Enjoy a magical bathing experience at Maruia Hot Springs on the West Coast.

The best South Island hot pools


From the serene to the thrilling, Te Waipounamu is blessed with an abundance of hot springs.

My challenge is to find the perfect South Island bath – a spot to soak my tired body at the end of a long day. Skiing, tramping, running or just sitting in front of a computer for too long all warrant a good soak. I need very little persuasion to join a hot springs excursion. But where to first?

He Puna Taimoana, Christchurch

From my home in Christchurch, I don’t have to travel far. He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools are tucked behind the dunes at New Brighton beach and boast stunning ocean views. The pools are filled with seawater and are heated using ground-sourced geothermal heat pump technology. I love that these pools have a local feel and a sense of community about them.

South Is Hot Pools He Puna Taimoana INP

Indulge in a sunrise soak at He Puna Taimoana, Christchurch.

Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa, Methven

Further south is Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa. Opened in late 2021, the complex has added another string to Methven’s bow and, as well as being very picturesque, they’re impressive: the pools are the world’s first thermal solar-powered. The entry fee is a little higher but pays for a premium adult-exclusive experience with a swim-up bar and caves to explore. At the 8pm session there is the added bonus of admiring the Milky Way.

South Is Hot Pools Opuke INP

Ōpuke Thermal Pools in Methven utilise a novel heating system.

Tekapō Springs

Tekapō Springs overlooking the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapō. With a real sense of seclusion, this bathing experience feels very personal. There’s a plunge pool, steam and sauna rooms and a day spa alongside three hot pools. And if it’s not just unwinding you’re in need of, there are options to ice skate and use the snow tube park in winter. I delight in the evening star gazing tour – a blend of science and storytelling – while lying on a floating hammock in the pools, enjoying the best of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

South Is Hot Pools Tekapo INP

Tekapō Springs is a great spot for stargazing in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve.

Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown

If there was only one word to describe Onsen Hot Pools 10 minutes from Queenstown, it would be ‘indulgent’. This is more than just a bathing destination, it’s a pampering boutique retreat and day spa experience. The setting is spectacular. I marvel at the views of the Shotover River and the stunning mountain range. I opt for the Original Onsen Experience to soak for a glorious hour in my own cedar hot pool while enjoying a glass of wine.

South Is Hot Pools Onsen INP

Soak up views over the Shotover River at Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown.

Maruia Hot Springs, West Coast

Making my way back up the motu, a detour into the wilderness leads me to Maruia Hot Springs. The site has been frequented for hundreds of years, initially by Māori pounamu traders. Nestled under the snow-capped Southern Alps in the Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, it’s a haven of forest, riverbed and natural hot springs. Here, I can rest a while – days, even – and be nourished with organic food and no WiFi. I challenge myself to go from the plunge pool to the sauna and back again (while avoiding sandflies) and sleep like a contented baby that night.

South Is Hot Pools Maruia INP

Enjoy a beautiful natural outdoor bathing experience at Maruia Hot Springs on the West Coast.

Hanmer Springs, Hurunui

For those seeking a more adventurous hot springs experience, Hanmer Springs is the place to go. The resort appeals to families with its water slides,  a lazy river and range of soaking pools, making it an attractive option for all ages. The mineral-rich waters allow you to reap the therapeutic benefits as they work wonders on your skin and muscles.

South Is Hot Pools Hanmer INP

As well as serene experiences, Hanmmer Springs also offers family fun.

So, which is the perfect South Island soaking option? It’s too hard to decide. I shall continue my research this winter…

AA Directions has a family pass for Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort and Spa to give away.
To be in to win, enter here! 


Story by Kathy Catton for the Winter 2024 issue of AA Directions Magazine. Kathy Catton is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to AA Directions magazine. 

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