Forest bathing, the Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku, has been proven to lower stress and improve health. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams extols the benefits of just being in the forest or bush as it’s known in Aotearoa New Zealand. Immerse yourself in nature and let your worries float away.
Bathe like a Queen
Abel Tasman National Park is rich in natural wonders, and Cleopatra’s Pool is one of the jewels in its crown. The pool under the trees has the added bonus of a natural waterslide lined with moss. If that’s too adventurous, the crystal-clear waters are ideal for bathing.
Drive to Kaiteriteri Beach on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park or take the bus from Nelson. From there, take a ferry into the park. The pool is located between Torrent Bay and Anchorage. Nelson is accessible by plane from Auckland or via plane, ferry and coach from Wellington.
Karamatura Valley in Huia is a beautiful bush-clad valley intersected by the Karamatura Stream, only 45 minutes from the Auckland CBD. Walk up the track to discover Karamatura Falls, a 15m cascade that has a bathing pool at its base. There is a large rock close by where you can soak up the rays before plunging into the icy depths.
This valley in the Huia region, at the headwaters of the Manukau Harbour, is popular with weekending Aucklanders. According to Māori folklore, two lovers from different iwi (tribes) eloped and hid behind the waterfall, emerging deafened by its thunderous roar. This proved to tribal elders their love was strong and worthy of blessing.
New Zealand is renowned for its thermal activity, and Kerosene Creek near Rotorua is a naturally steamy waterslide and pool where the freshwater creek and hot springs meet. The gravelly base of the pool provides for an excellent foot massage, and the water bubbles up to tickle the toes. This hidden gem in a forest canopy is often busy during colder months and attracts tourists from around the world.
Head from Rotorua towards Taupo on State Highway 5. After about 30km, look out for Old Waiotapu Road. About 2km down the gravel road there’s a grass verge where you can park. From there, a short track leads to the creek.
West Coast Wonder
One of Auckland’s most popular boltholes, Karekare Falls was voted the best swimming spot in New Zealand recently. The falls are a short walk from the main road and the pool at the base provides the best in bush bathing options. It gets very busy in the warmer months, however, so get in early to secure a spot by poolside.
Karekare is around an hour’s drive from central Auckland. Turn right into the beach carpark. If you’re feeling energetic, follow the Taraire Track to the top of the falls, a 30-minute hike.
Watch out for hobbits
The Pelorus River between Havelock and Rai Valley is crystal clear and blessed with deep pools for swimming. You might recognise your surrounds and that would be because the river was the location of the dwarves-in-barrels scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Spend the night and camp amongst one of Marlborough's last river-flat forests with towering beech, rimu and kahikatea trees.
The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is located midway between Blenheim and Nelson, on SH6, 18 km west of Havelock. For a different experience paddle down the river with Pelorus Eco Adventures.