A Drive in the Country to find the Perfect Soak at Ngawha Hot Springs

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Ngawha Hot Springs, New Zealand.
Soaking at Ngawha Hot Springs.

Yesterday was a gray day down here by the sea, and when I woke up, a big cruise ship was moored off the coast of Paihia. I had an afternoon free after our rowing trip on the Waka so I dialed in an address to the GPS and drove my sporty red RAV4 over the same winding roads that had taken me to the Kauri forest.

This time, my destination was a recommendation from Hone, the Maori man in the boat, who said that the Ngawha Hot Springs was a magical place. I finally got to Ngawha, and I’d have to call it ‘shabby chic.’  It was a run down little facility with cheesy plastic fencing, broken signs, lots of work in progress, but it did deliver its ultimate prize—there were about ten pools of varying degrees ranging from insanely hot to just about perfect.

Handwritten signs in the very run-down locker rooms proclaimed “don’t leave your valuables!” and around one side, someone had begun building a fence using poles cut from trees. A huge pile remained, as if they never got around to finishing their project. All of the pools were listed on a board, with today’s temperatures beside them.

Driving the country roads of the Northlands, New Zealand.
Driving the country roads out of Paihia.

I ventured out and dipped my toe into the first pool. One pool called Bulldog was 52. Oh no!  Then another called ‘Baby’ perfect at 44. The small pools with crude wooden sides bubbled and the steaming water was grey. I joined a couple of local men, seniors who said these pools helped their arthritic joints.  On the other side a trio of young girls were lathering up with black mud scooped from the bottom of another pool.

“>View a slideshow of the pools and the scenery.

It costs all of $4 to experience the soak of these natural hot springs. I asked whether they ever thought about raising the price and making it a little nicer.  But then I realized, it’s great just like it is, everything doesn’t have to be shiny, clean, new and perfect after all.