The Elusive Hari Hari Hot Pools

I was at work, it was a quiet day, I was counting down until our New Zealand Road trip began. I was jumping up and down with excitement. (Not very professional, you might say. In my defense, there were no customers at that precise moment, and even had there been, I would have been hidden from their view – so there.)
Let’s resume. I was jumping up and down, clapping my hands with glee at the information I had just heard.
You may have already seen Plane Sailing’s Kiwi Bucket List (or if not, you can read it here) and you may therefore know that ‘find some natural hot springs’ figured on that list. Without Akita (awesomely, amazing Akita from Karamea on the West Coast) this could have been a tricky one to tick off. I was jumping for joy because she had just given me detailed directions on how to find some natural hot pools – directly on our route.

After Queenstown and Roys Peak, we planned to drive up the West Coast as it was a part of the country we had not experienced. The hot pools we were aiming for are located in Hari Hari, a tiny town between Wanaka and Hokitika. We set out from Albert Town for Franz Josef Glacier, slowing the pace slightly as I was taken ill en route. We proceeded cautiously, my plastic bag clutched tightly (and unnecessarily I may add) in my sweaty hand, until we reached the car park for the glacier. It felt more like an obligatory visit by this point as I made my way sluggishly down the busy path, doubling over every now and then, clutching my stomach. Despite this hindered progress, we eventually made it and Devin dutifully snapped a few shots while I rested on a handy nearby rock. I will always remember the eery blue tint of the glacier… and the tree I threw up on. Travelling isn’t always glamorous!

Franz Josef Glacier

By the time we approached Hari Hari, some of my forgotten excitement returned. I stared at the map, trying to replay the precise directions given by Akita two weeks (a lot of packing, and adventuring) ago. Why didn’t I write them down? More fun this way.

We drove through the town, over the bridge, and came to the sharp left hand turn. There, a gravel road pulled off to the right. That was the one, I knew it! We took the right and started off-roading. Then I drew a blank. With no idea how far to go, nor which way to turn, all we could do was explore. We followed the track using my faint recollections as a guide until we finally came across a clearing with a surprisingly clean white hire car parked in its centre. The remoteness of the location coupled with the presence of others, suggested we were in the right place. We set off on an expedition, me still slightly queasy. We were looking for an area close to the river with steam rising from the bank. We stumbled up and down the rocky river-side for well over an hour before we reconvened at the car. Funnily enough, we hadn’t even come across the owners of the white car, leading me to believe they were wallowing in secret, hidden hot pools somewhere.


Natural hot pool

Feeling tired and defeated, not to mention ever so achey from our Roys Peak hike the previous day, we drove sedately back towards the main road. Within minutes, we came back into phone coverage and we grasped at a final straw and called Akita.

Minutes later, our muscles sighed as we sunk our bodies into the soft mud, wrapped up in the warm 38° naturally headed water. The pool was exactly as Akita described; tucked right up against the bank, the river flowing a few metres away, a knee deep hole dug into the silky mud, with large stones strategically placed to act as a back rest. Ironically, this is the first place we looked! I found one tiny, bright green, inch deep, too-hot-to-touch pool, yet we somehow missed the larger ones!

Green hot pools

Not long after submerging ourselves, several other travellers turned up and claimed the remaining pre-existing pools. We soaked our sore muscles, and cleansed our skin with the vitamin rich mud that left us feeling silky smooth.

Getting out was a rushed process as the west coast sandflies were out in droves – and boy were they hungry! We hopped straight from the pool into the river flowing nearby for a rinse, then sprinted back to the car where the bug spray was to be found! Ahh, deet!
On we drove to the next campsite, feeling relaxed and refreshed once more.

The Song of the Sandfly

In front of you, a beautiful spot,

Yet there’s not a soul in sight

No one goes there during the day,

No one ever sleeps there at night!

Now it has you wondering,

Has you asking why.

Until you discover The Pesky Sandfly.

Oh, you may run, but not quick enough,

He’ll soon be hot on your heels.

By now you should know, (or if you don’t you soon will)

He eats tourists for all of his meals!



  1. Hi, so sorry you weren’t feeling well, hope you are better now…hope you didn’t throw up in the pools… I love the pics. I would love to be rolling around in hot mud…it must feel great. When are you leaving for Tonga? Looking forward for more of your travels Love you both.
    Grandma Lorraine

  2. But it is strange how a bit of adversity makes those memories all the more memorable and funny! Things like bad weather, some inconvenient pukeing and irritating insects or animals can all become quite hilarious later on. I actually remember those west coast sandflies with a certain affection now….of course, being on the other side of the world helps.

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