Volcanoes (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about volcanoes in New Zealand?

Entry last updated: 23/12/20


A volcano is a vent (opening) in the earth's crust through which magma (molten rock within the earth) erupts to the surface as lava, a mixture of liquid rocks, ash and poisonous gases.

Aotearoa New Zealand has many volcanoes, mostly in the North Island.

List of New Zealand volcanoes

Here is a list of the most well-known volcanoes in New Zealand.

  • Auckland volcanic field: There are around 50 separate volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field.
  • Kermadec Islands: These islands are part of a chain of undersea volcanoes at the northernmost point of New Zealand.
  • Mayor Island: Although dormant, this shield volcano in the Bay of Plenty is still considered active.
  • Ngauruhoe: Located in the Tongariro National Park this is an active composite cone volcano.
  • Okataina: This volcanic centre is an area with many recently active vents, including Mt Tarawera, which erupted in 1886.
  • Rotorua: The Caldera volcanic eruption that took place in Rotorua 240,000 years ago left behind a large crater in the earth, which is now Lake Rotorua.
  • Ruapehu: The highest peak in the North Island, this active composite cone volcano is also a stratovolcano.
  • Taranaki/Egmont: New Zealand’s largest mainland volcanic cone, is an active volcano, which last erupted 150 years ago.
  • Tongariro: This volcano last erupted in 2012. It consists of a large area of volcanic cones and craters.
  • White Island: New Zealand’s most active cone volcano over 150,000 years is mostly under the sea.

Types of volcanoes

The four main types of volcanoes found in New Zealand Aotearoa are cone volcanoes, shield volcanoes, caldera volcanoes, and volcanic fields.

The Science Learning Hub

The Science Learning Hub is an awesome website, written by New Zealand teachers and scientists. It is a great site to learn about volcanoes and types of volcanoes

  • Type the search words 'volcanoes' into the search box.
  • The article called Types of Volcanoes has details and examples of the different types of volcanoes found in New Zealand Aotearoa.
Tips: Some of the more difficult words in this article are underlined. If you hover over the word it explains what the word means.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg [types of volcanoes]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Type the keywords 'volcano' into the search box at the top of the page.
  • Read the article 'volcanoes' to find out about types of volcanoes and the difference between active, dormant and extinct volcanoes.
  • The link Pacific Ring of Fire explains what this area means to New Zealand and the kind of volcanoes found here.
  • Under Images and Media you will find a useful diagrams, which clearly shows the different volcano types found in New Zealand Aotearoa.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

GNS Science

This website about New Zealand earth science and formation, has information about New Zealand landforms and topics like earthquakes and volcanoes.

  • Scroll down the page to the find the link on Volcanoes, then select Types of Volcanoes & Eruptions from the column on the left.
  • We also suggest you read the link called Eruption: What to do for safety tips on what to do in case of an eruption in New Zealand.
Tips: Some websites have .au, .nz, .uk or other codes in their url. This can tell you which country this website comes from eg .au is from Australia or .nz is from New Zealand. You can check the ‘About Us’ link on the website for more information.

How volcanoes work

Volcanic eruptions have helped shape the landscape of New Zealand Aotearoa. The websites below have details about how and why volcanoes erupt.

Science Learning Hub

This website has lots of information on volcanoes including articles, images and videos on the reasons why volcanoes erupt and what happens when they do.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Weather Wiz kids

This website is not about New Zealand volcanoes, however it has useful information on how volcanoes are formed, and why they erupt.

  • Go to the tab called Natural Disasters and select Volcanoes from the drop down menu.
  • Scroll down the page and read How are volcanoes formed? Why do volcanoes erupt? and What are plate tectonics? This is will help you understand how volcanoes work and why they erupt.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

Famous volcanic eruptions

Some of the largest volcanic eruptions famous throughout the world are the explosions at Taupō, Mount Tarawera, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This map  from Te Ara shows the volcanic eruptions in New Zealand since 1300.

To find out more about these eruptions:

  • scroll to the bottom of the page
  • click on 'to the story', and
  • browse the headings to find out more about the most famous volcanic eruptions in New Zealand Aotearoa.

Science Learning Hub

  • Type 'New Zealand Volcanoes' into the search box
  • This search will take you to an interesting article about New Zealand volcanoes, which has an interactive map that shows where all the volcanoes are.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


GeoNet was set up to keep a check on volcanic activity and earthquakes in New Zealand and tsunamis that could take place as a result.

  • Select Volcano from the top of the page, then select Volcanoes from the drop down menu.
  • Use the drop down menu to select Ruapehu or any other volcano on the list.
  • The About tab has an image and facts about this volcano, including when it last erupted and what were the effects.
  • You can also select to look at the Gallery of images or watch a video on the the White Island eruption in 2013.


There are many books written about New Zealand volcanoes.

Some recommended titles are:

SCIS no: 1940903
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