10 epic South Island hot pools: Warm up this winter

Discover the most memorable and gorgeous South Island hot pools and hot springs with this unmissable list. Don’t travel down South without locking in your favourites!

The South Island is full of incredible scenery and opportunities for adventure.

What though can you do when looking to unwind? The answer to that is easy!

The South Island is fortunate to have a number of incredible hot springs and pools available to travellers. A soak in one of these pools is just the ticket for tired, tight muscles. And of course, the scenery is second to none.

Some businesses are experiencing staffing challenges post-COVID. If you want to guarantee a space at a restaurant or attraction, we suggest pre-booking.

Where to Find the Best South Island Hot Pools

In this post, we share with you the most memorable hot springs and hot pools in the South Island of New Zealand.

Whether you choose to visit all of them or just pick your favourite few, we suggest you have a good read over the following information.

Each of the pools shared is unique in its own way.

Why does New Zealand have Natural Hot Springs?

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, there is a great deal of tectonic activity throughout the country. Some places, and even the big cities are geothermally very active – like Rotorua, where the crust of the earth is significantly thinner than in other parts of the world.

Other parts of the country experience the odd earthquake (Wellington, for example) or have a number of volcanoes (Auckland).

Right across the country though, it is possible to find natural hot springs – including plenty of spots in the South Island.

In areas where the crust is thin, the mantle sits much closer to the earth. Here, water under the surface of the crust is warmed before making its way to the surface in the form of hot water. When this is combined with cool water, the result is a natural hot spring.

Other natural hot springs are formed when volcanic underground water reservoirs heat the water within them. Again, this water makes its way to the surface, ready for us to enjoy.

Regardless of the manner in which the water is heated, these natural hot-water sources are known to contain a wide range of naturally occurring minerals. This water is known for its health benefits.

What is the Difference Between a Hot Spring and a Hot Pool?

Natural hot springs are warmed using geothermal energy from inside the Earth. This water is hot, without any need for human intervention.

By comparison, the water in hot pools is heated manually. Without human intervention, this water would be cold.

The hot pools mentioned in this article offer all of the benefits that come with hot water (including relaxation and the release of muscle tension), however, the water in these pools does not contain the same minerals that are found in naturally occurring hot springs.

Regardless, both make for a fantastic day out!

How is Water Kept Safe for Swimmers?

To ensure the water in commercial hot pools and hot springs is kept safe for swimmers, a number of different strategies are used.

Some pools choose to add chlorine or salt to prevent the spread of bugs, whilst others have filtration and sanitisation systems in place.

Our Favourite Hot Pools in the South Island of New Zealand

To make finding the best hot pools easy, we’ve placed them in order from north to south.

The South Island pools mentioned in this article are a combination of both naturally fed hot springs and also hot pools.

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1. Maruia Hot Springs

Tucked in amongst the snow-capped Southern Alps on the picturesque Lewis Pass National Reserve, the Maruia Hot Springs are as close to perfection as hot pools come.

Instantly feel connected to the mountainous landscape and nature surrounding you whilst you relax in natural geothermal mineral waters. There’s also an opportunity to nourish your soul with organic food and relax your body and mind in their daily wellness classes.

This award-winning natural hot spring complex is modelled after a traditional Japanese onsen. It features a wide range of bathing options including private pools (for up to 5 people), indoor and outdoor pools (which fit beautifully into the natural environment), thermal showers, saunas and steam room. They also have a cold plunge pool and a fabulous thermal foot bath.

To really make the most of the Maruia Hot Springs we recommend you treat yourself to their ‘day retreat’ package. This includes daily yoga and wellness classes and access to all of their amazing facilities (amongst additional inclusions).

School holiday hours: 7 days a week. 8 am – 9 pm.

Outside of school holidays: Thursday 3 pm – 9 pm, Friday – Monday 8 am – 9 pm, Tuesday 8 am – 11 am.

State Highway 7, Lewis Pass 7895

A woman standing on the hot springs of Maruia while looking at the forest.

2. Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa

With something for the whole whānau, Hanmer Springs is unrivalled in the South Island!

Hanmer Thermal Pools are great fun for adult and kids alike. There are adult-only pools for those that like a moment or three to themselves. And for the more adventurous – I dare you all to ride Conical Thrill – it’s a completely crazy ride that needs to be on everyone’s must-do list!

Mandy – New Zealand Travel Tips member

The most famous complex in this list, Hanmer Springs has attracted travellers and locals alike since it was first found in 1859. Over time, the pools have been developed and improved, resulting in the world-class complex that exists today. It’s one of the best things to do in Hanmer Springs that you shouldn’t miss.

