Drifting down the Waikato River to the Spa Thermal Park is a fantastic half-day activity for adventurous souls. It will take an hour to drift to Spa Park.

Drift-snorkelling this section of water is great (wear a wetsuit). However, most people float down to the hot pools on lilos or inflatable camping mattresses (take a spare / more than one just in case).

The water is very clear, and does not get brown with heavy rain. There are no rapids. After about an hour of drifting, you'll reach the hot pools on your right, with a foot bridge going across it.

If you only have one car, park at the Spa Thermal Park carpark and walk towards via Spa Road then Motutahae Street. This will take roughly 30 minutes. Enter the river by continuing on Motutahae St to where it finishes (by a sewerage treatment plant!), then continue onto the grass. Google Maps will help.

If you have two cars, park one at the Spa Thermal Park carpark, then drive the other to enter the river from Pois Road. There is a submerged row-boat near here.

There are three or four islands in the drift. The largest island, at the end of Waikato Street, was once a zoo. It is now private property, and people live on it. It is safe enough to take the true-right channel here, as long as you keep clear of the willows. It gets to about two feet in depth, and the perception of speed is fun.

There is some dead water near the bend that the Taupo Bungy is on, as there is a large, slow eddy. It is safe, but you may need to paddle / swim through this if you are not moving.

Generally it is safer to stay on the true left of the next two islands, although it appears that both could be navigated on the true right.

Drift snorkelling hints:

  • 1. Stay warm. Have a wetsuit. People have been taken to hospital with hypothermia for trying to swim this section of water down to the hot pools.
  • 2. Beware of what is coming up. You are moving all the time, and hazards can creep up. Regularly scan ahead, above the water.
  • 3. If diving deep, be aware of what is coming up also. You will be further downstream when you get to the bottom than when you started.
  • 4. Apply common sense.

There is an informative map if you pause the attached clip at about 5 seconds: Drift Snorkelling the Waikato