A guide to hot pools and spa resorts
By Rosalind Le Bas Walker
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; for free spas, check out NZ Hot Pools.
Ginns Ngawha Spa
Eight outdoor natural mineral hot pools are pumped daily to refresh the hot geothermal water from the 1500-metre deep Ngawha Geothermal Reservoir. Complete with volcanic mud, the pools are nestled in a pretty lakeside spot and have been operating since the early 1900s.
- At SH 12, Kaikohe, look for the sign to Ngawha Springs. It’s five minutes from there.
- Ph: 09 405 2599
- Open 7 days
- Admission: Adults $5, Under 12 $3, 6 and under free
14 mineral thermal pools of varying temperatures
- Ngawha Springs Rd, Kaikohe
- ph: 09 405 2245
- Open 7 days from 9am
- Admission: Adults $4, college kids $2, primary school children $1, preschoolers free.
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
- Open 7 days 9am–9pm (winter),9am–10pm (summer)
- Admission: Adults $25, children 14 yrs and under $15. Family pass 2 adults and 2 children $60. 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 15 years and over $16, children 5 and over $8
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: $20 per hour. 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 $12.50, children $6. Under 3 free
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 whops, so consult a map before you head off.
- ph: 07 825 4761
- Open daily 9am-9.30pm
- Admission: Adults $10, children 12 and under $5
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 $30 for 30 minutes. Children from $8 for 30 minutes.
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)
- 07 377 6502
- Open winter 8.30am-8.30pm Monday-Thursday, 7.30am-9.30pm Friday to Sunday. Summer 8.30am-9.30pm.
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 $12, 5-14 year-olds $6, 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 8am-6pm. Closed Christmas Day.
- Admission: 13 years and over $5 per day, 4-12 years $3 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.
- Admission: Adults $5.50. Private pools $7.50 per adult. Children under 10 yrs not permitted in private pools.
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.
Where to stay: Tauranga
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.
- 1000 Hinemoa Street, Rotorua
- ph: 07 348 1328
- Open daily 8am-11pm
- Admission: Bathing: Adults from $13-$40, children $6-$15, under 5 free. Spa treatments $80-$190.
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: see website
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 summer, noon in winter. Pools may be closed for private functions, so phone ahead.
- Admission: Adults: $11, Children $6
Waitangi Soda Springs
These secluded springs 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.
- 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 $8, children 14 years and under $6. Spa: see website.
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 $12, private pool $30 for two, children under 10-15 $5, children under 10 free (admitted with until 4.30pm).
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 into the rainforest to the Nikau pools. A day spa offers aromatherapy treatments, deep muscle therapy and sports massage.
- State Highway 2, Morere, East Coast
- ph: 06 837 8856
- Open every day except December 24 and 25.
- Admission: Adults $6, children $3.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
Surrounded by the Southern Alps and in the heart of Hanmer village, this resort has nine open air thermal pools, three sulphur pools and four private thermal pools. The popular Romance Package includes flowers, chocolates and candles. Massage and beauty treatments at The Spa include Swiss and sports massage, detoxifying body wraps and aromatic facials.
- Amuri Ave, Hanmer Springs
- ph: 0800 442 663
- Open 10am-9pm daily except Christmas Day
- Admission: Adults $14, child 3-15 $7, under 3 free
Alpine Springs Spa & Winter Park
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 Winter Park Ice Rink for the more energetic.
- 6 Lakeside Dr, Lake Tekapo
- ph: 0800 2353 8283
- Open: 7 days 10am-9pm
- Admission: see website.
Onsen Hot Pools
Housed in private cedar-lined bathing rooms, each of these six 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: two adults $40 each for the first hour. Children $10.