50 Years of Polynesian Spa

50 Years of Polynesian Spa
  • Written by
  • Harri Sharman

Since its establishment in 1972, Polynesian Spa has been an icon of the Rotorua tourism industry and a famous destination to bathe and enjoy the healing properties of geothermal waters. As they celebrate 50 years in operation, we decided to look back at the history of this renowned relaxation spot.

A generous gift…

The site that Polynesian Spa now occupies has a long history of geothermal bathing, dating back to pre-European arrival. Local Te Arawa Māori utilised the thermal waters for cooking, washing, and bathing, and in 1880 Ngāti Whakaue gifted the Crown 20 hectares of land containing several thermal springs. For many years after, iterations of Government-run baths were built to attract overseas tourists seeking spa treatments before Polynesian Spa as we now know it came to be.

A tale of two springs…

Perhaps the most special part of a visit to Polynesian Spa is the option to bathe in not just one, but two separate geothermally heated mineral water springs. Visitors often take a dip in one before swapping to another and back again. These two springs have a storied past. The first, known in English as Priest Spring and Te Pupūnitanga to local Māori, has slightly acidic water known for relieving tired muscles, aches, and pains. The name Priest Spring comes from the tale of Father Mahoney, a Catholic Priest who journeyed from Tauranga to ‘cure’ his crippling arthritis by bathing in the waters in 1878.

The alkaline Rachel Spring, on the other hand, features the antiseptic action of sodium silicate, which nourishes the skin. Historically it was claimed that bathing in these waters would bless the visitor with ageless beauty.

…A world-famous experience

Today, Polynesian Spa still celebrates those humble roots, with several protected historic sites around the resort. It has also evolved into a world-famous experience, featuring 28 hot mineral pools fed by the Priest and Rachel springs, spa treatments, day and weekend retreats, health and wellness therapies, and an onsite café and shop.

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