I've compiled a checklist of hot springs to tempt you into the outdoors this winter.
There's something special about soaking in hot water in the wilderness. Perhaps it's the beauty of the curls of steam rising as the sun sets over a distant mountain range. Perhaps it's a refreshing chance to delight in the simplest pleasures in life. Perhaps it's the sandflies hovering menacingly around that exposed knee or shoulder.
Whatever it is, it's an awful long way to go for a bath, so we've mapped out some of your options to help you choose wisely. Just one note of warning: Naegleria fowleri is a tiny protozoan that inhabits hot pools all over the world. If you allow water into your nose, this organism can make its way to your brain and set you up with a case of amoebic meningitis. This is a very serious disease, but you are perfectly safe if you keep your head above the water. If you do take water into your nose, immediately blow your nose vigorously to expell it.
If you mark them on a map, the hot springs form chains along major faultlines. Many of the South Island springs lie along the Alpine Fault, while a series from Cedar Flat through to Hanmer Springs marks the course of the Hope Fault. Commonly, the pools are dug-out spaces amongst the rocks at the edge of riverbeds. In heavy rain these may be washed away or filled with silt and need to be re-dug.
|Welcome Flat||H36||7-8hr||Easy-Moderate||Copland River, Westland|
|The premier wilderness thermal experience! It's a long walk in to Welcome Flat, but the pools are very large, reliable and beautifully situated well away from the river with alpine views.|
|Otehake Hot Springs||K33||3-3½hr||Easy-Moderate||Otehake River, Arthur's Pass|
|Very good pools dug out of a dry riverbed, with an excellent campsite nearby. A classic Arthur's Pass weekender.|
|Maruia Springs Thermal Reserve||M31||-||-||Maruia Springs, Lewis Pass|
|Commercial springs that retain a wild atmosphere. Natural-style outdoor pools, accommodation and other facilities.|
|Hurunui Hot Springs||L32||5-6hr||Easy||Hurunui River|
|Good deep pool dug into hillside above bend in the Hurunui River. Often the water is too hot, and may need cold water added from the river. Accessed by walking from Lake Taylor on the Lake Sumner Road west of Harwarden, or from Harper Pass-Kiwi Saddle Track.|
|Cedar Flat||J33||3½hr||Easy-Moderate||Toaroha River, inland from Hokitika|
|Cedar Flat is a pleasant weekend spot on the Toaroha River near Hokitika. The hot spring is a little underwhelming if it has been built up to be something it's not, so we won't do that. When I visited, the water was hot, but the pool in the Wren Creekbed had washed away. The pool I dug was small and shallow!|
|Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve||N32||-||-||Hanmer Springs|
|Commercial springs 1½hr drive from Christchurch. Family oriented. Range of services and activities available in township.|
|Sylvia Flat||M32||-||-||Lewis River, Lewis Pass|
|Several pools dug into the riverbed 3km north of Boyle Village on SH7. A gap in the trees marked only as a rest area leads down to a car park and camping area on the banks of the Lewis River. Follow a track along the bank upriver a minute or so to the pools.|
|Great Barrier||T09||20 min||Easy||Kaitoke Creek, Great Barrier Island|
|Kaimai-Mamaku||T14||-||-||Hot Springs Road, near Katikati|
|Brunswick Hot Spring||J34||1-2 days||Moderate-Difficult||South of Cedar Flat|
|Isolated spring on the Mungo River. Mentioned in Brabyn and Bryant's Tramping in the Southern Alps: Arthur's Pass to Mount Cook.|
|Smyth Hut||J34||7-9hr||Moderate||Wanganui River, inland from Harihari|
|Mentioned in Brabyn and Bryant's Tramping in the Southern Alps: Arthur's Pass to Mount Cook.|
|Julia Hut||K33||1-2 days||Moderate||Taipo River, Arthur's Pass|
|Small spring in riverbed some distance from hut|
Apollo Cedar flat is awesome as long as someone else has done the digging of the pool for you . . . . We had to add 6x buckets of cold water to be able to get in!
12 December 2006
gonebush In heavy rain the Sylvia Flats hot pools become flooded, as they are located right beside the river. At least Hamner Springs and Muruia springs hot pools are close by if this occurs.
28 July 2006
kizza Ive been to a non commercial spring about 30 mins outside of rotorua with an ex its hot/cold, short walk from the road - beautiful bathing but I cant remember how to get there! Does anyone know?
29 May 2006
wolfman The sylvia flats pools are excellent .I visited on a beautiful sunny day ,& found that the pools had just recently been re-dug.
As previously mentioned, the sandfies at the pools are shocking !!!!.
Best option is to get into your gear at the carpark, don beanie,& move quickly .Enjoy
16 July 2005
Apollo The Welcome Flat hot pools are great. Hot and deep enough for a good soak. The views from the pools can't be beaten.
28 March 2005
Apollo Beware the sandflies at Sylvia Flats. I've been in with no insect repellent and regretted it for over a week. The pools are quite good though and are good for a quick soak when travelling through the Lewis.
21 March 2005
Matthew An inventory of springs: <a href="http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~bob/Springs%20by%20name.html">New Zealand Springs</a>
4 August 2002
Matthew For more information, try Sally Jackson's new book <i>Hot Springs of New Zealand</i> — <a href="index.cfm/action/story/StoryID/71/TrackID/0/">read our review</a>.
28 October 2001
Dirk Thanks for going to the effort of compling this information. The link to Naegleria fowleri and amoebic meningitis is great.
All the information helps to keep peope safe while enjoying themselves.
6 September 2001