Some of the country’s pools and spa resorts are so well hidden you’ll need a boat or a compass to get there. But take the time to seek them out and you’ll find a rejuvenating and even healing experience, as bathers have for thousands of years.
Spas and hot pools make a romantic weekend getaway for couples but they’re also great family outings - kids can enjoy the hot pools and mum or dad can sneak off for some time out with beauty and therapeutic spa treatments. For senior citizens they can be a relaxing and rejuvenating treat.
Whether you’re after a quick treatment or an indulgent day complete with champagne, lunch and a series of treatments, you’ll leave a day spa looking and feeling like a million dollars. Treatment costs can range from $25 to $1000 and group packages can often be arranged.
There are about 100 thermal hot pools around New Zealand. About 35 are commercial while the others are free outdoor bubbling springs. This guide focuses on the commercial facilities.
Waiariki Pools, Ngawha Springs
Waiariki, meaning “chiefly waters” is the name for a complex of fifteen natural, mineral hot pools, said to have been discovered by Kareariki, in the late 1600s. Her descendants are still the kaitiaki, or guardians of this special place. The pools have a very rustic feel, with water of different colours and temperatures, from black to green, contained in basic wooden pools. The geothermal water comes from the 1500-metre deep Ngawha Geothermal Reservoir, and is laden with different minerals. Don’t expect a fancy spa - this place has a down to earth, community feel, with an honesty box in case the office is unattended. Pools have evocative names such as Bulldog, Doctor and Tanemahuta, and range from cold to over 45 degrees. Bring cash!
From SH 12, Kaikohe, turn onto Ngawha Springs Road. Ph: 09 405 2245 Open 7 days, from 9 am - 9 pm Admission: Adults $4, high school students $2, primary students $1, under 5: free
Rodney District (Auckland region)
Waiwera Infinity Thermal Spa Resort
Smell the salt air from adjacent Waiwera Beach as you relax in an indulgent spa treatment or bathe in one of the 22 naturally thermal mineral pools. Watch new movie releases as you soak, while the kids enjoy the Indiana Jones-styled hydro slide tower with eight thermal slides. Waiwera’s carbon dated water is said to be the oldest in the world. It was recognised as the Southern Hemisphere’s first spa in 1863. Waiwera’s Infinity Day and Medi Spa treatments encourage health improvements and wellbeing by way of science and pampering.
21 Waiwera Road, Waiwera Ph: 0800 WAIWERA (0800 924 9372) Open 7 days 9am–9pm (winter), 9am–10pm (summer) Admission: Adults $26, children 15yrs and under $15. Family pass 2 adults and up to 3 children $65. Check the website for specials.
Aquatic Park Parakai Springs
These restorative thermally heated pools were the country’s premiere health spas in the 1900s.These days, there are two huge thermal pools – one indoor and one out – set amongst the mature trees of Parakai Domain. Private thermal spa pools are also available.
150 Parkhurst Rd, Parakai. Off State Highway 16, 40 minutes’ north of Auckland CBD. Ph: 09 420 8998 Open 10am-9pm Admission: Adults 16 years and over $22, children 5 and over $11, family: 2 adults, 2 children $55
The Lost Spring
Sculpted pools with crystal clear water are fringed by gardens filled with flourishing native and tropical plants at this Whitianga haven, which also includes a poolside beverage service. Treatments at the Lost Spring Day Spa range from the Dreamy Delight foot pamper, massage and facial to the Pure Decadence package for two, with bubbly and a platter. Weekend bookings are essential.
121A Cook Drive, Whitianga Ph: 07 866 0456 Open 7 days Pool admission: $38 for a one hour 30 pool pass. Children 14 and over catered for.
Miranda Hot Springs
Nestled in picturesque grounds, these thermally heated mineral water pools range from 33°C to 41°C There are four new private spas, electric BBQs, a games room, adventure playground and takeaway shop.
