Auckland and Waikato: Five of the best hot pools

Soak your cold bones in a hot pool. For a fitting end to a family outing, finish with a picnic of fish and chips, of course.

Waikato's Miranda Hot Springs
Waikato's Miranda Hot Springs

1. Parakai Springs or Palm Springs Thermal Pool
155 Parkhurst Road, Parakai

Only 40 minutes from the city are the geothermal wonders of Parakai, with two pools to choose from, Parakai Springs and Palm Springs.

The springs have the action of hydro-slides, and huge indoor and outdoor pools. Palm Springs has four different pools (including the super-hot "lobster"). Both have cafes and food for the day's outing.

2. Miranda
Front Miranda Rd, phone: (07) 867 3055

Around the gorgeous coast of the Firth of Thames are the classic Miranda mineral pools, thermally heated fresh mineral water in three pools (one has an aqua lift for accessible entry) plus four private spa pools. Next door is the spick and span campground, while the drive to Kaiaua is worth it for the world-famous-in-New-Zealand fish and chips.

3. Waiwera

The old-school Waiwera Resort has had its ups and downs since it started in the 1800s. Some 350,000 visitors make the easy 35-minute drive north from Auckland every year. Kids are happy with slides big and small, a waterfall, mushroom water features and the big screen movie pool; adults prefer the spa pampering in private. There are cafe and picnic areas, but be sure to stop at the roadside trucks on the way into Waiwera for fresh offerings of seasonal fruit or kai moana, straight from the farm or sea.

4. Hot Water Beach

Forget the summertime crowds - head to Hot Water Beach on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula for a gorgeous winter soak in the dig-your-own pools. You have to know your tide charts (the pools are best one hour either side of low tide - check the website for handy calculator). Bring your own spade and bucket for the earthworks, and be prepared for hot, hot water. For a special day, take the ferry from Auckland and join the tour to Hot Water Beach with a guide from Coromandel Adventures.

5. Whitianga Lost Spring Day Spa

Head further around to Whitianga to the unbelievable Lost Spring Thermal Springs and Day Spa, rediscovered in the 1980s by persistent local farmer Alan Hopping (based on local Maori legend) and opened only in 2008. With gorgeous Pacific-style landscaping, therapeutic natural thermal spring pools, a smart restaurant and pampering treatments, these are not your usual hot pools.

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