On-site you’ll find a number of incredible hydro-slides (including Conical Thrill and the SuperBowl), along with a wide range of kids and adults-only pools. These pools vary in temperature and are each clearly marked. This makes it easy to find the perfect bathing solution for your needs.

This vast complex of natural springs and man-made adventure is easily accessed from Christchurch, making it perfect for a long weekend getaway (should you be lucky enough to live in the Garden City).

Summer hours: 10 am – 9 pm (7 days a week) – Until Sunday the 2nd of May. Beginning again Monday the 1st of November.

Winter hours: 10 am – 6 pm (7 days a week) – From Monday the 3rd of May until Sunday the 31st of October.

42 Amuri Avenue, Hanmer Springs 7334

Couples riding an inflatable raft while enjoying the outdoor water park of Hanmer Springs Superbowl.
The SuperBowl in action at Hanmer Springs.

3. Ōpuke Thermal Pools & Spa

Ōpuke Thermal Pools & Spa is the newest hot pool facility to open in New Zealand and it’s done so to significant fanfare.

A little different from the other hot pools on this list, the water from Ōpuke comes from the mountains before being heated by the sun. This makes them incredibly energy efficient which we just love.

In terms of different pools, they have all their bases covered. They offer an adults-only experience (including a swim-up bar and a pool-side canape and beverage service) and they’ve also got a separate area that’s family-friendly.

There, your whānau can explore the Discover Pools. The lazy river is the perfect way to float your worries away, or you can check out the star it caves. You’ll also find a plunge pool and relaxation pools there too.

Without a doubt, these brand-new solar-powered pools should be on your next South Island itinerary.

Normal hours: Thursday to Monday, 10 am – 7.30 pm

School holidays: 10 am – 7.30 pm (7 days a week)

35 Mount Hutt Station Road, Methven 7782

A family swimming in the outdoor pool of Opuke Thermal Pool and Spa.
Photo credit: Lisa Gane care of Ōpuke Thermal Pools & Spa.

4. Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools

🚧 The Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools went into hibernation because of COVID. Before planning a visit, check their website to see if they are open again.

Nestled amongst lush native rainforest, the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools are a haven of natural tranquillity.

They really are the perfect place to de-stress on the coast!

There you’ll find three main pools which are connected by a series of beautiful wood pathways. They use pure water (rather than thermal spring mineral water) which is heated to between 36 and 40 degrees Celsius – this means it’s safe to dunk your head under, should you wish.

The complex is family-friendly and suitable for guests of all ages, though it certainly is a space to unwind. Each pool is approximately 1 metre deep, making them perfect for the whole whānau to relax in.

The pools are covered by shade sails; these double perfectly as protection from the wild West Coast weather. There really is no better place to be than cocooned in a hot pool as the rain falls all around.

Should you prefer, private hot pools are also available as a romantic treat. Secluded and tranquil, each private pool comes with its own dressing room, bathroom and courtyard. You’ll have 45 minutes to enjoy your luxury escape before being invited back to the main pools to enjoy the remainder of your stay.

These pools are affordable and stunning, making them the perfect way to end a busy day of West Coast adventures.

Hours: Friday to Monday, 2 pm – 8:30 pm, with last entry granted at 8 pm. Closed Christmas Day.

63 Cron Street, Franz Josef/Waiau 7886

A woman in an orange bikini waddling in the waters of Glacier Hot Pools.

5. Waiho Hot Tubs – Franz Josef

If you’re looking for romantic, private pools in Franz Josef, we highly recommend Waiho Hot Tubs.

Each of these wood-fired cedar hot tubs sits in amongst the region’s beautiful rainforest. With the light smell of smoke swirling around you and the soothing comfort of the warm, mountain-stream water, it really is a uniquely romantic experience.

Waiho Hot Tubs in Franz Josef are amazing!

Elyse – New Zealand Travel Tips member

Each hot tub can accommodate up to four adults (and a child) and comes complete with a private, dry shelter to store your personal belongings – perfect for the West Coast rain that the region is so well-known for.

The water in each hot tub is drained and refilled fresh for each new reservation, ensuring water is 100% pure. The pools are also heated to approximately 39 degrees Celsius, though guests have the ability to adjust this up or down as they choose.

A 60-minute booking at Waiho Hot Tubs includes fresh drinking water and the ability to bring in your own nibbles and drinks (though it’s important to note that glass isn’t allowed). Towel hire is also available for a gold coin donation (which goes to the community fund).

Should you wish, it’s also possible to add Epsom Salts to your water for only $5, or Lavender Hydrosol for $20.

A unique experience in the region, the Waiho Hot Tubs are a real treat.

