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The crystal clear waters of the Blue Pools | © AllWays Rental NZ/Flickr
The crystal clear waters of the Blue Pools | © AllWays Rental NZ/Flickr

A Guide To Otago's Stunning Blue Pools

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 6 January 2018

Within the lush beech forests of Mt Aspiring National National Park, in New Zealand’s Otago region, lies an icy treasure guaranteed to take everyone’s breaths away. Here’s our guide to Otago’s incredible blue pools.

Where the Blue River connects to the Makarora River a beautiful showcase of vibrant glacial waters comes into full view.

We’re talking about the South Island’s Blue Pools, which have become a popular attraction thanks to the compelling hues they are named after. As light refracts from these deep pools, the waters are doused with a distinctive blue tinge you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

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Blue Pools, Makarora | © Stephen Colebourne/Flickr

Many people come to see this spectacular phenomenon as they’re navigating through the scenic Haast Pass driving route. From Wanaka, simply take State Highway 6 towards Lake Hawea to reach Makarora, then continue past it to reach the Blue Pools car park entrance. The drive between Wanaka and Makarora is 64.2 kilometres (40 miles) long, typically taking just under an hour to complete, and the Blue Pools car park is just off the Haast Highway, some 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the Makarora township.

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Blue River | © Ben/Flickr

It is through a smooth-sailing, 1.5-kilometre (0.93-mile) return journey over the Blue Pools Track that travellers get to see the pools in all their glory. The walk is easy enough for a child to handle – in fact, it only takes around 15 minutes to reach the viewing platform that will allow you to immerse yourself in those lovely water vistas.

Your path begins at the Blue Pools car park, then delves into the rich native forests before traversing the bridge that provides the ideal vantage point of the river gorge below. The only thing to note is that the suspension bridge can only handle a few people at a time – but other than that, everything about this trail is perfectly straightforward.

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Blue Pools | © Ben/Flickr

The Makarora and Blue Rivers are renowned for their optimal fishing conditions – so you might spot a few trout swimming past the Blue Pools on a quiet day.

Once you’ve finished admiring this photogenic beauty, consider exploring the other attractions within easy reach of the viewing platform. Avid hikers are sure to relish the Blue-Young Link Track, which extends from the Blue Pools trail onto a back country stretch as it ventures into the mouth of the Young River. Another interesting route is the Blue Valley track, which contours and rises above the Blue River before descending into Camp Flat as you reach the head of the valley.

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The crystal clear waters of the Blue Pools | © AllWays Rental NZ/Flickr

If you have an affinity for waterfalls, the Blue Pools are within reach of some of the Haast Pass’s most famous. Notable examples include the boisterous Thunder Creek Falls, near the Gates of Haast bridge; the Fantail Falls, known for their beautiful fan shape formation as the water trickles down to the Fantail Creek; and the Roaring Billy cascades, which tumble down the huge boulders along the Haast River as it lands upon the broad gravel beds.

Thunder Creek Falls | © Imagea.org/Flickr