The temperature is a chilling two degrees and I’m stripped down to nothing but a bathing suit and winter hat. So far in my adventures around the globe, there is only one beach I’ve braved in two degrees and that’s Hot Water Beach in New Zealand. Everything about New Zealand is inspiring and the insane reality that you can literally dig your own hot springs on a beach amazes me. The beach may have been freezing during our visit in July but the water beneath us was scorching! Hot Water Beach is a popular notion with both locals and tourists. In this guide I’m covering all you need to know about visiting Hot Water Beach in Winter – it really is the perfect time to explore New Zealand.
What is Hot Water Beach and Why is it So Special?
Voted one of New Zealand’s best beaches, Hot Water Beach really is a cut above the rest. Unlike the rest of the beaches that line New Zealand Hot Water Beach has something more than meets the eye. Underneath the surface of the beach lay two hot springs, Maori and Orua. The hot springs lay under the surface of the beach and reach up to 64 degrees. During low tide, it’s possible to dig yourself a hot spring at Hot Water Beach even in wintertime!
Where is Hot Water Beach?
Hot Water Beach is located on the Coromandel Peninsula on the East Coast of New Zealand in the North Island. I think it’s one of my favourite places we visited during our time in the North Island because it is so unique! The beach is just a few hours from Auckland. You can drive there quite easily (see driving instructions on the map below) in just a few hours or you can take a tour from Auckland.
There are various tour and coach companies that run day trips to Hot Water Beach from Auckland. Take a look at this website for more details about those. We drove and enjoyed some epic scenery on the way. Hot Water Beach is only a 10-minute drive from Cathedral Cove another must do when visiting the Coromandel. Cathedral Cove is wonderful all year round offering a wonderful walk, secluded beaches and mesmerising sea cliffs.
Why is Hot Water Beach ‘Hot’?
Hot Water Beach sits on the Coromandel Peninsula on the East Coast of the North Island. The Hot Springs are 5-9 million years old and were created when the magma, from when the Coromandel was volcanic, was pushed to the surface. At one point in time, the whole region was volcanic. Now millions of years on we know that the volcanic activity is extinct but still cooling down on the Coromandel. The water underneath the beach stays warm all year round which is why it makes Hot Water Beach in winter very attractive!
Digging Hot Springs at Hot Water Beach
The best thing to do in Hot Water Beach is to basically dig a hole and sit in the water! Even in winter the water is still very hot and feels so beautiful on the skin! You’ll only need a couple of things when digging you’re spring, a shovel, bathing suit and probably a towel!
The most important being the shovel so that you can dig your way to that hot water! When I say shovel I mean a proper shovel, not a beach spade. You can bring one with you or rent them from the local shop at $10 so probably cheaper to buy before. We didn’t know this beforehand and ended up borrowing someone else’s but I would 100% recommend taking a shovel or renting one. If you visit in summer there will definitely be other tourists so you could probably use someone’s if you’re on a mega-budget. Hot Water Beach in winter can get really quiet so just go prepared! The sand is also quite ‘pebbly’ so difficult to dig with your hands! It takes some elbow grease to dig a decent-sized hole but once you’ve done it it’s so worth it.
How Hot is the Water?
When the water seeps up from under the sand and into the holes you’ll see it bubbling! A lot of people, myself included, wonder if this water is boiling. But then I quickly thought again once I realised my whole body was almost submerged! The water at hot water beach isn’t boiling and reaches 60-64 degrees below the surface so still pretty hot! Be careful once you’re in the water because your skin will burn! We saw a few people with very red backs after being laid down in a hot spring for a long time! Of course, it’s a great way to forget about the biting temperatures of winter! When we visited it was about 2-5 degrees so laying in very hot water was bloody gorgeous!
Best Time of Year to Visit Hot Water Beach
That’ll depend on who you ask. Though very close to Australia the weather in New Zealand is more like the UK, especially in winter. The winters in New Zealand are cold, snowy and wet. Unlike the UK though, the summers are scorching consistently reaching between 20-30 Degrees Celsius.
These figures might have you flocking to New Zealand for summertime but I think winter is one of the best times to visit. Hot Water Beach in winter is so quiet. The town on the beachfront is practically asleep with just one or two shops open for business and tourists are very few and far between. When we visited Hot Water Beach in winter they’re we’re only about 7 others on the beach too giving us free rein!
So, I can Still Visit Hot Water Beach in Winter?
