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As one of the best beaches on New Zealand’s North Island, Hot Water Beach, New Zealand is a must-see tourist attraction! This blog includes all of the information you NEED to know before you go to Hot Water Beach to ensure your visit is the best possible!
Those who have traveled New Zealand before know that it is home to some pretty unique places to visit. One of the best is Hot Water Beach!
Hot Water Beach gets its name from the hot water that lies deep beneath the earth and trickles up forming hot areas that, with a little digging, can be turned into natural hot tubs or spas!
This natural phenomenon is a unique thing to do in New Zealand and unlike anything else in the world. I mean, where else can you sit meters from the shore in a natural sand-formed spa?
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 then you’re sure to experience Hot Water Beach in the best possible way!
About Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is a relatively normal beach that has one special feature – when it is low tide there are a couple of spots along the sand that are very hot under the ground. If you dig in these spots natural pools are created, and you guessed it, the water is actually hot!
The warm water isn’t actually from under the ground instead, it’s simply the ocean water that soaks beneath that sand. What actually heats the water is a crack in the earth’s crust that allows heat from its core to escape.
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!
The area to dig can take a little bit to find especially if you’re one of the first out there digging. Below, I show you exactly where to dig at Hot Water Beach so you can find the perfect spot!
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Where is Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
Hot Water Beach is located on the Coromandel Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island. You can easily visit Hot Water Beach on a day trip from Auckland or choose to spend a night or two near the beach.
At Hot Water Beach there is a small town made up of a select few accommodation options as well as a cafe. If you are going with a group I would recommend staying at Hot Water Beach Surf Sound Cottage, It’s situated on a tranquil garden property with plenty of indoor/outdoor space to entertain, plus it’s just a two-minute walk to the beach.
Getting to Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is located 175km (109 miles) from Auckland city on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island. The drive takes around 2 hours 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. Both towns are great places to stay if you can’t find accommodation at Hot Water Beach. In the summer months, be sure to book your accommodation in Tairua and Hahei well in advance.
If you don’t drive and want to take the bus to Hot Water Beach, 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, you can take the stress out of planning and go on a full-day tour from Auckland to Hot Water Beach. This expertly guided tour allows you to check out Hahei, Hot Water Beach, and Cathedral Cove, but you won’t be able to dig your own hot water pool on this particular tour so I would only recommend it if you are on limited time.
How to find the hot water at Hot Water Beach
Finding the hot water vents and Hot Water Beach can be a little difficult. There is only one small section of the beach that is hot and the beach is over a kilometer long.
With limited time to enjoy the hot water, it’s important to have a rough idea of where to dig before you arrive. Luckily, while I was there I noticed a few landmarks that make the exact spot to dig at Hot Water Beach easy to find.
Once you arrive at the Hot Water Beach parking lot 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 heat vents. I noticed that one heat 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 can start digging your little pool!
If all this sounds confusing then check out the picture above that I have marked to show you the correct spot! Of course, if you visit in the afternoon, hundreds of people will already be there so you’ll know exactly where to go!
When to visit Hot Water Beach
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 get submerged in cold ocean water. See current Hot Water Beach tide times here.
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 important. There are two ways to avoid the crowds at Hot Water Beach.
1. Don’t visit in summer
Summer is by far the busiest season in New Zealand so if the crowds bother you, consider visiting Hot Water Beach during winter! The water is 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! We also went once in December and it was completely packed!
2. Visit early in the morning
Sometimes the low tide is ridiculously early in the morning or late at night. If you visit during a time when most people normally wouldn’t then it won’t be as 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 busy at all. I think that most people visit Hot Water Beach during the afternoon or evening low tide.
What to bring to Hot Water Beach
The first thing you’ll need to visit Hot Water Beach (and most important) is 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 the 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Related Read: Check out these cheap and free things to do in Wellington to extend your visit on the North Island!
Safety at Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is also popular among surfers. This means large swells 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. People have drowned at Hot Water Beach and there are no lifeguards!
Instead, use the outdoor showers provided at the parking lot. Even if you are a good swimmer, care should be taken as submerged rocks and big waves can create hazards!
