A man was airlifted to hospital with a suspected broken leg after being hit by a wave while swimming in Matapouri's Mermaid Pools.

Emergency services were called to the scene, 35km north-east of Whangarei yesterday after the man, believed to be in his late teens or early 20s, was injured when he was hit by a wave in the popular pools.

The Auckland-based Westpac Rescue Helicopter dropped two paramedics on to rocks near where the man was injured, and after treating him at the scene, strapped him into a stretcher and he was airlifted out.

It's believed the man was hit by a large wave and seriously injured when it dashed him onto the rocks.

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The Mermaid Pools are a popular attraction and in October were named by AA Directions among the top 10 places in New Zealand to take a dip

However, access to the pools is difficult after the main track was closed by a landslide several years ago.

It can also take people by surprise, with its beauty belying the danger from the sea. In 2013 a family, including a three and a 6-year-old, were having a picnic there when a wave snatched the 3-year old into the sea. Her father jumped in and was lucky to find her but he was cut and bruised. The mother managed to grab the 6-year-old in time.