These immensely popular hot springs are both within reach of Christchurch, but if you are limited for time or only want to visit one, which one should you pick? After reviewing both Hanmer Springs and Tekapo Springs, here's my guide to the relative pros and cons of each hot spring to help you plan your trip away from Christchurch.
Which hot spring is the hottest? Hanmer Springs has the hottest pools, with the hexagonal and sulphur pools operating up to 42 degrees Celsius. At Tekapo Springs, the hottest pools only operate up to 39-40 degrees, so if you want the most warmth in your water, head to Hanmer Springs.
Which hot spring has the best view? Both have mountain views that are snow-capped in winter, but the comparison ends there. The poolside views from Tekapo Springs are amazing. Perched on the side of a mountain, from the water you can stare endlessly out over Lake Tekapo and the mountain range beyond. The views from the pools at Hanmer Springs tend to be more obscured by the vegetation, and you need to look up (from lower elevation) rather than out (from an elevated position) to see the mountain tops.
Comparing the views from Hanmer Springs and Tekapo Springs
Which hot spring is the biggest? Hanmer Springs has many more options for swimming and bathing than Tekapo Springs, with a wider range of water temperatures, different pool types and settings, and more open space if you want to take a break out of the water.
Which hot spring is the most authentic? Researching this really surprised me. Tekapo Springs is actually a glacial spring, not a hot spring, and the water is artificially heated as a by-product of freezing the adjoining ice rink. The water is chlorinated here as well. Hanmer Springs is naturally hot, and the sulphur pools are untreated and unfiltered, so you are getting a genuine natural hot spring experience in these pools. The poolside setting at Hanmer Springs has been landscaped with more vegetation and natural rock surrounds, as well as connecting streams between some pools, whereas Tekapo Springs feels more like a swimming pool complex.
Comparing the pool types at Hanmer and Tekapo Hot Springs
Which hot spring is best for kids? Hanmer Springs has a much larger kids play area with a beach entry pool, giant water slides and a lazy river. In comparison, the kids area at Tekapo Springs is a bit of a cramped add-on. It's still fun, but less likely to entertain for the whole day.
Which hot spring is the stinkiest? Hanmer Springs has a sulphur pool with a typically pungent aroma of steamy sulphur vapours. The other pools at Hanmer Springs and the pools at Tekapo Springs have virtually no aroma.
Which hot spring is the best in summer and which is the best in winter? Tekapo Springs is generally the better option in winter because you can combine your dip with some ice skating or an ice tube slide ride, and the views of snow-capped mountains along the way and at Tekapo itself are breathtaking. Another big plus in winter is that you can defrost your head under the water because the water is chlorinated, which you can't do at Hanmer Springs. In summer, Hanmer Springs has more room at the pools, some nearby forest walks and river jet boats.
Which hot spring is the closest to Christchurch? Hanmer Springs is a clear winner here, with only a 2 hour travel time from Christchurch, whilst Tekapo Springs is about a 3 hour trip each way, which makes for a fairly long day trip.
Which hot spring is the cheapest? Both hot springs were comparatively priced, and after considering the travel costs in getting there, any cost differential is small.
After taking all of these factors into account, I prefer Tekapo Springs in winter (ice skating, spectacular views and the ability to defrost your head under the water) and Hanmer Springs at other times of the year (much closer to Christchurch, more pool types, and the kids play area is larger). If you've been to both and have a different opinion, leave a comment for me below.