Visiting Rotoruas new Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa promises to be a ‘restorative journey.’ Oliver Hall and a famous friend find it lives up to the hype, leaving with minds inspired for a united future.

Its the final day of my ultimate spa weekend in Rotorua, and I couldnt be more intrigued to visit Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa. It opened in June last year after more than five years in development and aims to bring a new level of luxury to Rotorua, located in a prime lakeside location with luxury hotel development sites on either side.

The night before, I had walked around Wai Arikis beautifully lit architecture, which is guarded at the front entrance by six statues of tipuna [ancestors] of Ngāti Whakaue. This is the first and only spa in the world that is owned and developed by Māori, and Ngāti Whakaues history is prominent throughout.


On the way in, I am greeted by a blessing stone sourced from Mount Tarawera and a karakia [prayer] giving safe passage to all visitors.

I am booked in for Wai Arikis signature bathing experience, the Restorative Journey [Wai Whakaora], which draws on the centuries-old practice of using contrasting hot and cold springs for therapy and healing.

Rotorua’s Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa.

It turns out I wont be taking this journey alone. Rotorua Tourism has surprised me by inviting YOUR exs old friend Tamati Coffey along. A proud Rotorua local, Tamati is excited to check out the new benchmark Wai Ariki sets for luxury tourism in his hometown.

Our journey begins with Te Iringa – a series of waterfall showers – timed for you to walk through in a row. Starting warm, followed by a cool mist, then warmer, cold, and hot – there is even a chilly wading pool to walk through after. Its bracing and gets us laughing straight away.

Te Ahi Tupua follows, with a series of rooms including a sauna, hay sauna, ice room, and salt room. We get comfy and spend about five to ten minutes in each, discussing family, partners, his kids, and the current adoption and surrogacy laws. Tamati is a great advocate for gay couples starting a family and glows when he talks about his children, though that might be the effects of the fire and ice rooms!

Its time to step outside into the open air, where Wai Arikis main concourse offers thermal pools of varying temperatures, an intriguing herbal pool, and a non-thermal shower pool with bubbling underwater massage beds. Every pool has a prime view over Lake Rotorua, and with only a few other bathers present, everything feels very tranquil and still.

Conversation calms, and with the beautiful views and warm waters, it doesnt feel like anything needs to be said, but we still have two more significant stops on our journey.

The Geothermal Mud Lounge (Te Page Paru) is beaconing, offering us the opportunity to lie on heated recliners and cover ourselves in smooth thermal mud – left in elegant little bowls for us to administer ourselves.

The conversation turns to politics – it was always going to – and with our minds clear and rested, Tamati confesses that the political coalition he would most like to see would be Labour and National together. Thats my dream,” he admits, and really get some shit done!”

The stunning dark-tiled design of the Kohu Wai Ariki (steam room) welcomes us next, and the mud begins to run from our skin down the drain. The restorative journey has not only settled anxieties of driving back to Auckland and returning to work but has also promoted new, truly inspiring thoughts.

I touch the blessing stone as I leave Wai Ariki – imagining a future where our two major parties work together in unity, to make things better for all.

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