New Zealand's unique location on the fringes of the Pacific plate make it one of the most thermally active and exciting places on the planet. Spilling over with choices of geothermal-powered days out, we have chosen a selection of paid and free hot-water experiences to enjoy around the country.
Te Puia Geothermal Valley, Rotorua
Rotorua's geothermal reserve, Te Puia percolates not only with geothermal activity but also Māori culture, crafts and hospitality. The Whakarewarewa valley has been welcoming visitors to experience the natural attractions for 170 years, making it one of the original seats of kaitiakitanga. It was formally set up as an institute to foster Māori arts and culture in the 1960s and today it has been vested to Rotorua iwis as a home for traditional carving and cuisine. Restaurant Pātaka Kai offers cooking from traditional hangi earth ovens on selected Fridays and Saturdays.
A day at the valley is the place for immersion in traditional crafts and the energy generated by more than 500 geothermal wells. One of which is world heritage treasure the Pōhutu geyser. Living up to its name, the "big splash" is the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Price: Day pass - $60 per adult, $15 per child
Wairakei Terraces, Taupō
The thermal spas inspired Victorian writer Rudyard Kipling to create a whimsical story for the Herald in 1892, about a hot pool that showed a window on to the other side of the world. While this was creative licence, natural mineral spas do provide an insight into New Zealand's geothermal past and 1000 years of human habitation around the hot pools. The man-made terraces are a more recent edition from 2001 - but they look the part.
Price: $25, adults only (14 years and over)
Orakei Korako, Taupō
Accessible only by boat, the "Hidden Valley" on the banks of the Waikato is some way off the geothermal highway. However, the stunning rainbow waters and sulphur pools will make you feel like you've detoured to Mars. You'll not have any opportunity to bathe in the acidic waters however there are some unique sights. These include the Ruatapu thermal cave and unpredictable sapphire geyser.
Price: $39 per adult, $15 per child under 16
Hell's Gate, Rotorua
Tikitere or Hell's Gate in Rotorua is all about volcanic mud, glorious mud. Health buffs from around the world have come to bathe in the stuff. Or, to simply stare into the mesmeric, primordial pools. Reportedly the Gates and many of the thermal features gained their name from God-fearing Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw in 1934.
From diabolical hot pools to Hell's kitchen - today a full-day experience comprises of thermal spa treatments and eating kai cooked in a geothermal hāngi .
Price: Mud bath $79 per adult or $25 for general entry to the sulphur spa
The cleft mountain, Mt Tarawera still bears the scars of the 1886 eruption. Once home to pink terraces, the natural spa pools were obliterated in a violent explosion that killed more than 100 people and buried entire villages. The Te Wairoa archaeological site ($30 adult ticket) provides a glimpse into the darker side of New Zealand's geothermal activity.
While the impressive terraces are sunk at the bottom of Lake Rotomahana, there are still hot springs and thermal beaches on the shoreline which are completely free to visit along the DoC Trail. However you may wish to avoid the 30km hike and splash out on a water taxi.
More extravagant still, the luxury Solitaire Lodge offers a two-night thermal springs and boat transfer package from $3500 a room.
The Otumuheke Stream pools are crystal-clear gem on the edge of Taupō. A free day out near the Huka falls, natural hot water mixes with the cool Waikato River creating a perfect bathing location. The spa park is within 30 minutes' easy walk from the town centre with onsite changing and locker facilities. Pack your togs and a towel.
Welcome Flat Hot Springs, West Coast
The North Island doesn't get the monopoly on hot springs. Among New Zealand's most southerly hot pools, the Welcome Flat Hot Springs is also one of the most scenic. Sit back and bathe in the alpine views of Aoraki's Sierra Range. Getting there is not so easy. At the end of a seven-hour walk on the Copeland Track, south of Fox Glacier. It's a multi-day hike.
There is a DoC Hut and Campsite near the hot pool track for $20 a night, but booking is required.
Kawhia Hot Beach, Waikato
You'll dig this. About an hour south of Hamilton on the other side of Kawhia, you'll find a thermal experience at the ocean's edge. Like the Coromandel's Hot Water Beach, but with a fraction of the crowds, take a spade and dig at low tide to unearth your own, instant thermal spa. You'll have to dig around until the temperature is just right, but you'll always be able to cool down with an ocean dip.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com