Every summer I have my first swim of the season and I’m reminded how great New Zealand is.
That’s not to say we’re a perfect country of course. We’re little with a touch too many earthquakes, but nearly every New Zealander is near a gorgeous body of water. It may not feel like a big deal, but there are a lot of benefits to submerging yourself once in awhile. Ever since Roman times (and probably before), people have used water as a therapeutic tool.
It’s not hard to see why either. Growing up, my closest watery haven was the frigid ice bath of Wellington harbour, but even that was soothing once you made peace with your blue fingers. Visiting water, be it the sea, a lake, or a river is something all of us Kiwis should diligently do. You might need a dose of reality, some time out, or a chance to revitalise your mind and body. Whatever it is, water will get you there.
It’s February now and the heat of the summer is starting to bite, so for me it’s time to go soak. Here are my top few watery picks for any New Zealander needing a bit of a re-boot. Happy floating!
Ferocious and wild, Piha is the perfect beach to visit for a healthy dose of perspective. It’s the very edge of New Zealand, framed by dramatic cliffs and characterised by absolutely crazy waves. Last time I visited Piha, I learned that you could dive under approximately two mammoth swells before the rip tide would have you well beyond the flags. Wading back towards the beach, feeling the water yank at your calves, nature seems huge and a bit frightening. But what better place to make your own problems feel tiny, right?
For transparency, I’m going to have to admit to bias here. Half my family lives around Lake Tarawera and we’ve been visiting for years, I couldn’tnot list it. This is just about the most relaxing place I’ve ever been, with still, clear water to float in for hours on end. If you swim far enough from the shore, gazing around at bush makes you feel like you’ve bobbed your way back to the Triassic period. It’s deliciously quiet. The lake sits in front of Mt Tarawera, which erupted in 1886 and rained fire and pumice across the landscape for kilometres. My cousin says the lake is still full of healing minerals from the eruption, and I believe her.
Yes, Wellington is icy, but hear me out. Oriental Bay is less about how the water feels and a whole lot more about where it is. This is a bustling, vibrant beach in the middle of a quirky city and it’s absolutely humming with life during the summer. The people watching here is second to none, a melting pot for all kinds of happy and interesting types. I’ve always found it a fantastic place to re-immerse yourself and be excited about getting out and about. It seriously does the heart good to see others doing what they love, whether that be rollerblading along the footpath or doing bombs from the pontoon.
One word: exhilarating. The Huka Falls are simply a natural, visual masterpiece. 220,000 litres of water plummet from The Falls at a time and and it’s something you have to see to believe. This is the place that I really started to be fascinated with New Zealand’s nature and its tremendous photo-snapping potential. Every angle of The Falls is beautiful, and the whole site is a fantastic place to sneak away to and regain inspiration and creativity. What’s more, it’s only a short drive from Lake Taupo and the local hot pools, meaning a single visit gives you loads of watery adventures mere minutes away! The ultimate weekend getaway.