Alpine Living Issue VII. New Zealand. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ©

The Onsen 


In a city filled with adventure, Onsen Hot Pools gives visitors and residents a place to relax.

Elizabeth Elkin

Lane Stafford

A hot pool sits at the edge of the room surrounded by warm wood on all sides. There is nothing standing between the pool and the eternal stretch of mountains but a garage door.


With the touch of a button, the garage door lifts and the fourth wall is gone. A jet boat glides through the crystal-blue water below. Clouds envelope the mountain tops, the white fluff dances over trees, rocks and emerald green grass. This is the Onsen experience.


 “It originally was known as one of those places you stumble upon,” Jess Reavely, Onsen’s marketing manager said. “It was there, but it was kind of just an echo compared to what was happening with bungy jumping or the Shotover Jet.”

Onsen Hot Pools spawned from the idea of a man from the U.K. who was married to a Japanese woman. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring. He wanted to incorporate the idea of a traditional Japanese onsen with a Kiwi twist. He designed every part of the pools, from the garage doors that open out to the mountains to the jet streams.


In the last year the staff has worked to expand its clientele. Instagram has significantly increased Onsen Hot Pools’ reach in the Queenstown community and around the world.

The staff sees families, couples, honeymooners and even proposals at the cliff-side oasis.


 “Since Instagram’s taken off, it’s kind of got its own typical ‘Onsen shot,’” Reavely laughed. “Everybody’s got to be on the edge of the spa and overlooking the mountains.”


Reavely said that because New Zealand has a very natural vibe, Onsen wanted to take the surrounding mountainous landscape and bring it inside, creating a relaxed, one-with-nature experience. For example, the staff doesn’t use any chlorine to clean the pools.


Beneath the deck in front of the facility, they house a 20,000-liter (5283.441 gallon) tank. Behind the tank sits a natural spring.  They collect the rainwater and snow, depending on the time of year, and push it into the tank. The water is then filtered twice and pushed through an enormous UV light to kill bacteria. It then goes through sand and is pushed into the pool. Every three hours, the staff checks the cleanliness of the water to make sure it’s pure.


“The only problem is obviously with the amount of people that we’re putting in pools per day, we have to treat it ever so slightly,” Reavely added. “So we do put a little bit of bromine in there if it’s needed. It’ll only get added to the pool if it requires it.”


Customer service manager, Zoey Loomes explained that with the excitement of Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, it’s nice to come to a quiet place and just be.


“You just feel like you are completely here, just by yourself, just the two of you or as a family,” she said. “It’s just a completely different vibe that people, especially on holidays, really need.”

Discover more of Queenstown

Horseback Riding

Historic Arrowtown

Taking the Leap