Ok, let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. Kaitoke is an undeveloped natural hot spring with the emphasis on undeveloped. What does this mean? Well it means that if you’ve arrived on Great Barrier Island having recently spent time in and around Taupō or Rotorua with their many geothermal wonders, Kaitoke is going to be a bit of a disappointment.
So if you have visions of deep natural spa pools filled will clear hot spring water that gently tickles your nether regions as it bubbles to the surface, don’t. Instead, what you’ll find is a stream with a few small man-made, calf-depth ‘pools’, most of which are lukewarm at best. That’s at least what we initially experienced when we visited.
To be fair though, it was raining off and on when we arrived. Plus there was the fact that Great Barrier’s changeable ‘spring’ weather had scuppered the previous days plans so we weren’t exactly in the best of spirits. Not forgetting the imminent threat of death by small creatures commonly referred to as “brain-eating amoeba”.
As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones disappointed by Kaitoke as a couple we’d spoken to at breakfast that morning had also expressed their disappointment. It seems they were expecting more from the island’s much touted hot springs. So here’s our advice, if you’ve just arrived on Great Barrier Island and looking for things to do, forget about Kaitoke Hot Springs, at least to begin with. Your time would be much better spent exploring the island’s many beautiful east coast beaches, paddling its west coast bays or enjoying the panoramic views from one of its many summits.
If however the weather turns and you’re faced with having to spend the day indoors, then we would say Kaitoke is a good option. It’s an easy, level walk from the carpark which you can’t miss on the road that heads west towards Whangaparapara. And here’s a tip, take your wet shoes or at least wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet. The real fun is in exploring the stream which, as you head upstream from the bridge gets more interesting the further you go up. Along the way, keep an eye out for the hot water vents. The ones we found were small, but the smell of sulphur and the tell-tale white deposits will guide you. You’ll also find a pool you can actually swim in as opposed to wallow horizontally… just mind the amoeba.
So while we personally wouldn’t class Kaitoke’s hot pools as a Great Barrier must-do, it’s worth a visit if you’ve got some time on your hands and nowhere else in particular to go. Just set your expectations and be up for a little exploring along the stream and you might just have some fun.