Destinations, New Zealand, New Zealand, Road Trip

Digging for heat at Hot Water Beach, NZ

12 Comments 12 February 2012

Digging for heat at Hot Water Beach, NZ

After six months of living in Wellington and a month of traveling New Zealand, I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how extreme the sun, how warm the day or how beautiful the beach, the water is almost always unbearably cold in this country. So you can imagine just how appealing a place called Hot Water Beach is to travelers.

Located on the Coromandel Peninsula, about a ten minute drive South of Hahei, Hot Water Beach has thermal waters beneath its sands. With visions of hot springs and jacuzzis in my head, I approached this beach outing ready to unwind and relax.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one. Nor did I realize just how hard it is to dig a hole in sand. This may not be the experience you would expect from a place with thermal waters, but this was my experience at Hot Water Beach, NZ.

I was excited to visit the beach from the moment I woke up. I slipped out of my tent early and wandered down to the front office at Hahei Holiday Resort to rent a spade (shovel) and check low tide times for the day. I paid a $NZ10 deposit for a spade, which I received back upon return.

You’ll find places selling or renting spades all over the Peninsula. A lot of the places that rent them collect a deposit and charge a fee. I was lucky to find our accommodation lent them pretty much for free.

People should visit the beach either two hours prior to or after low tide. 

Ric and I arrived at Hot Water Beach almost exactly two hours prior to low tide and walked out to the type of view that makes New Zealand so special; gorgeous sands below, rolling farmland in the distance, clear water in front and only a few people in sight. However, this wasn’t the Hot Water Beach we came to experience. To reach the piece of beach with thermal activity, we’d have to walk ten minutes to the right.

A whole Hot Water Beach to ourselves. Not really. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

As I walked further down the beach a large rock that had been hiding a small piece of it started to reveal my worst nightmare, 150 meters of Seaside Heights on Fourth of July weekend. For those who have never visited New Jersey or never watched The Jersey Shore, this means a ridiculous amount of people, screaming kids and obnoxious people who don’t even try to not kick sand on your towel as they walk by.

Like I said, my nightmare.

Everyone from Hot Water Beach crammed into one spot. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

But I still had to give the place a try.

As soon as we reached the crowd, we found the emptiest spot we could and started digging. Five minutes in and the water was cold. Ten minutes in and the water was still cold. Fifteen minutes of digging and although we were hot, the water was still cold.

What were we doing wrong?

Finally, a wonderful man came over and told us we had to search for warm spots. Those spots can be found as soon as you walk on them. 

I looked up to see a massive group of people digging around one area of beach. They were surrounded by steam. I had to test it out.

Hot water?

More like boiling water.

I literally felt like I burnt my feet after walking in their hole.

So I kept searching for a hot spot of my own. I felt everywhere in the area, but couldn’t find it. I started to think, “Is that it? Is just that one spot ‘Hot Water Beach’?”. Ric and I both started to get annoyed and stupidly just started digging at a random spot.

And this is no easy task. In fact, digging a hole on the beach is probably one of the most discouraging things I’ve ever done.

I would dig a spot just to see more sand sink into it. Only after a few minutes of digging would a hole start to form and that would come just in time for a wave to crash into the short wall Ric and I had made and shatter our dreams of reaching warm water.

It went on like this for about twenty minutes without the water getting even the slightest bit warmer. Just as we were about to give up, Ric went to look for a hot patch. He came back shaking his head, so I gave it a try.

The tide had gone out a lot since we first arrived, giving the crowd room to spread out and a lot more beach to explore. I started feeling around an area right at the water’s edge.






There it was, an extremely hot patch. I motioned for Ric to come over. He started digging, but waves just kept crashing into us and destroying our wall of sand. This was our spot, but we had to wait out the tide. So we stood there, spade in hand, for about twenty minutes, giving it a go every now and again to only be let down.

Finally, we just started digging like crazy. Ric dug into the sand ferociously with the spade as I got on the ground and started throwing out sand with my hands. Slowly, our hole started to resemble the hot water pools we’d seen on posters.

We must have dug for about an hour and only created a pool deep enough to reach the front of my hip bones while laying down. It didn’t matter.

We did it.

Relaxing in our hot pool, finally. Photo by Richard Hackey

All we had to do now was lay in the warmth of the earth and watch everyone else work. And that’s what we did for about an hour as a few tiny bubbles popped up around us. After all our hard work came the bliss I had imagined.

It’s really quite amazing that a place like Hot Water Beach exists and certainly nothing like I’ve visited before. For that, it’s worth a visit, but prepare to work for this New Zealand experience.

Here’s some things to remember on your trip:

  • a spade (shovel)
  • sneakers (hot spots are often too hot to even stand on)
  • sunscreen (NZ sun is extremely strong, don’t forget to protect yourself while digging)
  • water
  • low tide times

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  • Amanda Williams

    My friend and I visited during the off-season, but there were still a decent number of people on the beach digging holes. We failed to bring a spade and didn’t have an hour to dig our own hot tub, and so just kind of watched everyone else for a while. It certainly is a cool beach, though! I’m sure the reward was well worth the effort!

  • Jeremy

    No kidding! The water is freezing in New Zealand! Just went swimming today…ouch!

  • Our Oyster

    Haha! You did better than I did! We had torrential rain the day we visited and also no luck finding hot water! but it was still fun

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    A spade is definitely needed. I was on my knees digging with my hands while Ric used the spade and I contributed very little haha. Though I was contemplating just waiting till someone left their hole and popping in it! Definitely an amazing place though.

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    Did you go swimming in Wellington? I tried there a few times, but the cold water and the wind killed me off. Good on ya for getting in there though.

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    Lame. We were lucky. The sun was out for us. I don’t think I would have kept trying if it was raining and cold.

  • Anja

    So Hot Water Beach is actually a tiny spot at a large beach? I am so amazed to see that amount of people digging in the same area! I’m wondering if it could be fun under rain; I mean, in the end you will be warm by hard work and hot water :-) I look forward to go there!!

  • Diana Edelman

    So cool!! I want to check this place out!

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    It is really interesting. Definitely stop by when in New Zealand. The whole area is quite beautiful and WARM!!!

  • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    I think it be better in the rain. It was hot when we were there, so we weren’t too bothered about getting warm. In fact, I just wanted to get in the ocean.

  • David

    I would so love to do that! I reckon it would be amazing.

  • Mallowsantos

    Wow. I am amaze what I saw. These are really cool ( hot ) beach. I wish I could go there and dig some hot treasure to relax. Nice article! – Check some cool places

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