There's something special about soaking in hot water in the wilderness. Perhaps it's the beauty of the curls of steam rising as the sun sets over a distant mountain range. Perhaps it's a refreshing chance to delight in the simplest pleasures in life. Perhaps it's the sandflies hovering menacingly around that exposed knee or shoulder.

Source of the springs • By Matthew.

Whatever it is, it's an awful long way to go for a bath, so we've mapped out some of your options to help you choose wisely. Just one note of warning: Naegleria fowleri is a tiny protozoan that inhabits hot pools all over the world. If you allow water into your nose, this organism can make its way to your brain and set you up with a case of amoebic meningitis. This is a very serious disease, but you are perfectly safe if you keep your head above the water. If you do take water into your nose, immediately blow your nose vigorously to expell it.

If you mark them on a map, the hot springs form chains along major faultlines. Many of the South Island springs lie along the Alpine Fault, while a series from Cedar Flat through to Hanmer Springs marks the course of the Hope Fault. Commonly, the pools are dug-out spaces amongst the rocks at the edge of riverbeds. In heavy rain these may be washed away or filled with silt and need to be re-dug.

Welcome Flat Hot Pools. • By lawrence.

Name Map Time in Grade Location
Welcome Flat H36 7-8hr Easy-Moderate Copland River, Westland
The premier wilderness thermal experience! It's a long walk in to Welcome Flat, but the pools are very large, reliable and beautifully situated well away from the river with alpine views.
Otehake Hot Springs K33 3-3½hr Easy-Moderate Otehake River, Arthur's Pass
Very good pools dug out of a dry riverbed, with an excellent campsite nearby. A classic Arthur's Pass weekender.
Maruia Springs Thermal Reserve M31 - - Maruia Springs, Lewis Pass
Commercial springs that retain a wild atmosphere. Natural-style outdoor pools, accommodation and other facilities.
Hurunui Hot Springs L32 5-6hr Easy Hurunui River
Good deep pool dug into hillside above bend in the Hurunui River. Often the water is too hot, and may need cold water added from the river. Accessed by walking from Lake Taylor on the Lake Sumner Road west of Harwarden, or from Harper Pass-Kiwi Saddle Track.
Cedar Flat J33 3½hr Easy-Moderate Toaroha River, inland from Hokitika
Cedar Flat is a pleasant weekend spot on the Toaroha River near Hokitika. The hot spring is a little underwhelming if it has been built up to be something it's not, so we won't do that. When I visited, the water was hot, but the pool in the Wren Creekbed had washed away. The pool I dug was small and shallow!
Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve N32 - - Hanmer Springs
Commercial springs 1½hr drive from Christchurch. Family oriented. Range of services and activities available in township.
Sylvia Flat M32 - - Lewis River, Lewis Pass
Several pools dug into the riverbed 3km north of Boyle Village on SH7. A gap in the trees marked only as a rest area leads down to a car park and camping area on the banks of the Lewis River. Follow a track along the bank upriver a minute or so to the pools.
Great Barrier T09 20 min Easy Kaitoke Creek, Great Barrier Island
Kaimai-Mamaku T14 - - Hot Springs Road, near Katikati
Brunswick Hot Spring J34 1-2 days Moderate-Difficult South of Cedar Flat
Isolated spring on the Mungo River. Mentioned in Brabyn and Bryant's Tramping in the Southern Alps: Arthur's Pass to Mount Cook.
Smyth Hut J34 7-9hr Moderate Wanganui River, inland from Harihari
Mentioned in Brabyn and Bryant's Tramping in the Southern Alps: Arthur's Pass to Mount Cook.
Julia Hut K33 1-2 days Moderate Taipo River, Arthur's Pass
Small spring in riverbed some distance from hut