Hot Water Beach: Make your own Natural Hot Spa
As one of the best beaches in New Zealand’s North Island, Hot Water Beach is a “must-see” tourist attraction! This blog includes all of the information you NEED to know before you go to ensure your visit is the best possible!
Hot Water Beach
Those who have traveled New Zealand before know that it is home to some pretty unique places. One of those includes Hot Water Beach. Hot Water Beach gets its name from the hot springs that lie deep beneath the earth and trickle up forming hot areas that, with a little digging, can be turned into natural spas.
This natural phenomenon is unique and unlike anything else in the world. I mean, where else can you sit meters from the shore in a natural hot pool of water? It goes without saying that an attraction as cool as this does not come without the large crowds. However, if you follow what we did in this guide your sure to experience Hot Water Beach in the best possible way!
Topics covered in this blog are:
- What is the Hot Water Beach exactly?
- Getting there
- What time to visit
- What to bring
- Safety at Hot Water Beach
- Available facilities
- How to find the hot vents (hot water)
- What else to do nearby
Hot Water Beach is a normal beach that has one special feature – when it is low tide there is a couple of spots along the sand that get hot underground. If you dig in these spots natural pools are created, and you guessed it, the water is actually hot!
A visit to Hot Water Beach involves timing the tides correctly, finding the perfect spot, and then digging to make your own natural hot tub!
Mercury Bay is located 175km from Auckland city on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island. The drive takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes from Auckland, however, if you travel during the day you should expect delays due to traffic.
The closest towns to Hot Water Beach are Tairua and Hahei.
If you don’t drive and want to take the bus, the Intercity bus can get you there from Auckland but it will involve two transfers. The bus costs about $30 and will drop you off in Tairua. Alternatively, just go on a tour from Auckland to Hot Water Beach.
While a day trip from Auckland is definitely possible (that’s what we did) another option is to stay in Mercury Bay. Mercury Bay is the bay where Hot Sand Beach is located. There you can find accommodation near the beach in the form of hotels, holiday parks, and Air BnB’s.
If you have your own camper then you can easily find a selection of places to stay for the night for cheap. If you are looking for a hotel, here are some great options:
- Hot Water Beach Top 10 – This holiday park offers campsites (powered and unpowered) as well as rooms or cabins. It is only a stone’s throw away from Hot Water Beach! Expect to pay about $100 NZD for a Queen room which also gives you access to the communal lounge and kitchen facilities.
- Hostel Tathi – Located in Hahei (another cute beachfront town) only a 10-minute drive from Hot Water Beach. This hostel offers budget private rooms as well as dorm rooms. Prices start from $40 NZD.
- Hahei Holiday Resort – Those looking for a bit more luxury will love the Hahei Holiday Resort. It is only 100m from Hahei beach and a 10-minute drive from Hot Water Beach. You can get a double studio room for $215 NZD and also have access to the many facilities onsite.
If you are looking for more accommodation options near the Hot Water Beach, click here to see what is available! Alternatively, there are some great AirBnB’s in the area and if you use this link you’ll save on your first booking!
The surrounding area near Hot Water Beach is amazing and worth exploring for a couple of days if you have the time.
Picking the time you visit Hot Water Beach is extremely important.
Why is timing so important? The reason is that Hot Water Beach is actually only heated by 3 thermal vents that seep up through the Earth. These three vents sit beneath the tide zone (the area where low and high tides sit). For this reason, you can only visit the hot areas 2 hours before low tide and until 2 hours after.
Once the tide moves two hours past low tide the pools you once sat relaxing in become victims to heavy waves and eventually become submerged in water.
Avoiding the Crowds at Hot Water Beach
If you want to visit Hot Water Beach without hundreds of other people, choosing the right time to visit is also important. There are two ways to avoid the crowds at Hot Water Beach.
1) Do not visit in the summer especially on weekends or over the school holidays! If crowds bother you consider visiting during winter! The water si hot so this is actually one beach activity you can do in the winter! Dan and I went once in April and pretty much had the place to ourselves, and then again in December and it was packed!
2) Visit at the most unusual tide time! Sometimes low tide is ridiculously early in the morning or late at night. If you visit during a time when most people would not then it will be much less busy! I have heard of people getting up at 2 am to visit Hot Water Beach! Dan and I once watched the sunrise there and it was not very busy then either. I think that most people visit for the afternoon or evening tide.