Hours: Open Daily from 2 pm. The complex becomes adults only from 6.30 pm in the summer and 5 pm in the winter season.

34 Cron Street, Central Village, Franz Josef/Waiau 7886

Did you know? Waiho Hot Tubs get their name from the Waiho river which means ‘smoky waters’ in Te Reo Māori. Legend has it that the river was formed from the tears of Hinehukatere, frozen in a glacier. To this day, the Māori name for Franz Josef Glacier is Kā Roimata-a-Hinehukatere, or the tears of Hinehukatere.

A pile of chopped wood, and the steamy bath of Waiho Hot Tubs.

6. He Puna Taimoana – New Brighton, Christchurch – The Newest South island Hot Pools

Opening on the 30th of May 2020, this fantastic new facility has fast become a favourite of Cantabrians and travellers alike.

With five heated pools, a separate plunge pool, sauna, and café, there is something for everyone at He Puna Taimoana – from family fun to full relaxation and rejuvenation, it’s all there.

With a variety of pool sizes and temperatures, it’s easy to find the right fit for you. Relax and unwind (with temperatures between 37 and 39°C), enjoy family time (between 33 and 36°C) or work on your fitness (with 26 in 28°C pools).

In addition, you’ll find a 2-metre deep plunge pool. The water there is kept at a chilly 10–14°C, ensuring guests receive the therapeutic benefits of a near-polar plunge. A quick dunk in these waters are said to reduce inflammation of muscles and joints.

To warm up afterwards, you’ll welcome to hop into their steam room (40–50°C) or sauna (60–80°C) at no extra charge.

Alternatively, warm up from the inside-out at Saturdays Cafe. This is the perfect spot for a bite to eat or a freshly brewed coffee – and though the name is a touch confusing, it is open 7 days a week.

What’s more, He Puna Taimoana is accessible to everyone. They provide either ramp or hoist access to all pools, and have a range of mobility-friendly features throughout the facility.

Perched right on New Brighton Beach, this fantastic hot pool facility is a great addition to the Garden City!

Hours: Daily 10 am – 7.30 pm. In addition, Fridays host an extra session between 8 pm and 10 pm. It’s important to note that a normal day hosts 4 sessions – your ticket provides entrance to one of these, allowing approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to enjoy the pools. For more details, please check their schedule.

195 Marine Parade, New Brighton, Christchurch 8083

Swimming pools of He Puna Taimoana and a beautiful sunset near the sandy beach.

7. Tekapo Springs

Set in one of the most scenic parts of the South Island, Tekapo needs to be seen to be believed!

Providing the ultimate in relaxation and recreation amongst the natural beauty of a pristine, alpine environment, you don’t want to miss a visit to Tekapo Springs.

Located at the base of Mount John, you’ll enjoy incredible views out over Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Experience complete relaxation by soaking in hot water in an alpine environment 720 metres above sea level. These hot pools are filled from an underground source near Tekapo and whilst the water is not geothermal it is exceptionally pure.

At the heart of this facility, you’ll find three hot pools (36.5 to 38.5 degrees Celsius) and an aqua play area with two cooler pools (ranging between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius). Each pool is heated to a different temperature and serves a different purpose – this ensures that all visitors can enjoy the pools exactly as they want.

In addition, you’ll also be able to enjoy steam and sauna rooms and a cold plunge pool during the course of your visit. Should you wish, you can even book in for a massage. This place is the ultimate in relaxation!

If you need a break from swimming and relaxing, their onsite café is perfectly positioned to take in the incredible views, with indoor and outdoor dining available.

Surprisingly, this facility offers much more than swimming and relaxation though…

I like Tekapo for the whole family as in the winter you can do ice skating and tubing also. The pools are great as there are three – the top is adults only and the other two are for the whole family. They’re not too hot and have a lovely view over Lake Tekapo!

Schiovan – New Zealand Travel Tips member

In the wintertime, you can ice skate on their scenic, outdoor rink or take a thrilling ride on their snow tube. In summer, chill out in the cooler pools or go for a whizz on their giant inflatable waterslide or obstacle course!

Regardless of the season, a visit to Tekapo Springs is a memorable addition to your South Island itinerary and one of the best things to do in the area.

Hours: Open daily. Monday – Friday: 11 am to 7 pm. Saturday and Sunday: 10 am to 7 pm. Hours extended for special stargazing tours. Closed Christmas day.

6 Lakeside Drive, Lake Tekapo 7999

Pro tip: It’s possible to book a stargazing tour at Tekapo Springs. The tour combines the best of stargazing, astronomy teaching, Māori mythology and of course, hot pool relaxation. Having joined them in the past, we can personally recommend it!

