One of the things I loved most about living in Japan was the onsen, or hot springs. So, as New Zealand has so many volcanoes, I was really hoping we’d be able to experience a Kiwi version! After we’d had a day exploring the volcanic, geothermal hot springs in Wai-O-Tapu, I was really ready to climb into a hot pool! I mean, after a long walk, there is nothing better than relaxing in a hot bath. Luckily, we had plans to meet friends at the Okoroire Hot Springs. This hotel is located about half way between Lake Taupo (where we saw those Maori carvings) and Auckland.
The Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel
We’d booked a room in the Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel. The hotel was first built in 1889, and it has been restored pretty recently so it was a interesting historical place to visit. Visiting the Okoroire Hot Springs was included in the price of our room, but if you don’t want to stay the night, you can pay $10 and just visit their thermal baths.
Our room was pleasant. The shower was a little rubbish. But it was still fine for getting us nice and clean after the hot springs. The hair dryer was a good’un so I liked this hotel! Am I the only one who judges hotels by the quality of their hair driers? It seems like such a minor issue, but I’m always happier if I can dry my hair easily!
Wandering down to the thermal pools
To get to the Okoroire Hot Springs, you have to follow a path through some beautiful trees. The staff at reception said it was a long walk down, but it is only about 300m!
I loved all the summer flowers that line the route down to the hot springs. It is a lovely setting with plenty of birds chattering in the bushes. Plus, you can hear the river roaring past below.
The Okoroire Hot Springs
We arrived at the Okoroire Hot Springs just as other people were leaving, so we had the whole place to ourselves. It’s not quite as clean as the hot springs I am used to in Japan. You don’t have to scrub yourself squeaky clean before you get into the water! It’s also slightly strange to wear swimming costumes in a bath! But when in Rome eh!
The top most pool was the hottest. It was a bit like an outdoor bath. It wasn’t super hot, but pretty pleasant as hot springs go.
This is the view down from that pool. You can see (and hear) the river. It all seems quite tropical and relaxing.
I love hot, hot springs, so I spent the longest time in this pool! The bottom of the pool is lined with stones, and the edge is wood, so this one was the most Japanese-y.
Next you follow some steps down to two other pools. Down below, the second pool was a lot cooler, and felt sort of slimy. I don’t mind, I mean, the water felt lovely BUT it was a sort of brown colour and it smelt a little more *ehem* volcanic.
While we explored this pool, my other friends appeared (yay!) But as this pool was a bit slimy, and not very hot, we didn’t stay in it for very long.
The third and final pool was a gorgeous blue colour. This pool was lined by tiny pebbles. If you dig your feet into them little bubbles come out. We were told this would release more hot water from the hot spring below, but although I saw the bubbles, it didn’t seem to release more hot water.
This is probably the best pool for people that like bathing, but don’t want to sit in hot water. It was just relaxing and warm.
So, those are the Okoroire Hot Springs. In Japan, you’d finish a bathe with a final shower. We did the same in Okoroire; We walked back up to the hotel and had a shower before heading to the restaurant for dinner.
If you arrive in the evening though, be careful! You need to order dinner before 8:30pm. After that you can’t get any food!
We ordered some pork belly and some steak, both were alright. It’s like British pub-level food. Not amazing, but not bad. It all tasted better with some Kiwi wine!
If I came back to this part of New Zealand again, I’d be totally up for staying at the Okoroire Hot Springs Hotel again. I’d also be up for having another dip in those thermal pools!