanic eruptions. The Taupo Volcanic Zone is about 50 kilometers wide and 300 kilometers long.


One of the volcanoes in this zone is Mount Ruapehu, which is located in the south. Many major skiifields are located on this mountain, as well as several glaciers. It is the largest active volcano in the country, as well as one of the most active on earth. There are three major peaks on this mountain: Tahurangi (2,797 meters), Te Heuheu (2,755 meters) and Paretetaitonga (2,751 meters). The last historic eruptions occurred in 1995 and 1996. The last minor eruption occurred in 2007, which caused an earthquake and closed down the ski resorts.


Another volcano in the Taupo zone is Mount Ngauruhoe, having erupted 45 times in the 20th century. It last erupted in 1977, but will not likely erupt any time soon.


White Island (above), also known as Whakaari, is part of this range, and it is located off of the east coast of North Island. This island is uninhabited, though its eruptions have caused deaths a few decades ago to some miners and other workers. Its last eruption was in 2001, and today this island is privately owned and used for tourism.


There is also the Auckland volcanic field, which is underneath the metropolitan area of the city of Auckland. This is a dormant volcanic zone that probably will not erupt again for a few hundred years. There are about 50 different volcanoes in this field.

Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

There are some extinct volcanoes in the South Island of New Zealand. One of them is the Banks Peninsula, on its east coast, which has many eroded remains of two large stratovolcanoes. Further south on the island’s east coast is the Otago Peninsula, which was largely formed by extinct volcanoes. Both of these destinations are currently very naturally scenic and often visited by tourists.

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