The North Island of New Zealand is chock-full of natural hot springs, thanks to a volcanic landscape that’s created an abundance of geothermal activity. The regions of Taupo and Rotorua are particularly rich in geothermal wonders, including some incredible hot pools that are out in the wild, easy to access and free of charge.
A soak in hot water helps ease stress and promote blood circulation, and the silica and sulfur specifically found in natural hot springs are said to be beneficial for chronic pain, inflammation, and many skin conditions. What better reason to go for a warm dip when you’re travelling around New Zealand?
Whether you’re looking to detox and heal your body or just wind down for a while, visiting a hot spring is sure to provide you with some respite and relaxation, and we think that the hot springs in Rotorua and Taupo are simply fantastic.
Read our guide below to discover the best hot springs in Taupo and Rotorua!
1. Otumuheke Stream/Spa Park (free)
This natural hot spring is one of Taupo’s gems! It’s situated in a space where two rivers converge: the mighty, freshwater Waikato and the steaming hot, mineral-rich Otumuheke Stream.
You can soak in the hot stream with little waterfalls pouring over the rocks, whilst looking out at the rushing Waikato river passing by. When you get too hot in the springs, a dip in the cold river will awaken and refresh you.
Spa Park has recently undergone an upgrade and there are bathrooms, a changing room, and a little coffee stand. This is a popular place, so we recommend a sunrise visit to avoid the crowds.
2. Wairakei Thermal Pools ($15-$25 per person; children under 14 not allowed)
This just might be our favorite hot spring of all. While Wairakei requires an entrance fee, it’s so worth the money for the oasis that awaits you!
The water in these pools is mineral-rich and some of the bluest we’ve ever seen. There are several pools, all of varying temperatures, so you can get super hot in one and cool off in another. Repeat until you’re a prune.
We like to visit Wairakei in the evening—if you arrive just before sunrise, you can see the amazing blue color in the light and then relax under the stars.
Top tip: Before you go, look online for deals to the Wairakei Thermal Pools. You can book $25 tickets directly on Wairakei’s own website, but we often find specials on Grabone and Bookme for around $15 per person.
Between Taupo and Rotorua
3. Butcher’s Pool (free)
A rectangular, man-made pool holds natural hot spring water at this special spot. This is a no-frills but tidy hot pool. It has a community feel to it and there are bathrooms there.
Butcher’s Pool is right off the main road between Rotorua and Taupo, so it’s well worth a visit if you’re driving this route.
4. Kerosene Creek (free)
Likely the most well-known hot spring in the area, Kerosene Creek is a popular spot! This is for a good reason, as this hot spring is in a beautiful setting.
From the parking lot, you’ll walk through a fern-laden forest along the steaming hot river for a few minutes until you reach the main pool, which is just below a waterfall. There’s also a smaller pool up above that’s a great spot for a soak.
Kerosene Creek is a wonderful place for a free dip out in nature, but if visiting here please ensure to not leave any valuables in your car! The parking lot here is known for break-ins, unfortunately.
5. Hot ‘n Cold Pool (free)
Just down the road from Kerosene Creek is this wonderful hot pool, which is in an equally gorgeous setting but is slightly less trafficked.
The great thing about this spot is that it’s at the convergence of two rivers—a hot one and a cold one (if the name didn’t already give that away!). When you get too hot, you can float over to the cold river to cool off: the perfect combination for pure bliss.
6. Waikite Valley ($20 per adult; $11 per child)
Waikite Valley is a wonderfully-constructed commercial hot pool complex, with entirely natural hot spring waters. In fact, you can take a 5-minute walk from the hot pools up to the main source of the thermal waters, which we highly recommend! It’s an easy walk through a lush, Jurassic Park-esque setting and it’s so neat to see where the water springs up.
Back to the hot pools, though! The pools at Waikite cater to all ages. There are larger, warm swimming pools for kids to splash around in and smaller hot pools overlooking the valley that are great for adults to relax in.
Top tip: Waikite Valley has a campground, and if you have a tent or campervan we highly recommend staying here overnight! The camping fee is $25 per adult for an unpowered site or $29 per adult for a powered one, and this includes hot pool admission.
The best part about camping here is that you can go in the hot pools in the evening after the crowds have left—or even better, wake up at dawn and go in the pools first thing in the morning. The best!
Some tips and warnings for visiting these natural hot springs
- You can contract amoebic meningitis from natural hot springs, not just in New Zealand but in hot springs worldwide. While incredibly rare in New Zealand, this is a serious, life-threatening disease. The solution for this problem is simple, however: don’t stick your head under the water in a hot spring and you’ll be just fine. More information can be found here.
- Don’t leave anything valuable in your car when visiting any of the free hot springs; Kerosene Creek in particular has an unfortunate amount of car break-ins. Don’t leave anything around to tempt the thieves.
- The tannins in natural hot springs can sometimes stain swimsuits, so wear a black swimsuit in them or one you don’t care about too much.
- Wearing water sandals or water shoes in the pools will protect your feet from any sharp rocks or potential broken glass, and it also makes some of the muddy pool bottoms feel less mucky on your toes.
- Remember to leave no trace at these amazing natural places, and pack out anything you bring in. Even better, you could bring a rubbish bag with you to collect trash leftover from other less respectful visitors (as unfortunately, they do exist)—a nice way to say thanks to nature for allowing us to share these incredible hot pools!
And there you have it—an overview of the best hot springs in Taupo and Rotorua. Whether you visit one of these spots or all of them, we hope you have a great time enjoying these natural wonders.
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION
For some amazing hikes not too far from these hot springs in Rotorua and Taupo, read our guide to hiking in the Whirinaki Forest.
Want more hot springs on the North Island? Read our guide to the Coromandel’s Hot Water Beach.
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