New Zealand is a very geothermally active country, and that means there are many places where you can soak in naturally heated baths. While most travelers know of Taupo and Rotorua, there are also many other places in the country where you can enjoy hot spring bathing. From the very basic to luxurious spas, these top hot springs around the country provide relaxation and physical rejuvenation, as well as classic New Zealand landscapes.
Hot Water Beach, Coromandel
Hot Water Beach on the North Island's Coromandel Peninsula is just as it sounds: a beach where, at low tide, you can dig your own hot spa bath in the sand. The hot water is located mainly at the northern end of the beach. Visiting two hours before or after low tide is best, although the sea is also lovely if you do happen to miss the hot water conditions. Take your own shovel, or rent one at the beach. While this is a very popular spot in season, it's actually best to visit in the winter or cooler months, when the hot water is actually welcome.
The Lost Spring, Whitianga, Coromandel
Also on the Coromandel Peninsula, The Lost Spring presents a very different kind of hot spring experience to Hot Water Beach. As well as beautifully landscaped outdoor geothermal pools and a stalactite cave, there's an on-site cafe and day spa, and cocktails can be served poolside with the purchase of certain packages. Note that kids under 14 aren't allowed here.
Near the shores of enormous Lake Taupo, DeBretts is a full resort, with camping and other accommodation, a day spa, a waterpark for kids, and a variety of public and private hot pools suitable for adults and kids. Enjoy fun sightseeing activities in Taupo during the day, then retreat to the resort in the evening for some nighttime soaking.
Hell's Gate, Rotorua
If you don't have very long in Rotorua, Hell's Gate is an ideal stop as it combines the spectacular geothermal features the city's famous for with bathing facilities. Visitors can walk through the native bush surrounding the pools, eat a traditional Maori hangi meal cooked in the thermal waters, see handicrafts being produced, and then bathe in the mud and hot water pools.
Kerosene Creek, Rotorua
A hot spring and a cold water stream mix at Kerosene Creek, creating pleasantly warm waters that are great for bathing. There's an attractive little waterfall here, beneath which small piles of stones have been used to create pools ideal for bathing. The bathing area is surrounded by natural bush, and there's no entry fee to enjoy the pools. Kerosene Creek is about a half-hour drive south of Rotorua.
Ngawha Springs, Kaikohe, Northland
With its subtropical climate, Northland might not be the first thought for a hot spring excursion, but even the "winterless north" gets cool in winter. Ngawha Springs is the definition of cheap and cheerful: don't expect luxurious changing rooms or spa facilities, but you will have an authentically local, good-value experience. The pools are run by local Maori people.
Several sulfurous pools of varying temperatures (including one cool enough for babies and young children) are good for relaxation, and mineral-rich mud can be smeared over your face and body for a DIY spa.
Ngawha Springs are a short drive from the Northland town of Kaikohe, which doesn't offer much for travelers itself but is just a half-hour drive from the Bay of Islands.
Kawhia Hot Water Beach, Waikato
Similar to the Coromandel Peninsula's Hot Water Beach but much less busy, Kawhia's Hot Water Beach is on the western coast of Waikato. Take a walk over the dunes around low tide to dig and hole and bathe in natural hot waters. Kawhia is an attractive Maori town not far from famous surf spot Raglan, and hosts an annual Kawhia Kai Festival in February, celebrating Maori food.
Maruia Springs, Tasman/West Coast
Roughly halfway between Christchurch and Nelson in the upper South Island, Maruia Springs is beside the Maruia River and surrounded by forested mountains. Outdoor pools, private indoor pools, and saunas are offered, and are even more enjoyable on a characteristically damp and misty West Coast day. The nearest town, Murchison, is famous for its white-water rafting, for a total change of pace.
Hanmer Springs, Canterbury
The South Island's most famous spa town, tourists have been traveling to Hanmer Springs to take the waters since the 1880s. The large bathing complex here has freshwater and sulfurous pools, waterslides, private pools, sauna and steam rooms, and a luxurious spa. The sulfur pools are hottest, and are all-natural, with no added chlorine.
Hanmer Springs is just a couple of hours’ drive north and inland of Christchurch, and not far from whale-watching hot spot Kaikoura, so it is an easy place to add to a mid-upper South Island travel itinerary.
Tekapo Springs, Mackenzie District
A bit like Hanmer Springs, Tekapo Springs offers a range of active and relaxing hot spring pools for both kids and adults. On the shores of beautiful Lake Tekapo, near Mt. Cook, Tekapo Springs is a year-round destination as the alpine environment is pleasantly cool in summer and crisp with ice and snow in winter; there's even an on-site ice-skating rink. The Mackenzie District is part of the world's largest dark sky reserve, so the stargazing here is among the best in the world. Tekapo Springs offers the only hot spring stargazing experience in New Zealand!
Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown
Popular Queenstown is known for its nearby adventure sports, but after a hard day of skiing, white-water rafting, or hiking, the Onsen luxury spa is a great place to unwind. Private cedarwood tubs are situated on a cliff above the town and the Shotover Canyon, providing impressive views of the river and mountains. Bookings are necessary as each tub is heated and prepared especially for booked customers, and transportation is available from central Queenstown. Kids under 5 aren't permitted here.
Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, West Coast
The Glacier Hot Pools at Franz Josef Village are an ideal place to warm up after a long day of touring the frozen glacier of the same name. Public and private pools surrounded by forest are open late into the evening. Massages are also available, and visitors of all ages are welcome in the pools.