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The Blue Pools, on New Zealand’s stunning West Coast, are a famous tourist attraction. They have become one of those must-see places on any South Island road trip itinerary and after visiting for myself, I can see why. The Blue Pools are one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Whether or not to visit the Blue Pools shouldn’t even be a question in your mind – they are that beautiful! Instead, you should be asking how! In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Blue Pools, New Zealand including some amazing spots nearby you also cannot miss!
Note: There have been some significant changes to the Blue Pools Track/parking recently, and this blog has been updated to reflect those changes!
About the Blue Pools, New Zealand
The Blue Pools are part of the Makarora River that runs down from the nearby mountains in Mt Aspiring National Park. The Makarora River is truly beautiful and one of the bluest rivers I have ever seen! The Blue Pools are easily one of the top attractions in New Zealand.
The river gets its color as a result of reflecting light off the small particles of rock flour created by the glacier as it grows and crushes rock in its path.
The Blue Pools aren’t actually small pools like I originally expected, but rather a part of the Makarora River that pools in an area where the river is deep. This deep section of the pool is then cut off by a very shallow section of the river where there is a beach. The Blue Pools are rather calm – perfect for taking a refreshing dip…well kinda, so long as you don’t min freezing water!
Fun fact: Rock flour is the reason that many of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes are such an amazing color. This fine dust has been crushed by the glacier both advancing and receding over time. The amount of rock flour in the water drastically changes its color. In fact, too much rock flour turns the water a murky color.
Related Read: What you should know before adventuring the Ben Lomond Hike in Queenstown.
Where are the Blue Pools?
The Blue Pools are located on New Zealand’s South Island between Franz Josef and Wanaka. To reach the Blue Pools from Wanaka, head north on highway 6 for around 73km (45mi). It takes around an hour to reach the parking lot from Wanaka.
If you are coming from Queenstown (which is very common) then it takes around 2 hours from Queenstown to the Blue Pools Track parking lot. The location can easily be found on Google Maps.
Parking and facilities at the Blue Pools
Along Highway 6 there are many signs for the Blue Pools which make it hard to miss! Just off Highway 6, there is a newly expanded parking lot that is right across the street from Cameron Flats Campsite with lots of space available for visitors, however, in summer parking will be busy, especially from lunchtime onwards.
I’m confident you won’t miss the parking lot (it’s usually filled with cars) but if you’re worried, the Cameron Flats Campsite is labeled on Google Maps, Campermate, Maps.me, and Rankers.
There use to be no restrooms near the Blue Pools, but toilets have also been added to the new parking lot.
Update: The old parking lot (small lot on the side of the highway) is now closed and you are not allowed to park there anymore. You must now park at the new parking lot near Cameron Flats and walk the new (slightly longer) trail from there to the Blue Pools.
Related Read: The truth about That Wanaka Tree, New Zealand’s most famous tree.
The Blue Pools Track
- Length: 3.2 km out and back
- Time needed: 25-30 minute walk each way
- Difficulty: Easy. The trail is mostly flat and well maintained
The Blue Pools are not located right on the main highway and you’re required to complete a short walk to the Blue Pools. The Blue Pools Track is 3.2km (2mi) on a flat, well-maintained, and signposted out-and-back trail. The trail is also shaded the entire way.
On the way to the pools, the path is slightly downhill and crosses a suspension bridge over the Makarora River. The path is not paved but is well maintained and suitable for all ages.
Once you have crossed the first suspension bridge you walk along another short path on the opposite side of the river. Walking along this path you will eventually reach another suspension bridge. Here you can turn left (just before the bridge) and follow a path down to the beach area.
Before heading down to the beach area I recommend walking out onto the suspension bridge. From here you get an amazing view of the area and on a sunny day will likely see the bluest water you have ever seen!
If you cross over this suspension bridge then this path continues on and is the start of the Young Valley Track track. This trail is approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) return. You can read more information about the Young Valley Track.
Hot tip: make sure to take or wear insect repellent because certain areas can be quite buggy.
Related Read: Plan your epic New Zealand road trip initerary with these ideas.
Where to stay near the Blue Pools
The closest town to the Blue Pools is Makarora. It’s about a 6-minute drive from the Blue Pools parking lot to Makarora which makes it super convenient. This is by far the best place to stay if you want to visit the Blue pools without the crowds.
Makarora is a very small town and accommodation is limited with only two places to stay. They are the Makarora Mountain View and the Wonderland Makarora Lodge. Both places have cabins and chalets with the Makarora Mountain View being the more luxurious hotel of the two.
If you’re camping then the best option is at the Camron Flat Campsite. This place is located in Mt Aspiring National Park only a few minutes from the Blue Pools and runs on a first come first serve basis. The campsite costs $8 a night for adults and $4 a night for children.
If you’d prefer to stay in a more touristic location then to the South your best option is Wanaka or Queenstown and to the north, Haast, Franz Josef or Fox Glacier. This is the most common way to visit the Blue Pools as it makes for a great stop on your New Zealand road trip itinerary.
Related Read: What our life looked like while freedom camping in New Zealand in a self-contained van.
5 Places to Visit near the Blue Pools, New Zealand
1. Thunder Creek Falls
Thunder Creek Falls is one of the best nearby attractions. This stunning waterfall is located only 20km (12 mi) north of the Blue Pools. The one really cool thing about this stop along the west coast is that it’s only a 5-minute walk from the highway!
2. Lake Hawea
As you drive north of Wanaka you’ll pass Lake Hawea. During the Lupin season, you can stop here and get some amazing photos on the edge of the lake. Its a great quick stop and the lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Here is also where the Isthmus Peak trail starts from. That’s the other hiking track that rivals the famous Roy’s Peak Hike.
3. Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier is the first Glacier you will get the chance to see as you head north along New Zealand’s west coast. To see the glacier you can either take a guided tour to the glacier via a scenic helicopter flight or you can simply hike to the viewing platform. A scenic flight and glacier hike will set you back around $485 but is an experience you won’t forget.
The free hike is located just outside of the town of Fox Glacier and is reached by a well-maintained path that takes around an hour to complete.
4. Lake Matheson
Lake Matheson is located just outside the town of Fox Glacier and is a must-visit. From the visitor parking lot, it’s a 1.5-hour return hike to the viewpoint of the lake. Here you can take in some spectacular views and on a calm day see stunning reflections of the Southern Alps.
5. Franz Josef Glacier
To see the glacier you can either do a helicopter flight to the glacier or an unguided or guided hike to the viewing point. The hike to the viewing point is very similar to the one at Fox Glacier but is slightly longer. If you would like more information on the hike, check out our post about the Franz Josef Glacier valley walk.
Thanks for reading!
Overall, Highway 6 is a great route between Franz Joseph and Queenstown. It is a gorgeous drive with some cool spots, like the Blue Pools, that are well worth checking out along the way.
If you plan on heading out to Queenstown then be sure to check out our Queenstown content as we have so many helpful blogs and hidden secrets from our time living there! We also have tons more New Zealand blogs you can check out and a few of our favorites are: