The Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa in Methven. Photo / Thomas Bywater
Thomas Bywater is a writer and digital producer for Herald Travel
From the warming waters of Te Puia and the Waimangu Valley to Taupo’s thermal pools, the North Island is a geothermal power house. However south of the Cook Strait are a collection spas and natural springs that would warm the cockles of any bathing enthusiast.
Travellers looking for a summer soak can find plenty of options in the South Island.
Hot pools normally take millions of years to form. Not the ones in Methven. The solar thermal hot pools of Ōpuke are New Zealand’s newest thermal baths. Harnessing the power of the sun and 500 solar panels, they are located at the foot of Mt Hutt. An ideal place for summer hikers and winter skiers to soak their lumbago, the alpine setting of the freshly opened pools is pretty unique.
Divided into the Discovery and Tranquility pools, half of Ōpuke is dedicated to family groups with the other reserved for spa guests.
Private solar hot tubs and a swim-up bar set it apart from others.
From $59 for two hours in the Tranquility pools or $39 for Discovery pools.
Halfway through the Lewis Pass the natural thermal pools of Maruia are set among southern beech forest. Maruia Hot Springs is part of the landscape. In the 1900s an Onsen-style bathhouse was constructed for travellers.
Today more recent additions include saunas and open-air stone hot pools in which you can soak up the forest views.
Waiho Hot Tubs are located in Franz Josef in the rainforest of Glacier Country. The Waiho “smokey river” tubs aren’t natural springs. Instead they are wood-fired bush baths, which is a great way to keep the sandflies at bay.
From $89 per couple
These hot pools are located in the middle of a Dark Sky Reserve, overlooking the blue waters of LakeTekapo. Tekapo Springs pools offer a two-hour, guided Stargazing experience, you’ll find nowhere else. Providing a lilo, heated water and the guidance of an expert astronomer, the stargazing is a chance to tilt your eyes skywards and drift through the blackness of space.
From $29pp and $99 for the night sky experience, Wednesday to Sunday
The Shotover River is not a place many tourists associate with relaxation. Arthur’s Point is better known for jetboat rides and bungy jumps, but high up on the bank the Onsen hot pools are an island of calm. The private cedar-wood tubs have retractable roofs to open up views of the river below. There’s nothing to disturb you apart from the odd jetboat whizzing by.
From $135.00 per couple
Hanmer Springs is a Canterbury summer staple. The well-travelled road from Christchurch to the Waiau River is a Christmas tradition for much of Christchurch. The spa town has been attracting visitors for over 150 years.
With a collection of 22 outdoor thermal pools it is also home to New Zealand’s largest waterslide, Conical Thrill. It’s easy to see why it is a family favourite.