Located 50km offshore from Whakatane, New Zealand’s only active marine volcano offers a barren lunar landscape and amazing geothermal activity. Visiting White Island is an expensive day trip and you have the option of visiting either by boat or air. With the exception of the helicopter, flights are purely scenic and you don’t get the chance to walk around on the island. Visiting by boat also offers the opportunity to see (and perhaps swim with) dolphins.
Most tours depart from Whakatane, although some may also pick up from Tauranga or Rotorua.
White Island Flights has scenic flights over White Island departing either Rotorua, Tauranga or Whakatane airports. They use fixed-wing planes that are a better value alternative to the more pricey helicopter tours. Scenic flights departing from Whakatane are the best value with a 60-minute flight costing $249. Flights from Tauranga (also 60-minutes) cost $279 and 90-minute flights from Rotorua cost $459. A longer 90-minute flight, taking in both White Island and Mount Tarawera from Whakatane, costs $339 and a longer 2.5 to 3.5-hour scenic flight departing from Whakatane takes in White Island and Mount Tarawera as well as the Waimangu Thermal Valley, Rainbow Mountain, Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, Huka Falls, Lake Taupo, Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu.
A more expensive way to see White Island is by helicopter, which has the advantage of letting you land on the island and walk around. Volcanic Air operate helicopter tours departing from the lakefront in Rotorua. The 2.5 to 3-hour tour of White Island costs $895 and a longer 3.5-hour tour that takes in both White Island and Mount Tarawera (with a landing on both) costs $1,045.
White Island Tours operate a five to six-hour excursion to the island that departs Whakatane and includes a 1 to 1.5-hour exploration of the inner crater. Although the boat tour doesn’t give you the same views as a scenic flight, you often get time for a swim and there is the opportunity to see dolphins and whales. The boat tour costs $219.