Tekapo Springs is all about the views. Nestled into the side of a pine forest mountain and overlooking Lake Tekapo across to a
snow capped divide, this is possibly the most spectacular vantage point from any hot spring in New Zealand.
As an added bonus, because the water is actually from an ice cold glacial spring (see below for more details), the managing authority
advises that you can put your head under the water, because it is free from the water borne pathogens that are often present in
naturally hot springs in New Zealand. This is great for when you want to quickly unfreeze your brain and
warm up your ears in winter. The warm water spouts that fill the pools gently massage your shoulders as you take in the views.
Above: A warm water spout flowing into the main thermal pool at Tekapo Springs
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For swimmers, Tekapo Springs offers only limited opportunities to swim strokes, as the majority of the pools are fairly small
and congested due to its popularity. The relatively new Godley Deep Pool provides an opportunity to stretch out a bit more, but
it's a lot cooler than the other bathing pools, so is only comfortable for swimming in warmer months. The operating temperatures of the
pools is 36 to 40 degrees celsius (97-104 degrees fahrenheit) in winter, and 33 to 39 degrees celsius
(91-102 degrees fahrenheit) in summer, with the aqua play area
and adjacent deeper water pool operating at 28 degrees celsius (82 degrees fahrenheit). The best time of year to visit is probably in
late Autumn and early Spring, when the weather is cool but not freezing, and you can enjoy all of the pools. When I last
visited in mid-winter, not all the pools were open, and the cooler pools, which are equivalent in temperature to what you would find in
many indoor lap pools, were simply too cold to spend any time in. If you visit over the cooler months you can combine your swim with
an ice skate on the Olympic size outdoor rink. As a separate attraction in summer, a 50 metre long inflatable
water slide occupies the area otherwise covered by the skating rink.
Above: The magnificent view from the aqua play area at Tekapo Springs
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According to the managing authority, the spring water itself is actually extremely cold glacial water. The heat in the springs only
exists because of the ice rink and possibly (I'm speculating here) an excess of over-enthusiastic hydro-electric engineers looking for a side project.
The natural spring that spills from the side of the mountain fills the ice skating rink (and previously filled rinks that used to exist at
lower elevations), which then freezes over in winter. However in response to changes in climate and warming temperatures, an artificial cooling system
was introduced to ensure that the rinks actually froze over throughout winter. A by-product of this refrigeration was a lot of excess heat,
which is used to create the "hot" springs. So it's true that it is spring water, and it is hot, but unlike other naturally hot springs in New Zealand,
the heating process here is artificial. You can read more about the history of the springs here
Other Information Before You Go:
Lakeside Drive, Lake Tekapo, Canterbury District, 230 km (approx. 3 hr drive) south-west of the Christchurch city centre.
From Christchurch head along State Hwy 1 through Ashburton to Orari, then take the Orani Station Road which links
up to State Hwy 79 at Geraldine. From Geraldine, follow State Hwy 79 to Lake Tekapo. The hot springs are on the south-west corner of
the lake, with a large car park at the end of Lakeside Drive. There are large signs from the town centre to the hot springs.
Toilets, change rooms, showers, clothes spinner (centrifuge), shade sails, lockers (b.y.o. one and two
dollar coins), cafe, raised decks for your towels, ice skating rink, winter ice tube, summer inflatable water slide,
private spa and massage services available.
At the time of last visiting, adult single entry was $25, but there were cheaper options available for multi-day passes,
multi-activity passes and for groups or families. The waterslides are not included in the basic entry price. Towel and swimming
costume hire is available for a modest fee if you don't have your own with you. Check the managing authority website
Warm to Hot
Maximum water depth:
Minimum swimming proficiency required:
Beginners (under supervision)
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
No pets, no smoking, infants under three must wear a swim nappy.
Shade available out of the water
Open 10 am to 9 pm, 7 days per week. The skating rink is open Apri to September only.
Wheelchair accessible paths and toilets, and a hydraulic hoist available.
There is no accommodation at the spring complex. If you are staying overnight
in the area you can try
accommodation in Lake Tekapo
. If you can't find accommodation in Lake Tekapo, you can also try
accommodation in Twizel
, where I stayed, which is a larger town than Lake Tekapo, about 45 minutes drive away.
Try outdoor the ice skating.
Before you head out, make sure to read the
swimming safety information
and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions. The spring here is actually glacial and the water is chlorinated, so the managing
authority advises that it is not unsafe to submerge your head in the water and it won't affect your jewellery.
The marker indicates the approximate location of the picnic area.
If you would like to leave a comment about this swimming spot, please fill in the comment box below.
I am particularly interested in your experiences after visiting, and any changes in conditions, etc.
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© Brad Neal 2019. All rights reserved.