Soak In Style…

Grant Dyson goes in search of the Western Bay of Plenty's most pleasing hot pools.

One way to beat the winter chills is to go and get pleasingly pink and toasted, in one of the many hot pools on our doorstep. Most people know the ‘big name’ public pools like the Mount Saltwater Hot Pools, but there are many semi-secret and secluded pools hidden away in idyllic country settings.  

Some take a little effort and navigation to reach, but you’ll often get them almost to yourself. With a choice of spring, salt or mineral water, along with a huge variety of settings – you can find a pool to match your mood: mountain seclusion, beachside bustle, or sub-tropical planted, pretend-you-are-in- Rarotonga. Here is our personal pick of the best.    

Fernland Spa Mineral Hot Springs
Just five minutes from downtown Tauranga, these superb mineral hot pools, nestled in a secluded valley off Cambridge Road, have an ‘out-in-the-bush’ feel with a backdrop of mature ferns. There’s one big public pool, and eight private pools—filled with clear (non-chlorinated) mineral water at temperatures around 37.5—40ËšC. It’s the genuine article; scientists have classified it as a true mineral spring. The water is drawn from a deep underground aquifer and contains all sorts of trace elements, from zinc to selenium. The once shabby pools are in tip top condition, after an ongoing facelift in recent years. Contact:07 578-3081.

Oropi Spa Pools & Country Café

Located in a peaceful, rural valley around 20 minutes drive from downtown Tauranga, these pools off Oropi Road are a grand escape from the city or beach. The public pool was designed with a gently sloping ramp to provide easy access for all ages, and is filled from an underground stream. The cold water is heated with a thermal bore to about 38ËšC (it’s turned down in summer). There are also four private ‘jet pools’ heated to about 40 degrees which can each comfortably seat six people. The backdrop to the public pool is sub-tropical, and the pleasant country cafe has doors that open out onto a grassy grove circled by banana palms, perfect for a barbecue.  If you can’t be bothered cooking, the cafe serves up home baking. Contact: 07 543-3913  

Mount Maunganui Hot Salt Water Pools

The Mount Hot Pools, as most people know them, remain one of the big seaside tourist drawcards, and rightly so. There’s nothing quite like luxuriating in hot saltwater (better than fresh) under the spectacular slopes of the Mount peak, Mauao, that rises majestically in the background. The pools draw a huge cross-section of people from elderly locals, teens and families to tourists from all over the globe. The pools cater for different tastes: an 18 metre ‘active pool’ is heated to a pleasant 32 degrees, and can be used for a fitness swim if it is quiet.  In the large soaking pool, with water jets to get under, the water is warmed to a ‘bone soothing’ 39 degrees, and there are 2 delightfully fizzy spa pools which are a bit cooler. For the kiddies, there’s a toddler’s pool with a gentle waterslide. There are also private heated pools and massage and sun bed facilities. One visitor’s quirky advice is ‘remember not to shave your legs before you go! Waited 10 minutes before the salt stopped stinging hahaha!’ Contact:  07 575 0868.

Welcome Bay Hot Pools & Campground
These newly renovated pools have been rated among ‘New Zealand’s best kept secrets’ in the hot pool stakes. The Herald on Sunday’s writer rated them one of her North Island favourites, with ‘crystal clear un-chlorinated water that’s replaced daily.’  The clean, clear water is something many visitors comment on, with some rating it the best pools they’ve been to. Tucked away off Welcome Bay Road, there is a big kidney shaped main pool, and then a hotter circular plunge pool. Beside the pool are grassy areas and wooden tables – to make for a top notch BBQ spot.  The setting is classic rural Tauranga; the facility nestles in a valley off Welcome Bay Road, with a typical orchard shelter belt on one side of the pools, and mature avocado trees on the other. The owners more than achieve their aim of providing a ‘clean, family-friendly facility.’ Contact: 07 544 2327       

Sapphire Springs Holiday Park

This park set in bush in the foothills of the Kaimai Ranges near Katikati, has real getaway appeal. Two of the three pools have been completely renovated and they are filled with a mix of spring and mineral water. They are a pleasant 32 degrees while the large pool is 28. The ‘haven in the bush’ has all the ingredients for a good family day out with access to bush walks, and a large barbecue area. Access is off State Highway 2 up Hot Springs Road, a winding country road that climbs into the Kaimais. Contact: 07 549-0768.  

Athenree Hot Springs and Holiday Park
‘Beautiful water, clean camp’, as described by some American visitors. If you are staying at Waihi Beach, or nearby, the award-winning park is handy. It has natural hot pools, emptied and cleaned daily. Contact: 07 863-5600.

Further info:

Full details of opening hours and prices can be found on our website Best Of Tauranga Go to Things to Do and then click on Hot Pools.

Visit the NZ hot pools website, a comprehensive online guide to thermal hotpools of New Zealand. Lots of ‘bather comments.’