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The Māori tribe Ngatirangi were the first to settle in this valley and discover its secret: natural mineral hot springs, bubbling from the ground. They named it accordingly – in Māori, ‘wai’ means water and ‘wera’ means hot. The Ngatirangi people held the springs in high esteem for their curative and restorative properties, bathing in them and drinking the waters. They referred to the springs themselves as ‘Te Rata’, meaning ‘the doctor’. Word spread around the countryside of the springs’ healing powers and Māori came from far away to experience them.
In 1845, a Scottish settler called Robert Graham heard about the popularity of the thermal springs and bought a large area of land at Waiwera. He established a good relationship with the local iwi (tribe) and became fluent in Māori.
With the support of the locals, Graham went on to build a hotel and resort in the area. The Waiwera thermal resort grew in popularity and people began to travel from across the world to experience the naturally heated mineral waters, bubbling out of the ground at a constant temperature of 52 degrees Celsius. Testimonials from travellers in these early years credit the springs with curing everything from travel-weariness and asthma to the after-effects of typhoid fever!
In 1863 Waiwera was officially recognised as the first spa in the Southern Hemisphere. By 1875 the enterprising folks were beginning to bottle Waiwera water, promoting it as the ‘Elixir of Life’. The water comes from 1500 metres below the earth’s surface, from one of the South Pacific's main geothermal aquifers. This Waiwera water has been carbon dated at between 10,000 and 15,000 years old, making it one of the world’s oldest water sources.
Over the years the Waiwera hot pools changed to reflect the changing desires of a new generation of holidaymakers, with hydroslides and large child-friendly pools being added to the tranquil spa pool complex. Today it’s a firm favourite with New Zealand families and is currently undergoing a large renovation so future visitors can enjoy its healing waters.
Getting to Waiwera
Waiwera is located on the Hibiscus Coast Highway – the scenic free route that runs from Silverdale through Orewa and joins State Highway 1 just before Puhoi. InterCity buses have daily services to Waiwera from Auckland and Northland.
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