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Hanmer Springs
Canterbury Region, New Zealand

Hanmer Springs is the biggest public hot spring complex on the South Island with the widest range of pool temperatures and water-based activities, including a lazy river and several giant water slides. The thermal rock pools, which operate between 33-37 degrees celsius (91-99 degrees fahrenheit), are large enough to swim a few strokes from one side to the other, with the largest being around 15 metres across. Steam rising from the upper rock pool Above: Steam rising from the upper rock pool at Hanmer Springs, which is large enough to swim a few strokes (Order this image)

Alternatively you can have a longer swim in the 6 lane, 25 metre pool, noting that it is only heated to 28 degrees, which is not dissimilar to many indoor heated local council pools. The much hotter hexagonal and sulphur pools, which sit at 38-42 degrees, are only suitable for bathing and are not large enough for swimming.

You can visit at any time of year. In winter it's all about defrosting in the warmer pools. On my recent winter visit, when air temperatures were marginally above freezing, these hot pools were a godsend, and I really enjoyed being able to stretch out and swim across the upper rock pool.
Almost everyone congregated in the warmer hexagonal pools and the upper rock pools, as it was simply too cold to enjoy the lazy river, water play area and the lower rock pools, which we tried but quickly abandoned. Moving between pools was also challenging without thongs, as the soles of your feet would freeze on the stone paths if you weren't back in the water within a few minutes. The middle rock pool and connecting stream to the lower pool at Hanmer Springs Above: The middle rock pool and connecting stream to the lower pool at Hanmer Springs (Order this image)

In summer you can make use of the whole complex, but the sense of warmth wrapping around your body as you immerse yourself into the water is not as marked. Spring and autumn are probably a happy medium and arguably the best time to visit.

I quite liked the variety of pools on offer, and the relatively natural look of the rock pools. The area is well vegetated with established trees, so there was also a sense of exploration when moving from one pool to the next, as not all are readily visible from the entry point.
The hexagonal pools have submerged seating in the middle of the pool. From most pools there are (partly obscured) views to the mountain ranges around the area, which are snow capped in winter.

According to the managing authority, the water itself is pumped up from a groundwater bore 28 metres below the surface, and emerges at 52 degrees celsius (126 degrees fahrenheit). It was originally an artesian bore when the spring was first discovered in the late 19th century, but water levels in the aquifer have gradually declined. You can read more about the history and geology of the springs here. For the record, I have it on good authority from a local that the dyslexic pronunciation of Hanmer Springs is the correct one - it is pronounced as "Ham-ner" Springs, despite the spelling as "Han-mer".
Other Information Before You Go:
Location: 42 Amuri Ave, Hanmer Springs, Canterbury District, 135 km (approx. 90 min drive) north of the Christchurch city centre.
Latitude:-42.522842 Longitude:172.829271
Getting there: From Christchurch follow State Hwy 1 to Waipara then State Hwy 7 to Hanmer Springs. The spring complex is on the left hand side as you enter town, with street parking available on the service road just outside the springs entrance.

Facilities: Toilets, change rooms, showers, clothes spinner (centrifuge), sun lounges, beach umbrellas, lockers (b.y.o. one and two dollar coins), cafe, water slides, lawn areas, raised decks for your towels, private spa and massage services available.
Entrance fee: Yes, there is an entrance fee, but there were cheaper options available for multi-day passes and for groups or families. The waterslides are not included in the basic entry price. Towel and swimming costume hire is available for a modest fee if you don't have your own with you. Check here for the latest pricing.
Water temperature: Warm to Hot
Water clarity: Clear
Under foot: Concrete and rock
Maximum water depth: Approximately 1 metre
Minimum swimming proficiency required: Beginners (under supervision)
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog: No pets, no smoking, no glass containers
Sun shade: Shade available out of the water
Opening times: Open 10 am to 9 pm daily except Christmas Day. You don't need to book unless you want a private pool.
Wheelchair access: Wheelchair accessible paths and toilets.
Managing authority: Hurunui District Council
Nearby attractions: Hanmer Forest or the jet boat rides on the Waiau River on the way into town.
Before you head out, make sure to read the swimming safety information and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions. Specific to this swim, an amoeba in some New Zealand thermal waters can cause amoebic meningitis. The water in the main pools is disinfected by chlorination and regularly tested for the amoeba. The water in the sulphur pools is not chlorinated (i.e. it is natural thermal spring water), but according to the managing authority, the pools have never tested positive for the amoeba. Visitors are nevertheless advised by the managing authority to not put your head under the water as a precaution. If visiting in winter, water on the paths can freeze and be slippery, so don't run between the pools and preferably remember to bring a pair of thongs, crocs or sandals. The managing authority also advises that the water in the pools can discolour your jewellery and should be removed prior to entering the water.
Locality Map:
The marker indicates the approximate location of the entrance to the spring complex. If the map is not zoomed in locally, as can sometimes occur when loading, simply click or tap on "View Larger Map" below.
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