It’s one of the best ways to get outdoors, but still beat the chill of winter. Hot spring soaking has a long history. Romans and Egyptians used mineral baths for therapeutic purposes as early as 2000 BC. The local pools don’t go back quite that far but some – like the iconic Mount Hot Salt Water Pools – have been around for nearly half a century.
The coastal Bay of Plenty has its share of hot pools, with around a dozen public pools to be found in an area which runs from Waihi, south to Opotiki. Here’s four that are handiest to Tauranga city.
Mount Maunganui Hot Salt Water Pools
The Mount Hot Pools are set to get a multi-million dollar makeover, to drag them into the modern tourist era. The redevelopment plan calls for features including a Cultural Heritage Centre. That’s not to suggest these pools aren’t kept in tip top condition. Located at the base of Mount Maunganui (Mauao), they remain a must do local attraction – especially when you combine a climb to the summit for spectacular views – with a good après-hike soak. Part of their appeal is in their unique status as the only hot sea water pools in the country, using naturally heated salt water. The 18 metre ‘active pool’ is cool enough at 32 degrees to get some exercise swimming lengths, in quieter times.
The facilities include:
- Two Spa Pools heated to 40° degrees
- 18m Active Pool heated to 32° degrees
- Passive Pool heated to 40° degrees with jet sprays
- Kids Pool with Waterslide heated to 37.5° degrees
- Private Heated Pools
- Massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, deep tissue massage, etc.
Cost: adults $9.50, child/senior $7, under two years free. Family pass – two adults and two children, $28. Concession cards are available. Tauranga locals get significant discounts - $3.50 off adults – if they can show an ID card. Tel 575 0868, www.mounthotpools.co.nz
Fernland Spa Thermal Mineral Hot Springs
Minutes from downtown Tauranga, Fernland offers a soak in a genuine mineral spring, the clear thermal water drawn from two deep bores – and they even bottle the stuff and sell it as a tasty drink. The owners say the mineral water flowing constantly through all Fernland Spa hot pools rises from a deep underground aquifer, and scientists have classified the Spa as a true mineral spring. It is rich in minerals, trace elements like zinc and selenium, and ions. These are superb pools nestled in a secluded valley off Cambridge Road, with a backdrop of mature ferns that provide a Kiwi bush atmosphere in the evening – without the discomfort of having to tramp through it! There’s one big public pool, and eight private pools—filled with non-chlorinated mineral water at temperatures around 37.5—40˚C. The once shabby pools are in good condition, after an ongoing facelift in recent years. Cost: adults $6, child $4, senior $5, family pass $17. Private pools adults $10, child $4.50. Fernland caters for campervans, with some sites available. Contact: 578-3081, www.fernlandspa.co.nz
Oropi Spa Pools & Country Café
The pools are located in a peaceful rural setting, around 20 minutes drive from downtown Tauranga. 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 38˚C (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 cafe (home baking – everything from omelettes to burgers and snacks) has doors that open out onto a grassy grove circled by banana palms, perfect for a summer barbecue. Open Wed to Fri 10am—10pm, Sat & Sun 10am—10pm. Cost: adults $5.50, child (6—12) $4, under 5s $3, private pools adult $7.50, family pass (2 adults 2 children) $16. Directions: head up Oropi Road from State Highway 29, and turn left into Warner Road. Contact: 543 3913, www.oropicomplex.co.nz
Welcome Bay Hot Pools & Campground
These nicely renovated pools are also tucked away in a quiet rural area – the hills of Welcome Bay – but just 1 km from downtown Tauranga. The pools are part of a small family holiday park, just off Welcome Bay Road – that winds through farms and crop land to the south of Tauranga. Welcome Bay Road is reached by heading out of town via 15th Ave. The crystal- clear un-chlorinated water is replaced daily, and its clear water is something many visitors comment on, with some rating it the best pools they’ve been to. 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 summer BBQ spot. The setting is classic rural Tauranga; the facility nestles in a valley 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.’ Open Mon-Fri 2 pm to 9pm, Sat and Sun 10am to 9 pm (same hours public & school hols). Cost: adults $5, children and seniors $3.50, family pass $14.Contact: 544 2327