Wanaka is just one of the many dreamy resort towns on New Zealand’s South Island, with beautiful mountainous vistas surrounding the town and lake, a buzzing atmosphere and a brilliant position with Mount Aspiring National Park right on it’s doorstep. You will never be at a loss for activities to take part in while staying in Wanaka, whether it’s skydiving, hiking, fishing, kayaking, horse-riding, climbing, rafting, biking, taking a scenic flight or skiing in the Winter season.
However for something a little different, naturally stunning, free and very close by to Wanaka, visiting the azure waters of the Blue Pools should definitely be on your list. Just an hour drive from town, you could take a short trip out to explore or if road-tripping the South Island, it’s a great idea to take a pit-stop at the Pools – when arriving in or leaving Wanaka.
Getting to the Pools
Visiting the Blue Pools incorporates about a 30-minute return walk – starting from the Blue Pools car park just off the Haast Highway (at around 8km from the small town of Makarora).
This short walk takes you on a mostly flat track through beech forest, before approaching a swing bridge (careful, it really does swing!) over the Makarora River. The bridge itself makes for a great photo opportunity before even reaching the pools!
From here, you’ll begin to see the glistening turquoise tones of the Blue Pools. March on a little further to a second bridge, giving you the best vantage point over the pools.
On a lucky day especially when visiting between Autumn and Winter, you might be able to spot some large rainbow or brown trout swimming in the pools or – if you’re a bird enthusiast – you may even hear or see the bright yellow Mohua bird in the trees above.
Why are the Blue Pools so blue?!
There are many areas in New Zealand with large lakes and pools of water that have a distinctly turquoise or milky blue hue (think Lake Tekapo or Lake Pukaki), this is in part due to ‘rock-flour’ particles crumbling from glaciers and making their way into the water to form those beautiful colours. In the case of the Blue Pools, the tone of blue here is a result of light refraction beaming on to the cold and crystal clear waters.
The day I visited the Blue Pools was the day I left Franz Josef to travel to Wanaka, and it was one of those great road-trip days where the views on route were just as amazing as the destination we were heading to. One of my favourite things about touring New Zealand was the abundance of ‘pull-over’ photo opportunities; the natural lakes, mountains, waterfalls and pools just like the Blue Pools, most of which are merely a stop on the highway and a quick trek through the forest to reach such amazing sights… It’s crazy.
Another pit-stop not too far from the Blue Pools is Thunder Creek Falls, definitely worth checking out if you’re into your waterfalls – and who isn’t?!
I really hope you enjoyed this post! Wanaka actually made it to my list of six favourite (+ most stunning) spots on New Zealand’s South Island – you can check it out here.