First off you will need a shovel. Digging a pool big enough and deep enough to enjoy the experience takes a lot of work. With limited time it is strenuousness to dig by hand – trust me I tried! Luckily for me, a lady was kind enough to lend me her shovel.
If you don’t have a shovel they can be rented from the shops at the beach, however, this depends on when low tide is. When I went, low tide was at 4 am so no shops were open.
Low tide changes from day to day so it’s important to check. It might be possible to organize a shovel the day before if low tide is in the early morning. There are two low tides in 24 hours so at least one will be during opening hours! Otherwise, you can purchase a shovel from a store in Hahei or Tairua for about $15 NZD.
Besides a shovel, other things to bring are:
- A warm drink! A great idea for sunrise is to bring some hot chocolate or coffee as a nice treat to enjoy while you sit back and relax. This is especially enjoyable in the winter months! If you use an insulated travel mug your drink will stay warm for up to 12 hours!
- A cold drink for a summer sunset! Pack a couple of beers to enjoy the sunset on a warm summer evening!
- A towel and change of clothes! This is especially important if you’re visiting in winter, you don’t want to freeze in your wet swimsuits! For a towel, I love these sand-proof ones (the sand doesn’t stick to them!)
- Some money! Make sure to bring some money for parking as well, the parking lot is paid only.
- Waterproof bag! A dry bag to store all of your valuables is a great idea! If you don’t have a dry bag, then at least a waterproof case for your phone is handy!
Other than that, your camera and a smile should suffice!
Hot Sand Beach is also popular among surfers. Large swells batter the coast and the area is known for having strong currents and rips. After you have sat in a shallow pool on the beach you will likely be covered in sand. So washing off in the ocean is a good idea.
If you are traveling with children or people who can’t swim that well then staying clear of the ocean is a good idea. Instead, use the outdoor showers provided at the carpark. Even if you are a good swimmer, care should be taken as submerged rocks and big waves can create deadly hazards!
Yes, there is a public carpark right on the beach. However, it is paid parking and spaces are limited. On busy days I can see the very limited spaces filling up, so getting in early would be a great way to save missing out. The beach is beautiful regardless of the hot water, so enjoy!
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Right on the beach is a set of male and female toilets to the left of the carpark. In front of them is a few outdoor showers for washing off. Also, on the beach is a few small shops that sell coffee, food, and souvenirs.
Finding the heat vents that give the beach its name can be a little difficult. There are only three vents and the beach is over a kilometer long. With limited time to enjoy them, it’s important to have a rough idea where they are. Luckily while I was there I noticed a few landmarks that make the vents easy to find.
Once you arrive at the Hot Water Beach carpark you will need to walk towards the ocean. Once you hit the beach turn left and walk up until the beach becomes narrow. At this point rocks from the cliffs protrude further towards the ocean which is what makes the beach narrow.
Once you have reached this spot look out into the water and look for a large rock that sticks out of the water (it’s easy to see). If you stand directly in front of this rock you will be close to the vents. I noticed that one vent sat right in front of this rock and another slightly to the left (if you’re looking out to the ocean).
Now, the only thing left to do is find how far they are from the water. This can be slightly more difficult to judge but by rough estimate, I’d say the vents were around 25m from the rock in the water. Try to imagine how far the tide comes up and remember that the tide does eventually cover the hot water pools.
The best way to find them from there is to dig about a foot down and check for warm water. Once you feel warm water then you are extremely close and can start digging!
If all this sounds confusing then check out the pictures below that I have marked to show you the correct spot! Of course, if you visit in the afternoon, hundreds of people will be your guide!
Luckily the entire Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island is stunning.
Not too far from Hot Water Beach is another amazing place called Cathedral Cove. Cathedral Cove is a natural rock formation on the beach, caused by erosion. If you are visiting Hot Sand Beach then a trip to Cathedral Cove is a no-brainer – I mean just check out the picture below!
New Zealand keeps on blowing my mind. The scenery and unique attractions are plenty and exploring this part of the world is a must. Hot Water Beach is just one of many, but its definitely one worth visiting!
June 2, 2019