The South Island is here to rejuvenate you. Think hiking to steaming hot pools surrounded by bush, soaking in lantern-lit springs under a canopy of stars, or heading to boutique, resort-style hot pools.
Here’s our guide to the best hot springs on the South Island.
Welcome Flat Hot Pools
Natural hot pools wait for you 18 kilometres between mountain peaks and through the lush green forest of Copland Valley on the South Island’s West Coast. It’ll take a good seven hours to hike there, and the track is definitely for the more experienced hiker – but the reward at the other end is well worth it. You’ll be greeted after your hike by natural pools surrounded by native bush and the snow-capped Sierra Ranges behind.
The walk starts 26 kilometres south of Fox Glacier and can be a test of fortitude if it’s raining – the recommendation is to check the weather and do the hike on a dry day. Some creek crossings are required, so don’t attempt it if there’s been particularly heavy rain. The good news is you don’t have to walk straight back. Book a stay at Welcome Flat Hut, just a short walk from the pools.
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa
Enjoy a luxurious day out in hot water at the glitziest hot pools in the country. The resort-style complex is in the town of Hanmer Springs, 90 minutes’ drive north of Christchurch.
Zip down hydroslides (including the Conical Thrill, the South Island’s only aquatic thrill ride), bask in natural rock pools or rejuvenate sore muscles in an aqua therapy pool. Private pools are also available for couples or groups of up to six. For those who like it hot, the sulfur pools are heated to around 40 degrees Celsius, but most are in the high 30s.
The town is a nature lover’s paradise, so stay for a few days and explore the nearby hills on mountain bike or horseback and book a rafting trip (or jetboat ride) on the Waiau River.
He Puna Taimoana hot pools, Christchurch
New Brighton Beach – 20 minutes’ drive from the centre of Christchurch – has always been a popular excursion, packed with great cafes, seaside markets, a picturesque pier and a seemingly endless beach. Now there’s another reason to visit with the He Puna Taimoana saltwater hot pools just metres from the sea.
The NZ$11 million complex opened in 2020 and features five outdoor hot pools, with temperatures ranging from 26 to 39 degrees Celsius, a plunge pool, sauna and steam room and a cafe (not in the water). The pools were named as one of the country’s most sustainable tourism operators earlier this year, and bathers enjoy an east-facing view over the ocean. Book in for a Sunrise Soak and enjoy a mocktail, guided meditation session and luxurious robe – all complimentary. If early mornings aren’t for you, there are also adults-only night sessions (Fridays, from 8 to 9.45pm) and a monthly “Soak under the moon” session.
Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown
This boutique retreat puts a kiwi twist on a Japanese tradition, with pools filled with pure water from the surrounding mountains. Gaze over the bright turquoise waters of Shotover Canyon from your private cedar hot tub with aromatherapy burner and, when you’re done soaking, step inside for a luxury spa treatment.
The tubs are exclusive access and fit up to four people. Be pampered with a hot stone massage or choose from a range of facial treatments. Japanese lanterns light up the hot pools by night, as stars shine overhead. All tubs have a retractable roof, so the weather won’t interfere with your visit.
Decamp to the lounge afterwards for a complimentary drink and snack.
Maruia Hot Springs
Maruia Hot Springs is the perfect balance between pristine nature and luxe pampering. Set on the Lewis Pass national reserve, the pools are surrounded by snow-capped Southern Alps, and feature naturally heated pools, with the thermal water bubbling up from underground. Local river rocks create a natural and earthy feel to the outdoor pools. There’s a rock sauna and steam room, plus a day spa where you can get relaxation massages and head-to-toe body treatments. You can stay overnight in the hotel, in a glamping pod or just camp on the grounds. Complimentary yoga sessions, sauna infusions and wellness classes are provided to all guests.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism New Zealand.