Discovering Whakaari: New Zealand's White Island

White Island in New Zealand

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verification Verified Expert

    Discover the captivating history and untold stories of White Island's volcanic activity. In this post, we delve into the events of its most recent eruption in 2019, shedding light on the sheer power of nature and its profound impact on the island's landscape and visitors. 

    Join us as we journey through the fiery heart of New Zealand's most active volcano.

    What is White Island?

    Whakaari, also known as White Island, is not just any island. It's a living, breathing entity that has captivated the hearts and minds of travelers for years. Located in the Bay of Plenty, this island is the most active cone volcano in New Zealand. 

    Its Maori name, Whakaari, translates to "that which can be made visible", and true to its name, the island offers a unique glimpse into the raw power of nature.

    White Island Volcano

    Location and size

    Situated 48 km from the coast of Whakatane, Whakaari/White Island stretches over 325 hectares. Its highest point, Mount Whakaari, stands tall at 321 meters above sea level. 

    The island's location makes it a significant landmark in the Bay of Plenty region, and its size ensures that there's plenty to explore for those who venture its way.

    Volcanic history

    The volcanic history of White Island is as intriguing as its present. The island has witnessed numerous eruptions over the years, with records indicating activity as far back as the 1820s. White Island erupted over 28 times since 1826, primarily phreatic events. The White Island eruptions history is a testament to the island's volatile nature:

    • White Island last eruption: The most recent significant eruption occurred in December 2019, which tragically claimed several lives.
    • Whakaari eruptions: Over the years, the island has erupted multiple times, showcasing its unpredictable nature.
    • How often does White Island erupt? While it's challenging to predict the exact frequency, historical data suggests sporadic activity with periods of heightened unrest.

    Banner CVNZ

    White Island eruption in 2019

    White Island's latest eruption was on December 9, 2019. This explosive event produced ash and a pyroclastic surge, impacting the entire crater and leading to 21 deaths and numerous injuries.

    Investigations into the eruption revealed that there were no signs of imminent volcanic activity, making the event all the more tragic. The aftermath saw a surge in support for the affected families and a re-evaluation of tourist activities on the island.

    How to get there

    Reaching Whakaari is an adventure in itself. Most travelers opt for boat tours departing from Whakatane, the closest mainland town. These tours offer a unique perspective of New Zealand's White Island, allowing visitors to witness the island's majesty from the sea. 

    For those looking for a bird's eye view, helicopter tours are also available, offering breathtaking aerial views of the volcano Whakaari and its surroundings.

    Whakaari Volcano

    Hiking trails and activities

    Once on the island, there's no shortage of activities. Guided tours lead visitors around the island, showcasing its diverse landscape:

    • White Island crater: A must-visit, this active crater offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
    • Hiking trails: Various trails crisscross the island, each offering unique vantage points of the island's geothermal activity and wildlife.
    • Photography: With its surreal landscape, White Island is a photographer's dream. From steaming vents to the vibrant yellow sulphur deposits, there's a photo opportunity at every turn.

    What are the safety measures that are now in place for visitors to White Island?

    Since the 2019 eruption, a number of safety measures have been put in place for visitors to White Island. These measures include:

    • All visitors must be accompanied by a qualified tour guide.
    • Visitors must wear hard hats and gas masks.
    • Visitors are not allowed to enter certain areas of the island that are considered to be high risk.

    Whakaari White Island


    Whakaari/White Island is a testament to the raw power and beauty of nature. Its rich history, unique geothermal activity, and breathtaking landscapes make it a must-visit for any traveler. However, it's essential to approach with respect and caution, understanding the island's volatile nature. 

    And if you're planning a trip to New Zealand, why not enhance your experience by renting a caravan?Embark on a journey like no other.

    Banner CVNZ

    Let’s go on an adventure!

    Unbeatable prices. Premium customer service.

    Book now
    Campervan New ZealandBook now