History of Hanmer Springs Hot Springs

The Hanmer Springs thermal pools have been enjoyed since 1883.

Although it’s thought that there were no permanent settlements in the area, Māori used the thermal springs in pre-European times when they were travelling across the South Island between Kaikoura, Oaro, Omihi, Kaiapoi and the West Coast.

The first European to see the springs was William Jones, who noticed steam rising from the ground near a walking track in 1859. The newly-discovered hot springs became very popular, with many visitors.


The Hanmer thermal pools were voted Best Visitor Attraction for 3 years running at the New Zealand Tourism Awards. Recent and ongoing upgrades have seen heated floors installed in the changing rooms, great for those winter days, hydroslide upgrades and changes to the café.

A series of hot pools were dug by the Lands Department and the first bathhouse built-in 1883; nude bathing was considered the healthiest option, and at first, the sexes had to take turns using the one fenced pool. Later, segregated bathing was introduced, and then mixed (clothed) bathing.


Eventually, the Hanmer Thermal Sanatorium was built, and visitors were encouraged to “take the cure” by bathing, inhaling hot steam and drinking water from the springs. The original sanatorium burnt down in 1914, and Queen Mary Hospital was built on the site for wounded soldiers and shell-shock cases.

At the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, you can enjoy private bathing as well as pampering spa treatments.

After World War I Hanmer Springs became a retreat for “nervous cases” owing to the quiet, restful nature of the town. The hospital, at the time an addiction centre, was closed in 2003, and a new luxury spa, owned by the local council, opened in 2007 in the grounds of the old hospital.

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