Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach, on the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, has been on our must-do list. Listen to this: at low tide, if you dig into the wet sand the water that wells up will be piping hot, heated from an underground magma chamber left over from 9 million years ago. (We’ve been told it’s not the only place you can find beaches with hot springs beneath them, but this is the most well-known.)

We repaired to the beach around 3 in the afternoon, armed with two rented spades and lots of excitement. The first thing is digging the boundary to contain hot water.

If you could fly overhead and look down on the beach, the strand would look honeycombed, or a little less regular, with some pools being large enough to accomodate groups of ten, and some for only two. The thing that connects all these hot water apartments is channels of ultra-hot water flowing up from one of two hot springs below the beach.

There was a flurry of digging and activity in the first two hours before low tide, and then as low tide actually arrived, happily pruned people took their leave and we realized that it’s better later on, in the last two hours of the four-hour window, without as many people digging and taking hot water.

When someone upstream dams up the water to infuse their pool with more heat, those downstream quickly cool and the people sitting in tepid water look around for the reason why.

Creating and maintaining channels for hot water influx. It was fun to watch all the children being natural engineers.

We shared our pool with a group of people from Auckland, and sometimes their side would grow too cool or too hot, while ours was doing the opposite, so I switched among relaxing, chatting, and managing water flow.

B. took most of these photos, because after our pool grew reasonably stable, I was all about the lounging:

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