Tourists dipping in Tekapo Hot Springs while the surroundings are covered in snow.

8. Omarama Hot Tubs

The Omarama Hot Tubs are perfectly set up for relaxation and privacy. With incredible Waitaki/Mackenzie country scenery around you and natural wood-fired water, it’s impossible to do anything but unwind. This is the place to create amazing memories with your loved ones whilst travelling in the South Island.

Each of their wooden tubs are crafted from sustainably harvested Canadian Western Red Cedar whilst the stainless steel inner provides a comfortable base to rest on. They’re roomy and can cater right from solo travellers up to groups of 8.

They are filled with pure mountain water and heated to perfection – though of course, you’ll have complete control over the temperate. Simply turn up the heating or add fresh cold water to your tub to ensure your experience is exactly as you want it.

Choose from either a 90-minute hot tub experience or a 2-hour session (which includes the use of your very own sauna). Either offer the ultimate in relaxation.

Should you require it, they also have an easily accessible tub – just be sure to request it at the time of booking. This tub has a sloping ramp and a rail up to the edge of the tub to enable ease of access when entering and exiting.

Omarama Hot Tubs are awesome! They’re private, relaxing and in a stunning location all year round. Highly recommend.

Fiona – New Zealand Travel Tips member

Though Omarama Hot Tubs have a number of pools, each of them is beautifully private. This is so you can immerse yourself in the pure mountain water surrounded by stunning scenery with absolutely no disturbances from the outside world.

Can you think of a better way to sit back and take in the beautiful Omarama landscape?

We can’t!

Hours: Sunday – Wednesday: 12 pm – 7.30 pm. Thursday: 12 pm – 8 pm. Friday & Saturday: 12 pm – 9.30 pm.

29 Omarama Ave Main Omarama Twizel, Highway, Omarama 9448

Couples looking at the snow-capped mountain ranges while dipping inside the Omarama Hot Tub.

9. Onsen Hot Pools – Queenstown – One of the Most Famous South Island Hot Pools

Perhaps the most iconic of all the locations on this list, the Onsen Hot Pools deserve every bit of coverage they receive. For many travellers, they sit squarely at the top of their NZ bucket list – and for good reason!

Perched high above the Shotover River, on the edge of the canyon, these pools provide unparalleled views of one of the most stunning parts of New Zealand.

Hot and steamy on snow days, warm and comforting on rainy days and a welcome refuge from the sun on a hot summer’s day, there really is no bad time to visit the Onsen Hot Pools!

Though the pools are open right throughout the day, we recommend visiting first thing in the morning (when the day is beautifully still) or as the sun is setting into the evening. There really isn’t a bad time to visit though.

When enjoying this boutique day spa, you’ll have the choice of a few different experiences – all of which provide you with exclusive use of their cedar hot tubs. These pools are heated to approximately 38.5 degrees, during which time you’ll have 60 minutes (with up to three friends) to soak up the serenity.

The Original Onsen Experience sees guests relax in mountain-fed pools, under a retractable roof. This gives complete flexibility in creating an indoor and outdoor environment at the touch of a button.

By comparison, the new Outdoor Onsen Experience features exclusive use Mineral pools, surrounded by extensive planting and stunning views. This water, which is rich in magnesium to naturally detoxify the body and mind, provides natural relief for aching muscles.

Regardless of which experience you decide upon, one thing is for certain – the Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown are as relaxing as they are Instagrammable!

Hours: 9 am to 11 pm every day.

A courtesy shuttle bus service to/from central Queenstown is available if requested in advance.

162 Arthurs Point Road, Arthurs Point, Queenstown 9371.

Did you know? You’ll be provided with a complimentary snack and drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), along with the use of a towel whilst visiting Onsen Hot Pools.

Steaming bath tub with a view of a rocky mountain in Onsen.

10. Kamana Lakehouse – Queenstown

The Kamana Lakehouse pool is a little different to the rest in this article but as it’s so gorgeous, we couldn’t help but include it.

These pools are only able to be accessed by guests that choose to stay in the adjoining hotel. Being so gorgeous though, it could well be worth the stay!

These private tubs are able to be booked for hour-long sessions, with a flat rate price for up to three adults.

With spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu (one of the largest Lakes in New Zealand), they really are the ultimate treat, and being handy to the centre of Queenstown, they’re conveniently located too.

What an incredible spot to watch the sunset on a day of adventure!

Advance bookings are required.

139 Fernhill Road, Fernhill, Queenstown 9300

A steaming pool with indoor slippers and two glasses of wine.

With so many amazing hot springs and hot pools scattered across the South Island, the question is not so much if you should visit some but which ones will you check out first?!

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