Renowned for breathtaking mountains and bright blue bodies of water, everywhere you look is like a photograph in New Zealand. Nestled amongst this amazing scenery are some of the best mineral hot springs in the world.
Choosing the top thermal springs is a tall order in the country that built Hobbiton™. New Zealand is home to around 5.1 million people, who are known for their outdoorsmanship and love of nature. You’ll find locals taking part in a wide range of activities, including visiting thermal waters, both in resort and primitive form.
If you’re planning a trip to, make sure you join in the fun and set aside time for a soak in one of its thermal springs. Most are open year-round and many have accommodations on-site, so you can spend the night after a relaxing day of soaking in rejuvenating mineral water.
Here are some of the best thermal springs in New Zealand, in no particular order:
Onsen Hot Pools & Day Spa
There’s nothing like the Onsen Hot Pools & Day Spa just outside of Queenstown to give you peace of mind and body. This high-end day spa has 14 cedar-lined tubs with cinematic views over the Shotover River. Each fits up to four people or, in the case of the more private Serenity Soak tubs, up to two people.
Tubs are available both indoors and outdoors, some with retractable roofs, and are filled with 101℉ (38.5℃) water. Book a 60-minute window for exclusive use, and you’ll get a complimentary drink and snack as well as a free shuttle ride from central Queensland if needed. There are private showers in each pool room, and Japanese lanterns add mood lighting after sunset.
With this level of indulgence, it’s no wonder they won a 2021 World Luxury Spa Award for their take on Japanese onsen bathing. The spa treatments themselves are next-level, and each begins with a 45-minute soak in one of the tubs.
Hot Tubs Ōmarama
Each of the Hot Tubs Ōmarama seats up to eight people and is a wonderful way to escape to the countryside for a night of stress-free fun. The cedar tubs lined with stainless steel sit out under the open sky next to a lake, blending seamlessly into the natural brush and mountains lining the horizon.
Tubs can be rented for private bathing, day or night, and are paired with a private changing hut. An accessible tub is also available upon request at booking, and a public sauna invites even more relaxation. Onsite dining offers beautifully curated charcuterie boards with antipasto, cheese, and dessert, or a vegetarian savory option you can enjoy from the water.
While this isn’t a true hot spring, tubs are fed with natural mineral water from the nearby mountains and are manually heated by wood fires. Temperature can be controlled from inside the tubs.
Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa
Tucked into the Wairakei Geothermal Valley, the Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa celebrates bathing traditions that go back to the native Maori tribes. Natural silica terraces and geothermal pools similar to those in Pamukkale, Turkey create an other-worldly environment amidst forested land, a bit of open grassy space, and landscaped paths.
Four pools are open for bathing with varying temperatures, so guests can find their perfect match. Deeper relaxation can be found in the spa with massage and facials.
One unique draw is a self-guided natural terrace walk that highlights a stream and a geyser that flows into pools. When hunger calls, the on-site cafeteria offers both sweet and savory dishes as well as beverages that range from alcohol to milkshakes. Food is available to anyone, regardless of whether you’re there to use the pools.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa
Thousands of people have high reviews of Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa and their 22 outdoor thermal pools. Guests can relax in the rock pools, sulfur pools, or those with jets and bubbles for some serious hydrotherapy amongst the colorful native trees and flowers. Temperatures range from 90-108°F (32-42℃).
Those looking for something a little more active can bring out their inner kid with a trip down one of the many water slides, a lap around the lazy river, or in the lap pool. Garden picnic areas can be enjoyed by groups of friends or families on their day of fun. The Tea Kiosk Cafe & Grill is a tasty stop for anyone looking to purchase food from a lengthy menu with dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients.
Saunas, steam rooms, and spa treatments are available for even more stress-free fun, and various kiddie pools help young children blow off steam. Events are also common on the company’s schedule from mountain biking events to marathon finish-line activities.
Te Waiariki Ngawha Hot Springs
Te Waiariki Ngawha Hot Springs is simple but well-loved. Formerly run by volunteers, new owners have taken over and made renovations including the construction of changing facilities and rock landscaping.
The springs are deeply rooted in tradition. Maori have been coming to these healing waters for hundreds of years.
The main public spring consists of 16 pools, and there will soon be an option to make private bookings at one of the eight pools in the secondary complex. Each pool has a unique mineral composition, color, and temperature.
Waikite Valley Thermal Pools
Waikite Valley Thermal Pools is a hot pool complex with the look of a strategically-built, high-end resort with the lush greenery of a natural spring. The temperature of the six pools ranges from 95-104℉ (35-40℃) and is sourced from Te Manaroa, a natural boiling spring. Private spas are also available.
Guests can walk the Eco-trail to the source of the spring, the largest single source of boiling water in the country. Watch as water flows into the Otamakokore Stream leaving calcite formations behind, and learn about local fauna along the way.