Yes! Absolutely the time of year makes no difference to the hot springs. In summer, of course, the temperature in the air will be a lot different but you can still visit Hot Water Beach in Winter. The only thing that affects when you can access the Hot Springs is the tides which I’ve talked about in the next section!
The Tides at Hot Water Beach
The most important aspect of planning a visit to Hot Water Beach is the tides! The hot springs are only accessible at low tide so you need to plan your visit carefully. Check out this website to keep an eye on the tides. There are two low tides every day so depending on what time of year you visit will depend on what time the tide is low. In winter we had a low tide at 8 am and then again at 5 pm so it was an early start for us. You’ll probably be chilling in your man-made hot spring until the tide starts coming in, you’ll feel it as the water cools down and the waves come crashing into your pool.
Essentials For Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is quite out of the way with only a few shops so be well prepared for your visit! I would recommend making sure you have the following attire for your visit to Hot Water Beach:
- Water – it can feel a little like a spa and can dehydrate you when the water is so warm!
- Waterproof Camera
- Flip Flops
For Visiting Hot Water Beach in Winter:
- Winter Hat
- Big Coat
- Clean clothes you can change into straight away
Facilities at the Beach
You’ll find the usual facilities at Hot Water Beach and they are very well maintained!
- Cold Showers
- Changing Area
- Parking free and paid (see below)
- Convenience Shop
- Gas in the next town of Hahei
Parking at Hot Water Beach
There are three choices of parking down at Hot Water Beach. The first option is to park on the beachfront which is pay and display $2.50 an hour. The signs do say no camper vans in this car park but we, when visited in winter people, appeared to be ignoring the signs.
The second option is another pay and display car park $2 an hour just 5 minutes before the car park mentioned above. This car park is huge with camper-vans definitely allowed.
The third option is my favourite because I love free parking! About 7 minutes before you reach the main beachfront is a car park that’s completely free of charge. Take a left turn off the road and down the hill using the track to find the car park. This car park may seem further afield but you can actually just hop straight onto the beach and walk along the front to the hot springs in 10 minutes.
Other Things to Do Near Hot Water Beach in Winter:
- Walk on the beachfront
- Visit the village of Hahei
- Cathedral Cove Walk
- Stroll along Hahei Beach
- Boat Trip to Cathedral Cove
- Hiking at Coromandel Forest
Accommodation in Coromandel
You’ll find lots of accommodation in Coromandel itself but there’s also quite a bit of choice in Hahei and nearer Hot Water Beach. You’ll find holiday homes and Air BnB listings right near the beachfront at Hot Water Beach as well as in Hahei. Hahei offers a motel and backpackers as well as lots of Air BnB listings too. I always book my accommodation on booking.com when I’m not camping as I feel like they always provide the best deals AND with most accommodation options you can cancel up to 24 hours before which I find really helpful just in case travel plans change! Use the search box below to search for your accommodation in Coromandel!
Camping in Coromandel
There are loads of options when it comes to camping in coromandel from freedom camping to awesome campsites! Find details below of an awesome freedom camping spot about 15 minutes from Hot Water Beach. For something a little nearer check out these holiday parks at within 10 km of Hot Water Beach:
Freedom Camping Near Coromandel
We found a lovely spot for the night using the app Wiki Camps. If you’re planning on freedom camping in New Zealand then I highly recommend this app. It’s $2.99 and totally worth it, that’s coming from someone who never pays for apps or anything she doesn’t have too! It was super handy in finding freedom camping spots that we would’ve never come across without it!
The Coroglen Reserve is basically a rest area but it’s great for the one night. There are toilet facilities, yes there do stink, and good mobile phone reception. It was a really peaceful night despite being quite close to the road. The ultimate surprise with this little spot was the immense sunrise it gave us in the morning, I was not expecting such a view!
Street Address: Coroglen Reserve, State Highway 5, Thames Coromandel District, North Island
Hot Water Beach should honestly make it onto any North Island itinerary! It’s such a laugh and the history behind it is so impressive! There aren’t many beaches in the world where you can dig your own hot spring! It really is one of a kind!
I hope you enjoyed this post and got all the information you were looking for when it comes to visiting Hot Water Beach in Winter! If you did enjoy it please share it with your friends – I would be so grateful & for more posts like this make sure you subscribe to my monthly newsletter so you know exactly what’s coming next!
Wishing you happy and healthy travels,