268 Days on the Road
In New Zealand, you can’t avoid rainy days but you can sure find some perfect rainy day activities. As we huddle in the car on the now-sleek and slippery gravel/mud roads of Te Urewera, playing with the anti-fog settings in our non-stop battle for comfort against the rain, all we can think about is how we can’t wait to arrive in Morere so we can jump in some hot pools!
A rainy journey to Morere
Nevertheless, New Zealand always looks stunning under the rain, especially when driving through the largest tract of native rainforest in the North Island, the Te Urewera rainforest. The greenery is made all that more greenery and the misty hue hanging around the mountains creates a bit of an eerie atmosphere. We just assume that it’s the “Children of the Mist”, as we learned about in our boat trip around the rainforest’s central lake, saying goodbye.
From rainforest to rolling farmland, we travel through the northern Hawke’s Bay region, just bypassing the awesome little town of Wairoa, that we explored on the way in. We also get a glimpse of the wetlands that we horse trekked on, barely seeing it under the fog. Man, we are so glad we had a sunny day for that trip!
Super affordable hot pools
We finally arrive in the tiny village of Morere nestled in a forest of New Zealand’s native palm tree, the Nikau palms. The sign for the Morere Hot Springs is super easy to spot from the road, so we drive straight there, manically grab our togs (that’s Kiwi for swimwear), and dash towards reception to minimise our time in the heavy showers. The Morere Hot Springs are super affordable, especially compared to other hot pools around the country, but they sure are big step up from rolling around in the mud in the free hot springs found around New Zealand.
The Morere Hot Springs
The Morere Hot Springs has four different pool areas to choose from: a large cool outdoor swimming pool, a large indoor hot pool, two private hot pools, and a mini complex of two hot pools and a cold plunge pool in the nikau forest. What’s more, the latter is sheltered. The friendly owner of the hot pools, Wendy, points us in the right direction of the Nikau Hot Pools, which as a six-minute walk through the forest – an epic little mission in itself! Thankfully, she has a huge umbrella to lend us.
A moment of appreciation for the nikau forest
Of course, as we drove into Morere, we saw that the village felt different from anywhere else we have visited in New Zealand. As we walk through this forest absolutely packed with Nikau palms, we realise why. We have only really seen these trees hanging out on cliffs in Punakaiki and the Akaroa Harbour, for instance. We have never actually walked through such a forest in the whole 268 days that we have been on the road. It feels completely tropical, especially in the rain, like we have been transported to one of the other Pacific islands. Nikau, in Maori, means “no coconuts”, however, we notice that some of these palm trees have some crazy-looking pink flowers hanging out of their trunk. We have to be honest, New Zealand has kind of turned us into a couple of a tree nerds.
A beautiful walk through the nikau palm forest to get to our hideaway hot pools
Dipping into fossilised salt water
Alongside the walkway is a stream that finally leads to the hot pools. An interpretation panel tell us how “the springs produce 250,000 litre a day of ancient sea water. This ‘fossilised salt water’ travels for thousands of years before it bubbles up in Morere, emerging from a fracture faultline running across the Mangakawa Valley to be piped into the pools.”
Relaxing in the hot pools
After using the changing rooms, we walk into an open sheltered area of three pools. The rainforest and the sound of the running stream constantly fills our senses, so we sure have a relaxing setting for a hot pool dip. We have a choice of a hot pool, a super hot pool, and a cold plunge pool.
At first, it is only us at the pools, enjoying some time to ourselves, forgetting about how cold and wet the drive to get here was. Then we are joined by a couple of Americans who we get chatting to in between pool hopping. It takes us a while to pluck up the courage to take a dip in the cold plunge pool, but after we have stewed for long enough in the “super hot” pool, we finally hold our breath and plunge! We leave the cold plunge pool gasping and hop back into the “super hot”, this tingly feeling running all over our skin.
Walks and hikes in the Morere Hot Springs Reserve
We don’t know how long is socially acceptable to stay in hot pools, but we know that we did relax for a loooong time! Looking like a couple of prunes, we leave the hot pools and take a walk through the bush in much less rain. There are a quite a few walking tracks accessed through the Morere Hot Springs Reserve, from 20-minute loops to 2-hour missions. We take a sneak peak down the Nikau Loop Track without fully committing, to find a cute wooden bridge crossing the stream and surrounded by thick native forest. We hear the erratic chirping of fantails. We’d love to come back on a less muddy day to take a hike up to The Ridge.
A homely stay in the Morere Hot Springs Lodge
Our accommodation for this evening is just across the road from the hot springs and down a super narrow gravel track trying to make its mark through the thick forest. We gingerly cross over a ford (that, despite all the rain, is not underwater) until we reach Morere Hot Springs Lodge. The property is a large grassy farm dotted with quaint wooden cottages and surrounded by native forest. We get out of the car to be greeted by more rain, sheep and our host, Paul. He gives us heaps of recommendations for the area, that has us thinking: “Damn, we should have spent more time in Morere!” There are caves, glowworms, and not to mention all the hikes you can do from the Morere Hot Springs Reserve.
Demolishing BBQ ribs!
As if we haven’t treated ourselves enough in Morere, not only does Paul show us to our very own little cottage – the most homely accommodation we have stayed in so far – but he also offers home-delivered pizzas and ribs! We opt for the BBQ ribs.
Sure enough, he later delivers about five polystyrene containers of BBQ ribs, fries, coleslaw, and corn on the cob. Although at first glance we think it is more food than we can handle, after tasting those tender ribs, we demolish the whole thing!
Tomorrow, we’re going to be exploring the scenic and surf mecca of Mahia Peninsula! Join us then!
Hot pools in the forest: What is not to love?
Then you shall be served! If you liked this blog post, then maybe you’ll like these articles:
- 7 Free Natural Hot Springs in New Zealand
- Hawke’s Bay – Guide for Backpackers
- Natural Wonders of New Zealand