Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand: Running hot and cold

Warm water at the beach isn't usually a good sign, especially with small children about. However, here at Hot Water Beach, tepid water is not only normal - it's entirely expected.

Located in Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand - Hot Water Beach is a geothermal wonder that attracts both locals and tourists alike.

These hot mineral pools are a monument to the Coromandel's volcanic legacy. With water temperatures up to 64 degrees Celsius, these natural thermal springs are a must for any beach lover (nay, bath lover!).

I arrive early afternoon, an hour before low tide. The beach is already teeming with people - young, old and in between. I weave between the assortment of self-made baths, shovel in hand.

Couples, families and lone rangers each sit in sand holes that range from petite to palatial.

I am unsure how the whole thing works, so I place my towel in an untouched stretch of sand behind the baths and take it all in.

A shriek of delight erupts from three little girls as they run along the Pacific Ocean foreshore, flapping their arms like seagulls.

The tallest child charges into a shallow pool from which steam is rising and is soon followed by her squawking companions.

I peer through my sunglasses towards the neighbouring pool, where a group of friends are in the middle of its construction.


Two young men shovel with the urgency of contracted workers, using spadeful after spadeful of sand to build a barrier between their pool and the ever-encroaching ocean.

It doesn't look too complicated - just shovel sand until bubbles start rising to the surface then lie down and let the relaxation begin. So I pick up my spade and head down to an empty spot near the edge of the clear water.

The crisp heat of the sun beats down on my back as I dig and dig and dig.

However, the more I dig the less convinced I am that I'm doing it right. My growing pool doesn't seem to be getting any warmer.

I glance over at the girls next to me as they dig. No steam rising from their pool either - the odd bubble every now and then, but nothing to write home about.

The pool next to them, however, looks like the inside of a sauna.

In fact, I overhear the older ladies complain that it's a bit too warm in their spot.

I make my way towards the slightly egg-scented haze rising from the ground, like steam from a boiled kettle. I ask the lounging ladies if I can dip my toe into their spa and they assent loudly.

I set my foot down into the steaming pool and feel more burning than bliss. I pull my foot from the water instantly.

Yeah, I would say it is a touch on the warm side.

Sensing an opportunity, the girls and I counter the ladies' complaint with ours and we agree to combine pools and create a communal spa. It doesn't take long before our three baths merge into a giant one that is the temperature of bathwater.

I plant my shovel into a nearby sand mound and lie down, half submerged in the water.

Like Goldilocks' assessment of Baby Bear's porridge, our new pool is not too hot, not too cold - it's just right. As I relax on my back and peer up at the cloudless blue sky above me, I'm grateful for geothermal phenomena and group effort.