Those ancient Romans knew a thing or two about the healing properties of warm mineral springs. And a stunning location in which to enjoy them is surely an extra bonus.
So when New Zealand’s arguably most scenic springs can be found in a truly scenic part of the Lewis Pass National Park, on one of only three mountain highways through the Southern Alps, then a day trip – or perhaps a weekend – to experience a relaxing soak in Maruia Hot Springs’ blissfully natural thermal mineral water is surely a ‘must do’.
Although these springs have been visited for centuries, particularly by Maori who trekked through the region on their way to deliver precious pounamu to the east coast, and then later by early Pakeha settlers, they now bear little resemblance to how they looked and were used back then. In more recent times the springs were run along the principles of the Japanese-style onsen or hot spring resort, but several years ago James White, along with his partner and several co-investors, bought the property with the intention of refurbishing and extending it. Three years on, it is now part of a sophisticated property that offers much more than the opportunity to lie back and soak in a thermal pool.
A significant point of difference between Maruia Hot Springs and other thermal properties in the South Island is that the water is 100 percent natural, and due to the sheer volume of it passing through the pools, nothing is added.
Then there are the facilities on offer. A sheltered campground caters for around 50 families, but for those looking for more creature comforts there are several well-appointed rooms ranging from cosy through to positively luxurious.
All guests can choose from full spa services, too – imagine how good a massage would feel after a satisfying soak.
You might not want to spend too much time in your room, though, because the tariff includes 24-hour access to the indoor and outdoor hot pools. But wait, there’s more – there are three saunas and a steam room for guests to utilise, not to mention a satisfyingly deep plunge pool for those who enjoy the contrast between being enjoyably overheated and icy cold. You might also wish to take a nature walk in the forest environs.
Such activity is bound to generate an appetite which can be satisfied in the café, where casual but good food is available seven days, or the more formal restaurant where every taste is catered for. Given the remoteness of the location, all food is prepared on the premises and the management team is particularly proud of the quality of the dishes on offer.
Day access too
The good news for those who don’t have time to stay overnight and sample the full range of facilities and just want to call in for a soak in one of the pools is that the tariff to use the pools also includes access to the steam rooms and saunas.
In 2018 the resort was recognised in the World Luxury Spa Awards as the best Eco Spa regional winner in Australasia and the same year was voted the Luxury Mineral Spring Spa winner of New Zealand. It has also been awarded silver Qualmark status.