Discovered by the Romans as far back as 400BC, soaking in warm thermal waters or ‘mud baths’ was said to have many healing benefits.

The geothermal region of Rotorua has for centuries been known as a great place for healing and revitalising.  Our small city in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand, with its mud pools, geysers and other geothermal activity gained fame right around the world.

The local Maori people would take a daily soak in the thermal mineral pools to relieve their tired and aching bodies.

Photo: Men bathing in a thermal pool at the White Terraces, Rotomahana.
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.


From the early 19th century, people started to travel from afar to Rotorua to ‘take the waters’.  They came via Tauranga or Auckland, travelled over small forest paths to visit the many baths and pools that were around, nesting among pumice, sulphur and manuka.

In the 1870s the ‘health traveller’ started to emerge.  Travellers that were suffering from all sorts of conditions were finding relief in bathing in ‘the waters’.

In 1902, Rotorua gets its first ‘Balneologist’.  A Balneologist studies therapeutic bathing and medicinal springs.  His name was Dr Arthur Wohlmann  and he was hired by the government.  Dr Wohlmann developed the plans for creating a spa facility – The Bath House – that would attract wealthy visitors from all around the world.


In 1908 the Bath House opened in the Government gardens – New Zealand’s first spa facility and was ready to compete with the grand spas of Europe.

At its height the spa gave 60,000 to 80,000 baths annually and about 30,000 special treatments (Source: Rotorua Museum |

Unfortunately, as it was difficult to get here and the sulphur corroded all the metal piping, it became too hard to maintain the Bath House.  It closed its doors in 1966.

Around 2001, Rotorua began to resurge as a Spa destination with people once again flocking to the mud and thermal pools for their ‘health and wellbeing’.

Rotorua’s famous Polynesian Spa and QE Health Centre are two prime  examples of how the Spa industry is flourishing again!