Front Miranda Rd, Seabird Coast. Just off State Highway 2, 45 minutes south east of Auckland, 20 minutes from the Coromandel Peninsula. Ph: 07 867 3055 Open: 9am-9:30pm, Christmas Day 10am-6pm. Admission: Adults 14 and over $14, children $7. Under 3 free. Surcharge on public holidays.
Waingaro Hot Springs
Three thermal pools with varying temperatures, private spa pools, hot water hydro slides and bumper boats.
Waingaro Rd, Ngaruawahia. 45km north-west of Hamilton. It’s a little out in the wops, so consult a map before you head off. Ph: 07 825 4761 Admission: Adults $11, children 12 and under $6, public holiday surcharge
Te Aroha Mineral Spas and Leisure Pools
Beneath Te Aroha Mountain lies the world’s only hot soda water geyser. Its pristine waters have been enjoyed for more than a century. Modernised to resort standard, these pools retain the quaint charm of the Edwardian era. Beyond the traditional Bath House with its eight private soda spa pools is a three pool outdoor leisure complex. At the on-site Aroha Spa, therapies range from an eyebrow tint or wax to an Ultimate Spa Experience of a soak, exfoliation, body wrap, massage and facial treatments. Other indulgences include the Aroha Enriching Honey Yoghurt Wrap, pedicures and back treatments.
Te Aroha Hot Springs Domain, Te Aroha Ph: 07 884 8717 Open 7 days Opening hours: Mineral Spas: 10.30am -10 pm daily. Pools: Monday-Thursday 8am -6pm Pool admission: Adults $7. Children $5
Taupo DeBretts Thermal Spa Resort
From big pools, hot pools, kids’ pools, private pools to luxurious spa treatments. While the adults are rejuvenating in the pools or being pampered in the spa, the kids can safely play in the warm water-playground with its giant hot water dragon slide. DeBretts Spa is a utopia of massage and beauty therapies set amongst beautiful native bush and bubbling thermal waters. Spa massage therapy options include acupressure, Swedish, hydrotherapy or deep tissue. The beauty menu includes face and body treatments, waxing, tints and electrolysis.
102 State Highway 5 (Napier Taupo Highway) Ph: 07 377 6502 Open 8.30am-9.30pm. Pool admission: Adults $22. Students 13-17 $13 Children 3-12 $11
Tokaanu Thermal Pools
Great for soothing sore muscles after hiking the Tongariro Crossing or skiing the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. The large public pool is heated with fresh chlorinated water to around 36˚C - 38˚C. Private natural mineral pools, are around 39˚C - 41˚C. Make time to explore the natural thermal areas with steaming hot mineral pools and plopping mud set in native bush, or view and feed rainbow trout in the Tokaanu Stream from the bridge entrance.
Mangaroa Street, Tokaanu, Lake Taupo. Ph: 07 3868575 Open 7 days (closed Christmas Day); Public Pool 10am - 9pm; Private Pools 10am - 9.30pm. Public pool admission: Adult $6 Child $4 Private pool: Adult $10 Child $6
The Living Waters of Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
Halfway between Taupo and Rotorua is a natural geothermal bathing complex with six outdoor pools. The splash pool has a covered toddlers’ beach area and four private spas have adjustable temperatures. The pools overlook a steamy wetland with an eco-trail winding along a boiling river that ends at the famous Te-Manaroa spring, the country’s largest single source of boiling water. There’s a licensed cafe on site.
Along State Highway 5, turn right opposite Wai-o-tapu onto Waikite Valley Road and follow the signs for 6km. Ph: 07 333 1861 Open 10am-9pm every day except Christmas Day Admission: Adults $15, 5-15 year-olds $8, under 5 $3
Bay of Plenty
At the foot of the Kaimai Ranges, this 35-hectare bush haven has pure 38ºC spa pools. Take a bush walk through large native trees and ferns and see the glow-worms on the banks of the stream. Five minutes from Katikati.