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Parking at Hot Water Beach
Yes, there is a public parking lot right at Hot Water Beach. However, it is paid parking and spaces are limited. On busy days I can see the very limited spaces filling up fast (getting in early would be a great way to save missing out.)
The main parking lot costs $4 NZD/hr or $25 for an entire day. You can check for updates as well as a map of parking online here.
There is also another parking lot on Hot Water Beach Road. This is a short walk from the main parking lot, but it is a good option when the main one is full.
Facilities at Hot Water Beach
Right on the beach is a set of bathrooms (to the left of the parking lot.) In front of them is a few outdoor showers for washing off. Also near the beach is a few small shops that sell coffee, food, and souvenirs.
Other Things to do near Hot Water Beach
The entire Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island is stunning. So there’s plenty to see and do! Here are a few of the best things to do near Hot Water Beach.
1. Visit Cathedral Cove
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 want to take in some beautiful sights while getting there you can go on the 2.7km (1.7 miles) Coastal Walk to Cathedral Cove, park at the Hahei Visitor parking lot because the Catherdral Cove parking lot is closed off. Note, while the walk is rated easy it is quite steep.
If you’re visiting Hot Water Beach then a trip to Cathedral Cove is a no-brainer – I mean just check out the picture above! There’s even a unique glass-bottom boat tour you can take that guides you straight to Catherdral Cove. While you’re out at sea they’ll let you hop off the boat for a snorkel.
2. Mercury Bay Winery
Mercury Bay Winery is the most beautiful winery on the Coromandel Peninsula. At the winery, you can wander the vineyard, or my favorite, try some of their amazing wines!
They have a moderately priced restaurant that serves local foods and has an outdoor deck with views of the ocean. It’s the perfect spot to spend the afternoon! If you really want a unique experience you can stay in their Bubble Tent that is partly transparent for stargazing, it will set you back $595 NZD/night.
Mercury Bay is open Sunday-Wednesday 11 am-3 pm.
3. Hike Mount Paku
From here you can see the Coromandel Coast like nowhere else. Honestly, it’s an amazing short hike and in my opinion, it’s a must-do! It has handrails and steps carved into the rock so it’s accessible for most people. You can bring your four-legged friend along but all dogs must be on a leash.
Related Read: Find out where to hike for the best view of Mount Taranaki, a free-standing volcano.
Where to Stay at Hot Water Beach
1. Hot Water Beach
While a day trip from Auckland is definitely possible (that’s what we did) another option is to stay at Hot Water Beach or a nearby town. At Hot Water Beach you can find accommodation near the beach in the form of hotels, holiday parks, and AirBnBs.
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.
2. Hahei Beach
If the accommodation at Hot Water Beach is booked up or too expensive then another really good place to stay is at Hahei Beach.
Hahei Beach is actually where the walk to Cathedral Cove starts from, so it’s a convenient option for visiting both attractions in the Coromandel.
From Hahei, it only takes 10 minutes by car to reach Hot Water Beach and the town of Hahei has a beautiful beach, shop, and cafe. In all honesty, it’s a much more beautiful spot than Hot Water Beach.
For me, this is my top choice and recommended place to stay when visiting Hot Water Beach.
There are lots of different accommodations to choose from in Hahei, but my personal favorite is Hahei Bed and Breakfast. Staying at the Hahei Bed and Breakfast will make for a clean and comfortable stay right in the village’s center. Not to mention, enjoying the provided breakfast in the morning will be convenient and cost-effective!
Tairua is one of the larger towns on the Coromandel Peninsula and as such, offers many more accommodation options. It only takes 25 minutes to reach Hot Water Beach by car so Tairua is another convenient option for accommodations.
In Tairua, you can find lots of shops, restaurants, a service station, and other general facilities that you won’t find at Hahei or Hot water Beach. The Paku Lodge Resort is a modest accommodation on the interior, however, the harbor views during sunset and the close proximity of all the previously mentioned spots in Tairua make it a winner.
Related Read: Looking for a unique New Zealand activity? Experience the culture of the Rotorua Maori
Before you go…
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 incredible spots in NZ, but it’s definitely worth visiting.
I hope this Hot Water Beach guide has helped you plan your visit and answered any questions you might have. If not, then please leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
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