New Zealand is famous for its thermal activity – we have hot pools, hot water beaches, hot water waterfalls, hot water streams, boiling mud pools, and an entire city with steam and boiling water that randomly comes up out of the ground. If you enjoy sitting back in a nice warm tub and soaking your troubles away then it is the place for you.There are over 100 hot pools here – NZ Hot Pools counts 107 but there are more that aren’t on the site. They have a handy map that shows you where they are or you can use the Hot Pools locator from the iTravelNZ app I mentioned a few days ago. As you can see from the map, they are all over NZ – especially around the Rotorua area. There’s a huge variety to pick from.
There are several managed spas such as the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua and Hanmer Springs in the South Island. These places have multiple hot pools and offer spa treatments. Hanmer Springs’ pools have varying temperatures and varying degrees of treatment of the water – some of the pools are untreated and you shouldn’t put your head underwater while others are fully treated with waterfalls and jets that massage sore muscles. Hanmer has a lazy river and water slides all with naturally hot water.
Managed Hot Pools
The typical managed hot pool in New Zealand though is a relatively simple affair – usually with a few public pools and soaking areas (again with varying temperatures), changing rooms, and toilets. Most of them also have private pools you can rent for 30 minutes or an hour if you want to soak in private or forgot your togs (swimsuit) although most also rent cheap togs and towels. People are pretty relaxed with what is worn in the pools though and you see people in shorts and T-shirts pretty regularly. The private rooms sometimes have a toilet in the room and sometimes don’t – one of our favorite ones has the private rooms open on one side overlooking the bush and has a fountain feeding into it.
Natural Hot Pools
If you’re more adventurous though then there are quite a few hot pools just out in the open and free to the public. They won’t be built up and you’ll want to do a little homework. One of these is a place called Kerosene Creek outside of Rotorua. A bit of a drive down a dirt road will land you at a parking spot with a simple toilet and a rough shed for changing clothes. The a very quick walk and you’re at the creek – you can’t miss it for the steam rising off the creek as it winds its way through the woods. My partner says that when he was young he and his siblings would get in up the stream and make their way down the creek to the soaking area. It isn’t very deep so this would have been a bit of clambering over rocks.
A few steps down the path and you’ll come to a simple waterfall. A little further along and there’s a much bigger one with a nice deep pool at the base and a huge tree to hang your clothes on. When we were there, there was only one person soaking in the water but I’ve heard it can get crowded and the website says there are lots of car thefts at the parking lot so watch what you leave in your car. And note that the locals don’t necessarily wear togs when they soak so if that offends you then the natural pools aren’t for you! The picture below (and the main picture on this page) are from the first little waterfall.
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