274 Hot Springs Rd, Katikati Ph: 07 549 0768 Open 7 days 7am - 10pm. Closed Christmas Day. Outdoor pools: 14 years and over $5.50 per day, 1-13 years $3.50 per day
Oropi Spa Pools
This complex has a large outdoor pool and four private pools with massage jets. Ramp access for senior citizens. Cafe with home baked goodies.
1 Warner Road, Oropi, Tauranga Ph: 07 543 3913 Open Wednesday-Friday 4pm-10pm, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 10am-10pm, closed Monday and Tuesday. NOTE: phone and check: pools were closed in March 2015 Admission: Adults $5.50. Private pools $7.50 per adult. Children under 10 yrs not permitted in private pools.
Lake Rotoiti Pools
A popular hangout for locals - open all year round. Access is only by water, boats moor at any of the four jetties available. Get there by water taxi, or jump in a kayak (many baches supply these free of charge). Select the pool with the temperature you will enjoy today, and slip in and soak, and cool down by taking a plunge off the allocated jetty or try the water slide or take a short walk around the lakefront to the beach. There are picnic areas with tables and 2 barbecues, changing rooms, toilets, a kiosk selling drinks and ice creams.
Manupirua Bay, south side of Lake Rotoiti Ph: 07 345 8070 Open: 8.00am to 10.00pm, 365 days of the year Admission: Casual - $10 per adult (over 12 years of age) and $5 per child (5 to 12 years of age) per day. Season pass also available
Mt Maunganui Hot Saltwater Pools
At the base of The Mount, these hot salt water pools have been enjoyed for 40 years. A good spot to head after a hike to the top of The Mount. The Massage Centre offers relaxation, Swedish and deep tissue massage.
Adams Ave, Mt Maunganui Ph: 07 575 0868 Open Monday-Saturday 6am-10pm, Sunday and public holidays 8am-10pm. Admission: Adults $10.80 Children 5-15 $8.10 Private pool: Adult $15.60 Child $16.60 private and public access
Set amid native flora, this inviting relaxation haven – which also includes 26 hot mineral pools - provides an array of spa and hydro spa therapies including body and facial therapies (using Rotorua thermal mud) and massage, exfoliation and a thermal mud body polish. Appointments for spa therapies essential. Prices vary - the indoor Family Spa is cheaper, while the scenic, outdoor Lake Spa is more expensive.
1000 Hinemoa Street, Rotorua Ph: 07 348 1328 Open daily 8am-11pm Admission: Bathing: Adults from $18 - $45, Children $7- $45, under 5 free. Spa treatments $89 and upwards.
Wai Ora Spa at Hell’s Gate
Visitors can experience a unique geothermal mud bath, pure sulphurous spa, or the unique Wai Ora massage, based on Miri Miri (Maori massage).
State Highway 30, Tikitere, Rotorua Ph: 07 345 3151 Open: 7 days 9am-8.30pm Admission: Adult: from $20 Child: from $10
It’s now a popular venue for galas and weddings, but it was bathing that first brought people to this historic venue in 1933. The fresh water pools are geothermally heated; there’s a large lap pool and two hot soak pools.
Government Gardens, Rotorua Ph: 07 3502119 Open from 10am - 6pm usually. Pools may be closed for private functions, so phone ahead. Admission: Adults: $11, Children $6
Waitangi Soda Springs
These secluded springs in a natural setting have been upgraded and there’s now a small charge. Hot water bubbles up around you here, while streams of warm water pass by. From Rotorua, take State Highway 30 towards Whakatane. Turn left at Manawahe Road, just before the petrol station. The pools are on your left about 200 metres from the intersection of SH30 and Manawahe Road where the road curves. Soda water can stain swimwear so perhaps don’t wear your most expensive togs…
Highway 30, Rotama Admission: Adults $8
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, these open-air hot pools comprise a 25-metre lap pool, two leisure pools, a toddlers’ pool and private spas. There’s a steam room, sauna, sunbed, fitness facility and the Ocean Spa Body Therapy for a range of body therapy treatments including massage and facials.
