Wanting to skip crowded beaches, getting dumped by big waves and finding sand everywhere this summer? Then why not swap oceans for rivers, lakes and waterfalls and discover some of the best swimming spots New Zealand’s incredible North Island has to offer.
What do you get when a natural hot spring and freshwater stream meet? Kerosene Creek, also known as one of the most gorgeous Rotorua swimming spots. Rotorua is famed for its therapeutic geothermal waters, but a visit to Kerosene Creek doesn’t mean slathering yourself in volcanic mud and battling through the acrid smell. Instead, you’ll find a lush, leafy oasis with a natural spring that is kept at a comfortable (not too hot, not too cold) temperature thanks to the cool creek that runs through it. There’s even a small two-metre waterfall to bathe under. Perfect in any weather – but especially on a chilly winter’s day – it’s an outdoor bathing experience like no other.
Pori Pori Waterhole
While many flock to the Bay of Plenty for its stunning beaches, there’s a secret pool that’s fast gaining a reputation as the place to be on a hot day. Pori Pori has it all; surrounded by thick forest and enormous rock formations it boasts a waterfall, shallow rockpools and a large waterhole that’s deep enough to jump into from the surrounding boulders. And as one of the best family-friendly swimming spots in Tauranga – the largest city within the Bay of Plenty region – it’s a great place to visit on a hot day with the kids. Pack a picnic lunch and relax, you’re in for a guaranteed good time.
Ask any Wellingtonian where the best place to be when the mercury rises is and they’ll likely tell you it’s Waiohine Gorge. Just an hours’ drive out of the city, it’s considered one of the best swimming spots in Wellington thanks to the pristine, crystal-clear waters that flow from the Waiohine River and Totara Creek. Refreshingly cool throughout summer and super safe for little ones to splash around in, there’s also rocks for jumping off, or it’s a great location to go for a kayak or stand-up paddle board. But that’s not all – there’s a campground with basic facilities (if you want to stay overnight), plenty of walking trails and a large suspension bridge spanning the gorge.
Not only is Bulli Point one of the top-rated Lake Taupo swimming spots, but it’s also consistently ranked one of the best in the entire country. Located on the main road between Taupo and Turangi, it draws crowds of thrill-seekers all wanting to leap off the rock ledges into the deep, bright blue waters below. There are multiple jumping points, with the highest being seven metres. Once a secret spot, you’ll now find a mix of both locals and visitors keen to take the plunge here, so be prepared to wait in line to jump as it can get quite busy during summer.
Oakley Creek Falls
It’s hard to believe this hidden gem is located just 15 minutes from downtown Auckland. Oakley Creek Falls is the only natural waterfall in the city, and although encircled by dense native bush it feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of New Zealand’s largest metropolis. A short hike from Oakley Creek Reserve will get you to the site, and you’ll be greeted by the jaw-dropping six-metre falls and a super inviting swimming hole that’s sheltered and enticing. If you’re looking for a place to cool down on a scorching day, Oakley Creek Falls is undoubtedly one of the best swimming spots in Auckland.
When it comes to swimming spots in Palmerston North, it’s impossible to go past the mighty Manawatu River. This major waterway boasts 29 swimming areas, which means on a sweltering day those looking to cool off are spoilt for choice. There are plenty of fantastic locations, including the paved Manawatu Riverside Pathway in the centre of town, which offers great access to the east side of the river and often hosts the swimming components of local triathlons, or the Ashhurst portion of the river, where a small gravel beach appears at low tide. Many of the locations are dog-friendly too, so your furry friend won’t miss out on a dip either.
It may only have a surface area of 1.4 kilometres (making it one of the smallest lakes in the Rotorua region), but the Blue Lake, also known as Lake Tikitapu, is proof size certainly doesn’t matter. What’s most striking about this collapsed volcanic crater is its colour, which, thanks to the pumice and rhyolite bottom that reflects the sun, can change from vibrant turquoise to royal blue or sparkling aqua. The southern side of the lake is where you’ll find all the good lakeside beaches, but water sports of all kinds are welcome here, including jet skiing, water skiing and power boat racing. If you are heading to the Blue Lake, Rotorua, for swimming though, consider a wetsuit as the waters are pretty icy.
While there’s plenty of places to go swimming in Lake Rotorua, there’s something special about taking an icy plunge in the pure waters of Hamurana Springs. The springs remain at a constant 10° Celsius all year round – so you’re a brave person if you decide to go for a swim in winter. To reach the watery paradise you’ll have to follow an 800-metre track that winds through a stunning redwood forest, also home to an array of endangered bird species. Aquamarine and emerald green in colour, the water is so inviting at Hamurana Springs that you may not be able to resist a splash – no matter how cold it is!
Often overshadowed by the black-sand beaches of Piha and Bethells, Lake Wainamu is one of the best secret swimming spots on Auckland’s west coast. Reaching this lovely freshwater lake does require a one-hour hike from the Bethells Beach car park though, but it’s well worth the effort. Surrounded by rolling green hills and native forest it’s a gorgeous sight to behold, and the water is clean, cool and refreshing. If you’re not keen on getting wet it’s also an excellent place to cast a line, or you can keep walking to the nearby Wainamu Falls, another swim spot.
Charlie’s Rock Waterfall
Keep the little ones happy this summer with a visit to one of the best swimming spots for kids on the North Island. Located just 10 minutes’ drive from Kerikeri, the largest town in Northland, Charlie’s Rock Waterfall is like a wet and wild waterpark that the whole family can enjoy. There’s basalt rock formations of varying heights that are perfect for jumping off, and the water that spills over the falls is warmer than the main swimming hole – making for a lovely natural shower to splash under. A new public walkway makes getting to Charlie’s Rock even easier, and the path is also dotted with other swimming holes worth checking out.