Hot pools are a particular favourite of mine. A great way to wind down after a hard day at work, or walking down to the local hot water stream for an early morning dip, I’ve experienced a few in New Zealand from the hot water stream with no facilities to the geothermal fantasy that is the Lost Spring Spa. I’d visited the hot spring at Morere as a child and was looking forward to visiting again.
“A treat not to be missed – gorgeous hot and cold springs set amid 364 hectares of rainforest. Rare in the world of hot springs, the Morere Springs produce 250,000 litres a day of hot ancient sea water. Known for its therapeutic values, the water is piped to a series of public and private hot pools. It is definitely worth taking a walk on any of the various walks in the Morere Scenic Reserve, from 10-minute walks up to three hours. Especially famous for its nikau palms, the dense virgin rainforest is home to a wide range of native birds.” AA TRAVEL GUIDE
I did have to laugh a little to myself after re-reading the AA’s guide to Morere after our visit. A treat not to be missed? I don’t believe it. While the Morere Springs and Scenic Reserve do make a nice place to stop on the way from Napier to Gisborne they seem to have let themselves go. They are priced comparable to Waikete Valley Thermal Pools or Taupo Hot Springs Spa however lack a lot of the facilities and features of these other options. At this point I think it is also worth noting that there is a base entry fee whether you are using the pools, reserve or walks of $8 per person. Morere Hot Springs are located 46kms from Wairoa (just over half an hour drive) and 52 kms from Gisborne (40 min)
With options to chose from including hot and cold, indoor and outdoor, public and private pools we paid extra to use the private hot pools. These are set between the family style outdoor pool and the plunge pool. The outlook was lovely and the pool was of a reasonable size for two people, however the building was dark and grim and looked in need of a good clean. There was graffiti on the wall as well, never a good look. The private pool was amazingly hot; the kind of hot that melts away aching muscles and does wonders to relax. They were that hot I could understand the 30 minute time limit.
Unfortunately the facilities are very basic and it’s always interesting sharing the bathrooms with spiders and their webs. Frankly, I’ve seen better kept long drops.
Following my misadventure with the facilities we decided to walk up to the plunge pools. These are a brief 10 minute stroll through a beautiful grove of Nikau palms and native bush. Nikau are the southernmost growing palm tree in the world. The Maori use the leaves for a variety of purposes including thatching houses, cooking and weaving. The berries are edible when green and the flower can be cooked and eaten and the heart of the leaves (rito) can be eaten raw. Walking through the palms gives the reserve a decidedly tropical feel, in spite of the weather. The path follows the clear stream that was visible from our private pool and leads up to the site of the #2 bath house.
The three plunge pools are set in a semi-open aired gazebo surrounded by native trees and ferns. One is hot, one medium and one cold. Watching people dash from the hot pool to plunge into the cold made for good entertainment. These pools were in much better condition that those closer to the office and while they were public pools, not private, I’d definitely use these next time I visit the springs.
The Morere Springs have a history dating back to pre-European times when they were used by Ngati Kahungunu. The springs were discovered by Europeans in the 1890’s and the first bath house was built in 1904. Eventually 3 bath houses were built on the site with a landslide in 1962 damaging the bath house furtherest away which lead to its closure.
Despite the facilities, a visit to the Morere Hot Springs should still be an essential stop on any trip around New Zealand’s East Cape, if only to say you’ve bathed in hot ancient sea water. I really enjoyed wandering through the pleasant tropical atmosphere of the rainforest and will definitely remember to leave time for a longer walk next time we visit.