Bathing in a geothermal pool rich with minerals and heated by nature is a New Zealand specialty. Bubbling hot pools can be found all over New Zealand and visitors have travelled to places like Rotorua to ‘take the cure’ since the 19th Century. Maori used New Zealand’s thermal pools therapeutically for generations before the arrival of Europeans but, for them, geothermal features also held spiritual significance. In Rotorua, you can take a boat trip to Mokoia Island and soak your feet in Hinemoa’s Pool – the hot natural pool where the heroine of local legend, Hinemoa, warmed herself after swimming across Lake Rotorua to be with her lover, Tutanekai. Opinions now vary on the health benefits of thermal bathing, but there’s no doubt that a soak is wonderfully relaxing! If you’re in The Coromandel, you can even dig your own hot pool – a geothermal spring filters up through the sand at Hot Water Beach.
Other Hot Pools
New Zealand also features a range of non-geothermal pools, which may be heated by nature but are not filled with thermal water. The pools of Alpine Springs in Lake Tekapo are fed by mountain springs, while the Glacier Hot Pools in Franz Josef derive their waters from glacial streams. At Ocean Spa in Napier and Mount Maunganui Hot Salt Water Pools you can soak in hot salt water pools.
Massage has been practised by Maori for hundreds of years. Traditional Maori healing was based around massage, medicine and spiritual guidance. There are two main forms: romiromi, or deep tissue massage, which applies intense acupressure; and mirimiri, a gentler, soft tissue massage. Both varieties of Maori massage can be experienced in many places around New Zealand. Hells Gate and Wai Ora Spa in Rotorua features a traditional mirimiri experience which concludes with a special karakia (prayer). Other spas may incorporate elements of traditional Maori massage into their treatments: LeSpa at the Sofitel Queenstown offers a hot stone massage with New Zealand greenstone (pounamu).
For the ultimate escape from everyday stresses, unwind at a wellness retreat. There are numerous specialist retreats throughout the country offering all manner of treatments to enhance your wellbeing – from massage, spa therapy and hydro-treatments to yoga and weight-loss programmes. The indulgence offered at these hideaways is often mirrored by stunning surroundings, as many are located in wilderness settings. Holistic sanctuaries take care of mind and spirit as well as body, and sometimes feature self-improvement seminars or classes, while eco-retreats seek to look after their guests and the natural environment alike.