A relaxing soak in nature

Photography Carolyn Enting

An amble through bush and boardwalks to Great Barrier Island’s Kaitoke Hot Springs.

Having a hot pool to ourselves on Aotea / Great Barrier Island was worth the early start.

The day before our blissful dip, we’d got as far as the carpark, which was jammed. My partner flatly refused to get out of the car and announced we’d come back the following morning. I agreed it was a good idea.

Back at the Kaitoke Hot Springs track at 7.30am, we were stoked to discover that we had it all to ourselves, and, when we got to the hot pools, those too.

The return trip to the pools is an easy walk and flat for most of the way. The track is also wide, and at some points traversing boardwalks over wetland is required.

From the carpark, the trail wends through softly draping tree ferns, glades of nikau palms and stands of regenerating kānuka forest, and around the shore of
the Kaitoke wetland.

The wetland was formed about 6,000 years ago and is unique because it has a mix of hot and cold water, making it home to unusual plant species and rare birds and reptiles. If you’re lucky, you’ll see or hear a fern bird.

The hot pools are dammed at a fork in Kaitoke Creek and have been used for bathing and good health by locals and visitors since humans first came to the island. According to the sign, the locals love the hot springs being low key and hope to keep them that way.

The water level of the main pool was low when we visited, so we chose the more picturesque pool about 100m further up the track (you’ll find a bench on the track and steps leading down to the water).

The water is hot but it doesn’t take long to get used to and you can rest on a handily placed log if you need to cool down for a bit. 

It is one of the most popular walks on the island, being an easy track and having the allure of a natural spa experience. Plus, it’s free!

Track notes

  • 45 – 60 minutes each way
  • Start track from Whangaparapara Road
  • Suitable for pushchairs and assisted wheelchairs
  • Do not put your head under the water in the pools
  • Wear your bathers as there is only one long drop loo at the pools!
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