The best hot springs in New Zealand (South Island)

I love a good hot spring, especially after a long hike. Considering we are currently walking all 9 Great Walks of New Zealand in 9 weeks we have never been more in need of a good thermal soak.

Luckily for us New Zealand is the home of hot springs and we’ve been spoilt for choice. As our hiking challenge begins in the South Island all of these springs are south. If you are looking for a relaxing dip then here are our thoughts on the best hot springs in New Zealand.

1.     Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown

I am going to say straight up that these are my absolute favourite despite being the priciest, the view is simply incredible.

It’s perfect for those who like a bit of privacy as each onsen is completely separate and you feel like it is just you and that spectacular view over the shotover river.

The tub is very deep and the wood keeps the water really warm, so warm in fact that I had to add a little cold.

The whole experience feels luxorious as you can take in a glass of champagne and chocolate or ice cream (extra cost but we decided to splurge). You can relax without needing to keep an eye on the time as they will come and give you a knock five minutes before your time is up.

Best hot springs in New Zealand (South Island): Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown

We only booked one hour and I wished we had booked two. Spots do sell out in advance so I would advise booking ahead of time, especially if you would like the popular sunset soak (which we missed out on).

They also offer night time slots where the onsen is lit with candles and Japense lanterns while you look up at the night sky. I hope we can come back for this one day!

The pools are around 10 minutes drive from Queenstown and the perfect place to unwind after all those outdoor adventures.

Cost: $95 for two adults for one hour in the day time or $119 in the evening. There are various options and packages, the price mentioned above is for the onsen soak alone. 

2.     Omarama Hot Tubs

This is one for nature lovers. The tubs are outside with a view to a lake backed by a beautiful mountain range.

Again this is a very private option as each hot tub is located down a separate walk way and with no chance of seeing any of the other tubs.

Nude bathing is allowed if you are so inclined. The sessions are slightly longer than at Onsen Hot Pools and we spent a happy hour and a half watching the black swans and ducks glide around the lake.

The only sounds are that of nature and it is a really peaceful spot.

What I would say is pick your time wisely as the tubs are completely exposed to the elements so you wouldn’t want to go on a really hot day. I’d love to return in winter as I think this would be a really magical experience.

If you are travelling between Queenstown and Mount Cook the pools make a great place to stop off. 

Cost: $49 per person if there are two of you for one and a half hours. The price goes up and down slightly for more or less people. Towels are extra so bring your own if you want to save some cash. 

3.     Tekapo Hot Springs

The Tekapo hot springs are located on a small hill overlooking the lake and mountain ranges.

It’s a truly spectacular setting, you don’t get unobstructed views out to the lake but you do looking the other way to the forest which was also beautiful.

There are several communal pools ranging in temperature, and at least one of which we noticed was adults only.

Despite visiting in summer the air temperature was only 10c so the hot water felt amazing, especially as by this point we had walked over 200km.

There are some parts of the pools undercover so again you could go in any weather.

They also open until 9pm and I reckon the later times would be out of this world on a clear night looking up at the milky way.

We hardly had any time in Tekapo so I know we’ll be back!  

Cost: $27 for adults for single entry use. Towels and lockers are extra. 

4.     Glacier Hot Pools

This is the perfect place to be on a rainy afternoon in Franz Josef, and as this is the west coast there are plenty of those.

We visited just after a cyclone had passed through leaving a trail of destruction on the roads and plenty of wet weather. There are three pools all varying in temperature, and surrounded by lush greenery.

The pools are largely covered (so no worries about being there in the rain) though this does mean that you don’t get the expansive views.

They do have private hot pools you can rent ($95 for two people for 45 minutes) but we used the communal pools which didn’t feel too busy, even on a rainy day in summer.

You can also stay for as long as you like and as we had nowhere else to be we did just that!

Cost: $28 per adult for single entry use. Again towels are extra but you can bring your own. Lockers are $2 or just use the ones by the pools which aren't lockable but are free. You can book in advance using the links below.

5.     Hanmer Springs

This is the biggest thermal springs of them all and well set up for families (they even have waterslides in one area).

They have many different pools at various temperatures including some at 40c which many people soaked in for ages but I could only manage five minutes.

These were the busiest of the springs in our list, though as there are so many different pools didn’t feel overcrowded.

For me though it I prefer something a little smaller and more intimate.

I would say this is a place to come for a get together with friends or family more than quiet time with a partner like some of the other springs.

Best Hot Springs in New Zealand: Hamner Springs

Some pools are partially covered and I reckon it would be quite atmospheric in the rain. Or perhaps try the evening when it might be less busy.

Cost: $24 for adults for single entry use. Towels are extra as are lockers, but you can use the free wooden storage areas by the pools for free, though they aren't lockable. You can book in advance using Klook and the link below.

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Have you been to any hot springs in New Zealand? Any you'd recommend for us to visit next time? Let us know in the comments below. 

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