A friend of mine took me to Ngawha Springs (pronounced "Nafa") yesterday - some natural hot pools that the Maoris really like and that are supposed to be good for skin and soul.
To get there you have to follow State Highway Number 1 (it is THE main highway in New Zealand) up north in direction of Cape Reinga, pass Kawakawa - where they have a cool Hundertwasser toilet right next to the road - and eventually you have to turn left. I think there were enough signs pointing you to Ngawha Springs so you shouldn't miss it. From Whangarei the drive takes approx. 1.25 hours.
There's plenty of parking spots by the springs, which are called "Healing Waters" and it's quite funny because even the mud puddles in the parking are making bubbles. The entrance fee to the Springs is $4 for adults and I think it was $2 or $3 for children. The pools are open daily from 9am to 9pm and once you're in you can stay as long as you want.
There are eight different pools named "Doctor", "Favorite", "Bulldog" and more. Every pool has a different temperature and the temperatures also vary from day to day. Usually there is a sign by the entrance telling you how hot each pool is. Some can be 45 degrees celcius and hotter so make sure you don't just jump in (they are also not very deep)!
Once you've found the perfect pool for you just sit down on the wooden boards and relax :-)
I also found this article about Ngawha Springs, which actually dates back to 1937!!!
It was published in the New Zealand Railway Magazine and tells you all about the pools, their healing powers and what significance they have to the Maori.
A few more things to keep in mind:
1. There are no showers and only basic changing facilities.
2. There are no lockers so what you bring inside you have to carry around and watch it! We "lost" a towel which probably someone took by accident.
3. The stinky smell of rotten eggs that comes from all the sulphur can take a while to get used to. Worse is, however, that it stays in your clothes for days and days - probably even forever in your swim suit so don't wear your favorites!
4. There is no food court so make sure you bring your own stuff, especially drinking water.
5. Don't wear any jewelry! It will turn black from the sulphur, expecially if it's silver.