If you’d like to stay at one of the 26 sites designated for it on the property, bring camping gear. Kitchen, laundry, and bathroom facilities are open for all guests, and there’s even a thermally-heated drying room for wet swimwear. The cafe is open to all guests with snacks, drinks, and ice cream on the menu and wonderful views of the valley.
Otumuheke Stream, Taupo
Walk 25 minutes from the center of Taupo to Otumuheke Stream for natural rock pools and waterfalls. You’ll have front-row seats to the Waikato River, the longest in New Zealand, and can learn a thing or two about the historical significance to the Maori people from the educational displays.
It’s free and open daily, and if one day just isn’t enough, accommodation is easily found in town. The stream has a few pools dammed off, and as always, you can go upstream or warmer water closer to the source. There are boulders to seat yourself on the side if you want to enjoy a footbath from the side.
Lots of outdoor adventure and adrenaline sports await the adventurous in this area. Nearby the Huka Trail leads to Huka Falls, a two-hour out-and-back path that highlights some of the best nature around. A soak is a perfect way to end the hike, and the changing facilities, a coffee kiosk, and a nearby cafe make it incredibly convenient.
Kerosene Creek and Mud Pool
Those who prefer more natural, primitive springs will fall in love with Kerosene Creek and Mud Pool in Rotorua. Enveloped in thick forest, the toasty water and cascading waterfalls make this an oasis amongst the trees. Find the parking and toilet area, and it’s just a short walk to the pools.
Kerosene Creek is a popular spot and can get busy, so get there early or late on a weekday for the best spots. If you sit with your back in the path of the falls, you can enjoy a bit of hydrotherapy. As always–and especially in high-traffic areas–be sure to clean up after yourself.
Kawhia Hot Water Beach, Waitomo
If you’re truly looking for an adventure, grab a shovel and head to Kawhia Hot Water Beach. As you might expect, this is a large, sandy beach, but there’s a surprise under the sand. Dig in the right spot within two hours on either side of low tide, and you can create your own hot spring tub.
Hit up the bathrooms by the parking area before the somewhat challenging–though short–trek down to the water over a steep sand dune. Kawhia Beachside Scape and Kawhia Camping Ground are some of the closest accommodations that will lend you a shovel if you’re staying overnight. Low tide usually lines up with a good sunset.
The black sand heats up quickly, so don’t forget to bring shoes to prevent burns. You’ll also need them to wander the forest walking trails, some of which connect to Aotea Harbor, an hour-and-a-half trip in total.
The Lost Spring
A short walk from Coromandel Beach is The Lost Spring, in Whitianga. Guests can relax in the natural outdoor pools or swim through Amethyst Cave with purple crystals and lavender stalactites dripping from the ceiling.
Rave reviews of the cafe and restaurant and aren’t just for the breathtaking ambiance. The glass wall opens to a tropical paradise. Poolside dining is easy when it’s this close to the water. Diners on dry land have a view of the cave entrance and the waterfall that precedes it.
Day spa guests are treated to rooms in the treetops of the lush forest that surrounds the property. And the menu of services is long enough to keep you occupied for days. If you watch carefully, you’ll find wildlife carrying on their daily lives in the canopy.
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel
Similar to Kawhia Hot Water Beach, the golden sands of Hot Water Beach in Coromandel are host to balmy water if you’re prepared to dig. The dramatic, craggy-rock coastline is ideal for relaxing with a good sunset and is a popular holiday destination. Swimming in the sea here is lovely but can be dangerous outside of the established flags due to strong currents, rips, and holes.
Thermal water can get up to 147℉ (64℃), so be sure to test it before getting in. If you park in the pay lot closest to the beach, you must ford a shallow stream to the part of the beach that hosts the thermal water, so plan accordingly. Upgraded bathrooms and showers, a surf shop, and a cafe are close by.
For outdoor activity gear rentals, restaurants, and accommodation options, head into the town of Coromandel or walk along the beach. There are loads of things to do in the area, including visits to wineries, breweries, and distilleries.
Welcome Flat Hut Hot Pools
For passionate hikers, the Copeland Trail is a must-do, starting with the Welcome Flat Hut Hot Pools. You’ll need two days to do the full trek with the return for a total of 22.4 mi (36 km). While you’ll need a decent level of fitness, many people will be more than able to tackle the intermediate grade; minimal backcountry knowledge is necessary.
Make your way through river terraces, grassy clearings, and fuchsia and ribbonwood forests. End day one of the hike in the Welcome Flat clearing; it’s accessible year-round. Guests can stay in the hut equipped with modern facilities and spend the evening in the thermal pools, a short walk away and with views of the Sierra Range.
The journey to the Welcome Flat Hut Hot Pools is part of the adventure and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the New Zealand countryside. Dogs are not welcome on the trail so as not to disturb the wildlife. Check weather and trail conditions in advance.
No trip to these magical islands in the South Pacific is complete without a visit to a thermal spring. Grab the family, a partner, or a friend and hit the road, because pictures aren’t nearly as fun as actually being in New Zealand.