Some of my best memories of traveling around our beautiful country involve stepping into isolated hot springs on cold mornings, watching sun rays dancing through the trees, and not caring for the world.
We are fortunate enough to live in a geothermal wonderland, where we can find hot springs from the Far North to the Southern Alps.
Here are seven places you shouldn’t miss.
1) Great Barrier Island – Hauraki Bay
Now that an overseas island escape is not possible thanks to Covid-19, many Kiwis will be looking closer home for a slice of sandy paradise.
Great Barrier Island is only a 30-minute flight from Auckland, and there are many airfare for less than $ 99 one way.
You’ll float over Waiheke – home to luxurious vineyards and resting places – before reaching the largest island in Hauraki Bay in stark contrast to its striking neighbors.
No major wineries or tour buses; The Great Barrier is a place where nature rules firmly. And one of the most popular attractions is the Kaitoke Hot Springs, the island’s free hot tubs.
A leisurely 45-minute stroll in a stroller through primeval forest to get there, weaving along the Kaitoke wetlands.
The bush pond is a reminder that the Auckland region has a rich volcanic history, with 53 volcanoes in the Auckland Volcanic Field alone.
2) Maruia Hot Springs – West Coast
If you’re looking for a luxurious geothermal experience, you’ll want to head deep into the Southern Alps, home to Maruia Hot Springs.
The resort is nestled among mountains in extraordinary isolation on the Lewis Pass, about an hour from Reefton, and is centered around four hot pools that have been used to heal weary travelers for hundreds of years.
The complex recently changed ownership, and the transformations have been spectacular. The moment you step inside, the health philosophy is evident when you put on your make-up gown and start to unwind.
There’s no cell phone reception, and wi-fi is chargeable, so the emphasis is on getting into nature. You’ll have a master sauna introduce you to a contrasting bath (fancy phrases for jumping into a waterfall pool and melting ice in a sauna) then finish off with a homemade face mask.
You will find relaxation rooms and yoga classes, next to the restaurant which only serves delicious and nutritious food, which is very tasty.
3) Blackmail – Rotorua
If you’re into adventure, The Squeeze trip is your kind of hot spring experience.
Hop on a jet boat in Mihi, a small settlement between Rotorua and Taupō, then ride the Waikato River into a remote geothermal valley.
You’ll then park the boat, before walking down the creek that soon becomes a canyon – and the only way through it is a narrow pass (hence the name ‘The Squeeze’).
After five minutes of navigating the pass, with the water reaching your neck, you will reach a hot steamy river which immediately leads to a geothermal waterfall where you can bathe.
4) The Lost Spring – Coromandel
The Lost Spring is a must-visit if you’re looking for an adult-only experience. A collection of labyrinthine pools, filled with water that is 16,000 years old, is built around an artificial forest, with swinging bridges, spa huts and even a hot spring cave.
Adult cocktails can be served to drink in the pool, and children under 14 are strictly prohibited. It’s expensive, and it puts off some, meaning you’ll never find it crowded.
5) Waikite Valley Hot Springs – Rotorua
This hot spring complex is fed by New Zealand’s largest natural boiling spring, Te Manaroa Springs.
The nearby spring – where you walk – bubbles violently, and the river flowing from it cools, before it enters the pool.
Pure water is not treated with chemicals, or reused – it just flows through the complex and back into the river.
The hot springs also have 26 campsites, and during your stay, you get unlimited access to the pool.
6) Hot Springs – Northland
I was lucky enough to get a peek at the new Ngāwhā Hot Springs; The rebuilt 16 pool complex will reopen in early 2021 – and is sure to become one of Northland’s top attractions.
The old Ngāwhā Springs are captivating – but require some care and attention – and the redevelopment adds a welcome touch of luxury to the bath experience.
Meanwhile, the trust that manages the pool has opened a smaller complex, with eight hot springs, for only $ 5 an hour. ‘The Temp’ pays homage to the old Ngāwhā Spring with a similar layout; has only been open a few months and is already proving to be popular with the locals.
7) Kerosene River – Rotorua
Rotorua will be a popular location on this school holiday, and if you’re looking for free activities, head half an hour out of town to Kerosene Creek.
Hot tributaries drip from old lava flows along dense undergrowth, complete with steaming waterfalls. Come early to own the place yourself.
Kaitoke Hot Springs free and accessible via a 1.5 hour round trip. See: doc.govt.nz
Maruia Hot Springs It has a number of packages, starting at $ 69 for a day’s retreat, $ 65 for a ‘campervan and shower’, glamping pods starting at $ 189 and hotels starting at $ 259. maruiahotsprings.nz
Extortion run by RiverJet New Zealand. $ 189 per adult. See: riverjet.co.nz
Lost Spring starting at $ 45 for a 1.5 hour ticket, or $ 80 for all-day access. There are a number of spa packages also available. See: thelostspring.co.nz
Waikite Hot Springs adults $ 20, children $ 11. Campgrounds start at $ 25 with use of the infinity pool. See: hotpools.co.nz
Hot water is $ 5 for an hour soak at ‘The Temp’. Important order at [email protected] Search for ‘The Temp’ on Facebook for hours and opening information.
Kerosene Creek Free. See: kerosenecreek.co.nz
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