Chilling at Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula must rate as one of the most iconic spots the country has to offer. If you’ve never been there, though, take these pointers with you to maximise the success of your visit.

When to go

In summer, the crowds that flock to the beach can make the experience memorable in ways you least expected. The off-season, however, is the very best time to visit Hot Water Beach, not just because the winter months are quieter, but because the cooler temperatures mean you’ll appreciate the hot sand even more. The hot water is within reach 2 hours before and 2 hours after high tide. Aim to arrive at the start of this window of opportunity, and you’ll have the pick of the best spots on the beach.

Arrive early to nab the best spots. Credit S. Jones 1
Arrive early to nab the best spots. Credit S. Jones

Where to park

Not all the parks at Hot Water Beach are created equal! At the southern end of the beach you’ll find a pay and display park (currently it’s around $8 for 2 hours but the ticket dispensers are notoriously off form so they may not necessarily come up with the goods!). Further back from the beach are two free car parks and, if you don’t mind a walk of 10-15 minutes along the bay, there’s another free park at the northern most end of the beach which is almost certain to offer a vacant space.

What to take

‘Taking the waters’ at Hot Water Beach is a do-it-yourself activity. Take an umbrella if it’s raining, and sunscreen even if it’s cloudy. And don’t forget a plastic carry-all to pop your belongings in so they don’t get wet from the damp sand while you’re bathing. A water bottle is essential (and it pays to drink plenty from it to compensate for the spa-pool like temperatures you’ll encounter).

Hot Water beach heaven Credit S. Jones
Hot Water beach heaven Credit S. Jones

Where to change

There are excellent changing facilities and loos close to the shop car park. Just bear in mind that there is often a queue to use them so it can be a good idea to pop on your swimmers under your clothes before you leave home.

To dig or not to dig?

This is the big question. If, like most beach goers, you decide to dig, you’ll need to bring your own spade, or hire one ($10) from the friendly Trust Waikato Hot Water Beach lifeguards who hang out beside the picnic area. Your hire fee helps support their commendable service. On the other hand, if you don’t feel like digging, just lie down on a warm spot of sand, wriggle into it, and treat the beach as a rather cosy, but wet, electric blanket. If you’re close enough to the outgoing tide, you’ll get the occasional wash of cooling water over your tootsies as an added treat.

Taimania Hinds of the Trust Waikato Hot Water Beach life guard service is ready to hire you a spade.
Taimania Hinds of the Trust Waikato Hot Water Beach life guard service is ready to hire you a spade.

Where to position yourself

There’s a certain art to finding the best spot on the beach. The general region to head to is the rocks just a minute or two’s stroll north of the shop car park. That’s where the geothermally heated water rises to the surface from two subterranean springs. In some places you’ll find the water too hot to handle, and in other places, the sand will be stony cold. It’s a bit like Goldilocks and the porridge – keep experimenting until you find the temperature that suits you (which is why arriving early is a good idea). When you do find the perfect spot, start shovelling. On the other hand, if you arrive late, you’ll be very likely to find a vacated pool that will save you the effort!

A word of warning

Take care of any littlies you have in your party. The water in places can be burning hot. And be mindful that Hot Water Beach has strong currents and rips. This is not a safe swimming beach.

Check out the art at Moko Artspace 1
Check out the art at Moko Artspace

And for afters …

The shop beside the paying car park doubles as a little indoor-outdoor cafe with good coffee, mini fluffies for kids, and a small but tasty range of eats. When you’re refreshed, head across the road to Moko Artspace. This is no average beachside souvenir shop but a quality gallery and sculpture space. It also sells a range of very attractive hand-crafted jewellery.

What a day out!