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In New Zealand, are swimming costumes (or towels) required, optional, or forbidden in hot springs?

I'm not planning on going there myself, but would like to be able to tell Japanese people what to expect. If some hot springs tend to cater more towards Japanese tourists than other places, then I'd be especially interested in those springs' policies.

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I assume you're asking so you can avoid seeing nekkid New Zealanders' bottoms? –  hippietrail Aug 20 '12 at 8:14
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Japanese-themed and Japanese-operated Maruia Springs on the spine of the South Island has a Japanese-style public bathhouse where swimwear is optional:

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Pretty much everywhere else, including the outdoor area at Maruia itself, swimwear is required.

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these pools are lovely and are less well known and therefore not jammed packed like Hanmer springs –  Stuart Aug 21 '12 at 21:33
    
...although I suspect both the hordes of sandflies and the location in the middle of absolutely nowhere, even by NZ standards, has quite a bit to do with that as well. –  jpatokal Aug 22 '12 at 1:22
    
Middle of nowhere is part of it, though if you know where you're going there are some great sites around there. There are some great hikes in the area and some OK fishing. Sand flies are only really an issue at dusk and dawn I find unless it's very damp. –  Stuart Aug 22 '12 at 16:11
    
We went at midday on a nice, sunny autumn day, and my wife was devoured alive by the buggers. YMMV. –  jpatokal Nov 21 '13 at 8:38
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Almost without fail, swimming costumes are required. As are towels, so as not to drip everywhere.

There are however, sometimes private pools you can reserve (indoors) - for example, at Hanmer Springs, and I suspect a lot of the time, swimming costumes may not be used there, although I think officially they'd be required.

However, there are a few exceptions - The Secret Spot (Waiotapu stream) has optional nudity, and the Rotorua Nudist group maintains the hot pool at the top of Akatarewa Stream. However these are generally not commercial hot pools.

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There are 3 possible places in the Rotorua area for nude bathing. Wai-O-Tapu stream at the small bridge near the ticket office to the Wai-O-Tapu thermal park. This however has become more popular in recent times and its a bit hit and miss with regards to nudity. Same deal at Kerosene Creek a few kilometers from Wai-O-Tapu - if there are families or lots of campervans there forget it. Early evening or early morning you stand a better chance of being able to go nude. There is a hot waterfall at the end of the sealed road leading to the Lady Knox Geyser in the Wai-O-Tapu area. Have to go after mid-day once all the cars have left from looking at the Geyser. Park your car near the barrier arm and walk to the end of the road (5 mins walk) you will hear the waterfall and you'll see the small track. Its a lovely waterfall but the water is muddier than at the other 2 locations. If you are a gay male nudist you can stay at Guysers Gaystay in Rotorua City which is clothing optional indoors and out and has a wonderful hydrotherapy spa pool. www.guysersgaystay.com

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