Winter hot spots

Stewing in a thermal pool till your toes wrinkle up is a winter rite of passage for Kiwi kids.

Rediscovering the joy of spending a day in extremely hot water while inhaling sulphuric fumes so stinky they just must be good for you, is a rejuvenating treat for both body and soul. And whether you’re in the north or the south, there’s a world-class geothermal retreat near you.  


Rotorua – okay Rotovegas – sits on one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity. Skyrocketing geysers, hot springs and boiling mud pools tell the story above the surface of the Pacific Rim of Fire below.

The thermal nature of the area is all around, in the air, in public parks, and in the proliferation of hotels, motels, pools and spa resorts with their very own source of thermal water. There are the 34 accommodation providers in Rotorua with thermal pools for their guests, from hotels and motels to the local campground.

Hot pools

The iconic Polynesian Spas, voted by Conde Naste as one of the Top 10 spas in the world,  offers a choice of pools for families or those wanting to escape families, and you can even get coated top to toe in the ultra-goodness of Rotorua mud.

Check out the Priest Spa pools, named after a catholic priest who in the late 1800’s gained great relief from arthritis when bathing in the hot spring waters.

Another eternal favourite is the Wai–o–Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Thousands of years in the making, Wai-O-Tapu is considered New Zealand’s most colourful and diverse geothermal sightseeing attraction.

Every morning the Lady Knox geyser shoots steam up to 20m and scattered around the park are geothermal lakes, bubbling pools and waterfalls. A series of walking tracks offering volcanic vistas can take anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes. 

So what’s in a name? We’re not 100% sure when Rotorua got its nickname, but the city’s reputation as a party town and destination for hen’s nights, stag dos, adrenalin pursuits and general high-jinkx contrast in its own unique way with the region’s richly dynamic natural backdrop.

Got your own take on how Rotovegas got its name? Do share with us on facebook!


Poles apart but with one thing in common, bracingly hot water, Hanmer offers South Island visitors the chance to kick back alpine style. A maze of forest walks snake up the hillside above the town – the perfect way to tire your muscles and get them craving a big hot soak.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa

The Hanmer Springs Village is best known for the award-winning Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa. Tranquil and indulgent, Hanmer has been a relaxation destination for 125 years.

Today you’re spoilt for choice with a complex of 12 open air mineral pools, three sulphur pools, a fresh water lap pool with a ‘lazy river’, six private indoor thermal pools, sauna and steam rooms, and a family pool, waterslides and the 15m high Superbowl.

Getting there

While Hanmer is an easy day trip from Christchurch – it’s just 90 minutes from the airport – there’s plenty to do to fill a weekend. Walks through the heritage forest area take between 30 mins and 90 minutes, and there is also mountain biking, horse trekking, offroad safaris on offer. Those who can’t get by without adrenalin can get a fix with bungee, jetboating, river rafting and quad biking.

There are plenty of places to stay, from top-end apartments to cosy B&Bs and relaxed holiday parks.

Fortunately, Rotorua and Hanmer are just two of New Zealand’s stunning hot spots. Ask a local about some lesser known gems, and if you’ve got a pic of your favourite hot pool secret spot, tell us about it on facebook!