9 New Zealand places with unbelievably blue water

Got the back to work blues? Don't fret - let them inspire you for your next getaway instead, writes Petrina Darrah

From the clearest freshwater in the world to sublime glacier-fed lakes and thermal pools, New Zealand's aquatic features are precious taonga worth travelling for.

Science has shown that being near water can help us feel calmer and more relaxed; and when you're faced with exceptionally beautiful lakes and springs, you'll also feel a renewed sense of wonder. Don't deny your back to work blues; instead, be inspired and seek out these places to see unbelievably blue water around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Lake Pukaki, Canterbury

Lake Pukaki is one of the most memorable sights in the South Island. The towering pyramid of Aoraki/Mount Cook shimmers at the northern end of the lake, and the golden-brown hues of the Mackenzie basin contrast with the ice-blue of the water.

The vibrant colour of Lake Pukaki comes from glacial flour, an ultra-fine rock dust ground up by the Tasman and Hooker glaciers that feed the braided river flowing into the lake. The glacial flour is suspended in the water, painting it sky blue.

For the best views, drive the length of the lake down Mount Cook Rd.

The vibrant colour of Lake Pukaki comes from glacial flour, an ultra-fine rock dust ground up glaciers. Photo / 123rf

Hokitika Gorge, West Coast

In the Hokitika Gorge, a torrent of glacial water carves a deep path through granite bedrock in the midst of lush West Coast forest. The best way to see the gorge is via a one-hour loop track that takes you across a swing bridge and along a boardwalk running through the trees, with glimpses of azure water through the dense bush.

A second swing bridge stretches 90m across the gorge, passing over an island and through the forest canopy, offering spectacular views of the Hokitika Gorge and the foothills of the Southern Alps.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Rotorua

Waimangu Volcanic Valley was once home to the fabled pink and white terraces. The sizzling cauldron of volcanic activity is now a unique geothermal valley featuring the world's largest natural hot spring, Frying Pan Lake, and its twin, Inferno Crater, is a vast hot water spring in a stunning shade of pastel blue. The brightly coloured pool, shrouded in wisps of steam, is just one of the highlights of the volcanic valley that you can explore via a self-guided walk or boat tour.

Inferno Crater at Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a stunning shade of pastel blue. Photo / Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Lake Rotomairewhenua, Nelson

Lake Rotomairewhenua, also known as Blue Lake, is found deep in Nelson Lakes National Park. This ethereal blue-violet mountain lake is famous for having the clearest natural fresh water in the world, with clarity of up to 80m.

Part of the reason this lake is so mystical is its remote location; it can only be reached via a three-day tramp through the backcountry. Trampers can stay the night in the nearby Blue Lake Hut.

The lake is sacred to the people of Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō iwi, representing a connection between the physical and spiritual worlds. It was traditionally used to cleanse the bones of dead men, while women's bones were cleansed in nearby Lake Constance.

Te Waikoropupū Spring, Nelson

Te Waikoropupū Springs are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. The water that bubbles out of the ground in this spot near Takaka in Golden Bay is some of the clearest water ever recorded, second in clarity only to Lake Rotomairewhenua. The springs are considered wāhi tapu, meaning this place has great cultural and spiritual significance to local Māori.

The springs can easily be visited via a 30-minute walk that meanders across boardwalks and features a platform sitting partly over the water.

Te Waikoropupū Springs are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. Photo / nelsontasman.nz

The Blue Spring, Waikato

Set among the undulating hills of South Waikato is an utterly surprising find - the Blue Spring. Follow the fairytale Te Waihou Walkway, a track that is roughly 5km long and runs alongside the incredible cyan water of the spring, as it flows through native bush and lush grassland. The colours along this walk seem to be hypersaturated, with the cerulean water contrasting with the bright green of the waterweed. The walkway takes one-and-a-half hours one way.

Hamurana Springs, Rotorua

Set in the serenity of a 100-year-old redwood forest near Rotorua are the magical Hamurana Springs. A taonga of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, these springs are a vibrant blue, filtered to exceptional purity as water from the Mamaku Plateau travels underground for 70 years before bubbling to the surface in Hamurana Springs.

A riverside walk leads you along the Hamurana Stream, a scenic track through the redwood trees. You'll see the main spring, Te Puna-a-Hangarua, the Dancing Sands Spring, where the water bubbles up from the ground and has the effect of making the sand shimmer and dance.

Hamurana Springs are a vibrant blue and filtered to exceptional purity. Photo / Elizabeth Carlson

Lake Tekapo, Canterbury

Lake Tekapo is a palette of rich hues. The deep turquoise blue of the lake, fringed with purple and white lupins, set against hills of golden tussock and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, make this an exceptionally scenic spot to visit.

Visit the Mount Saint John observatory for the best views across the lake, which you can enjoy from the Astro Cafe.

Blue Pools, Wānaka

Flowing through mature beech forest in Mount Aspiring National Park is a string of crystal clear pools. The pure, glacial water of the aptly-named Blue Pools is a surreal colour.

The Blue Pools Track is one of the best short walks in the country. The 3km track takes around one hour return and culminates in a swing bridge above the pools. If you're brave enough, you can go for a dip in the chilly water.

The pure, glacial water of the aptly-named Blue Pools in Wanaka is a surreal colour. Photo / Sophie Piearcey

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