42 Marine Parade, Napier Ph: 06 835 8553 Open Monday-Saturday, 6am-10pm, Sunday 8am-10pm. Admission: Pools: Adults $10.50, children 14 years and under $7.90.
Taranaki Taranaki Thermal Spa - Tarawhata Mineral Baths
This beautifully restored mineral pool complex and spa focuses on relaxation and rehabilitation. There’s a large public spa, private pools, sauna and a therapy studio with a diverse range of therapeutic massage and wraps.
8 Bonithon Avenue, New Plymouth Ph: 06 835 8553 Open 7 days Admission: Public pool adults $13, Private pool $16, Children 0-5yrs $3, 6-10yrs $5, 11-15 yrs $8.
Where to stay
Morere Hot Springs
Tucked away between Art Deco Napier and the East Cape is this 364-hectare native bush haven with heated non-sulphurous springs. The water apparently burbles from beneath the rainforest after travelling through superheated subterranean vents. There is a range of man-made indoor and outdoor pools, or you can hike a few minutes along a lovely forest path to the Nikau pools.
State Highway 2, Morere, East Coast Ph: 06 837 8856 Open from 10am every day except Christmas Day. Public pools: Adults $12, children $6.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
Surrounded by the Southern Alps and in the heart of Hanmer village, this resort has open air thermal pools, sulphur pools, private saunas and pools, as well as hydroslides and a family activity area. Massage and beauty treatments at The Spa include relaxation and sports massages, indulgent body treatments, hot stone therapy and luxurious facials.
Amuri Ave, Hanmer Springs Ph: 0800 442 663 Open 10am-9pm daily except Christmas Day Thermal pools: Adults $22, child 3-15 $11, under 3 free
This new resort’s three hot pools have massage jets and fountains plus views to Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps. Alongside the pools are a sauna, steam room and plunge pool. Overlooking the pools, the day spa offers facials, manicures, specialised massage and reflexology. Bookings are essential. There’s also a huge outdoor Ice Skating Rink (open April-September) for the more energetic, a tube park and an inflatable waterslide open in summer.
6 Lakeside Dr, Lake Tekapo Ph: 0800 2353 8283 Open: 7 days 10am-9pm Hot pools: Adults $22, Children $13.
West Coast Glacier Hot Pools
Nestled in rainforest, the Glacier Hot Pools are a tranquil escape. The three main pools range in temperature from 36 - 40 degrees, and are protected from the elements by giant sails. There are private pools available, as well as spa and massage treatments. The Franz Josef Glacier is known to Ngāi Tahu as Kā Roimata o Hinehukatere – The Frozen Tears of Hinehukatere. The Glacier Hot Pools have each been named, and are owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism.
63 Cron Street, Franz Josef Glacier Ph: 0800 044 044 / + 64 3 752 0099 Open: 7 days 1pm-9pm Hot pools: Adults $26, Children $22.
Onsen Hot Pools
Housed in private cedar-lined bathing rooms, each of the pools has retractable picture windows so, at the touch of a button, you can convert your room from indoor to outdoor to make the most of the mountain views. At night, dim the lights and watch the glow of the southern constellations. Each bathing room contains its own shower and changing facility.
160 Arthurs Point Rd, Queenstown Ph: 0508 UNWIND (869 463) Open daily 11am-10pm. Bookings in one-hour blocks. Admission: Adult $46 for the first hour. Children $12.
Omarama Hot Tubs
Since opening in March 2009, Omarama Hot Tubs has been celebrated by locals and tourists as a real high country oasis of relaxation. Jan and Lance Thomas have been working for over 4 years to establish their unique High Country hot tub experience. Soak up the stunning alpine backdrop, in their chemical-free, environmentally conscious hot tub facility. Massage bookings also available.
29 Omarama Ave, Main Omarama Twizel Highway (State HWY 8) - 700 metres from the town junction Ph: 03 438 9703 Open: Daily from 11am until late (except Christmas Day) Pricing: see website (Tubs from $34 for 4 or more people, Child: $17; Under 5’s: $10).
Where to stay