Orakei Korako is only accessible by boat. The boat fare is included in the admission fee. Our boats do not run on a timetable but leave on request throughout the day.
You may visit the valley as soon as you arrive but if you would like to have a coffee or lunch in the cafe, or browse the souvenir shop first, you are welcome to do so. Both café and shop are open all day.
From earliest times, the Waikato Valley near Orakei Korako was occupied by Maori of the Ngati Tahu sub-tribe Tuwharetoa. By the early 1800’s, the Maori population had congregated at Orakei Korako, attracted by the hot springs. “O” is the place of “rakei” adornment. “Korako” meaning white, describing the glittering (sinter) flat.
A diary entry for the 11 March 1850 recorded that the Maoris lived in this spot “to spare their woman the trouble of procuring wood for fuel. They seldom light a fire; everything is cooked in the springs.” The exact date that the Ngati Tahu people vacated Orakei Korako to settle elsewhere is not recorded, but it is likely that they left soon after the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.
By the turn of the century, all but two families had moved from Orakei Korako. The earliest known route from Rotorua to Taupo for early European travellers passed right through Orakei Korako. The Maori people provided a dug out canoe for the river crossings. In the early 1900’s the geothermal area was already established as a visitor attraction.
A dug-out was used until the 1930′s to transfer visitors across the then swift Waikato River. Afterwards, a wire strop and pulley system was placed across the river to make the crossing easier. In April 1937, a Rotorua company called Orakei Korako Ltd obtained a 21 year lease with the right of renewal for another 21 years. The road was improved for motor traffic and a punt was installed to transport visitors across the river.
Orakei Korako was officially opened as a tourist resort on 15 December 1937. The cave and thermal park now caters to a large number of both domestic and international visitors but the hidden valley still retains the beauty and serenity that it has always held.