Otumuheke Stream steams quietly through bush and scrub and along the edge of Spa Thermal Park in Taupō.
Then it drops down a couple of small waterfalls, filling the pools below them with beautifully warm, silky mineral water, before finally easing into the mighty Waikato. It’s gentle, beautifully relaxing and, unlike the more commercial options available, completely natural.
You just walk about 25 minutes from the town centre and through the park down towards the river. Once there, you get into your togs and then climb down the steps at the stream’s edge to soak in one of the pools, or even sit directly underneath the little waterfall.
You choose how hot you want the water by where you sit; and, if you want to claim a swim in the actual Waikato, the stream makes it less challenging here, temperature-wise.
* Taupō: The North Island’s most underrated town
* World Famous in NZ: Riuwaka Resurgence Walk, Kahurangi National Park
* Back Your Backyard: The natural gems of Taupō
* World Famous in New Zealand: Taupō’s Huka Falls
* World famous in New Zealand: Aratiatia Rapids, Taupo
Because nothing helps more in achieving peace of mind than getting something really good, for free. That’s a great bonus on top of the beauty of the natural surroundings and the simple pleasure of soaking in the warm water. It all works together to achieve the winning combination of mental tranquillity and physical relaxation.
If full immersion doesn’t suit you, there are convenient boulders to sit on and dangle your feet in the water.
Afterwards, you can sprawl in the sun on the grass, or the wide wooden steps, and watch the kayakers paddling past.
There are toilets and changing rooms nearby, as well as a #LoveOtumuheke sign for the Instagram-addicted. Though the pools are rarely crowded, you can explore further upstream for even more privacy, and higher temperatures.
ON THE WAY/NEARBY
Though it will probably destroy your now-peaceful state of mind, it’s a pleasant walk along the river from the pools to the Huka Bungy, where you can watch people flinging themselves off the platform, in ones or twos, plunging down 47 metres, or whizzing along on the swing at up to 70kmh.
It’s worth following the track down along the edge for different views back towards bungy operation on the cliff and of the welcome swallows that nest near it. From there, you can continue along the track towards the lake and the Control Gates Bridge, to see the river meekly doing as it is told.
For exactly the opposite sort of behaviour, you can walk from the stream along the river the other way, to the Huka Falls and marvel at the raw power of the Waikato as it surges through the gap. There are lots of biking options in the area, including the Rotary Ride and Waikato River Track, where you can find in the bush, if you look hard enough, a swing on a long rope above a valley to give you some different thrills.
Nothing! Which would be the best part of it, if it weren’t also so lovely.
BEST TIME TO GO
Any time when it’s open (7am till 8pm), even on a chilly day.