Blue Pools on the South Island

Get info about and see photos and a video of Blue Pools and the Makarora River on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

What is Blue Pools?

Blue Pools are deep river pools that are located where the Blue River joins the Makarora River on the South Island of New Zealand.

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The pools get their name from the unique blue color of the water. The blue color is a result of light refraction on the clear and icy cold water.

When the Blue River is in flood, a large amount of gravel is brought down the river from a couple of slips in the headwaters.

And if the Makarora River – which runs alongside State Highway 6 – is also in flood, it will sometimes prevent the gravel from escaping out of the gorge.

The pools are then filled with gravel and it takes another flood of the Blue River to wash the gravel downstream and allow the pools to return to their normal depth and blue color.

In autumn and winter especially, large rainbow and brown trout migrate up the Makarora River from Lake Wanaka, and can often be seen swimming in the pools at Blue Pools. However, fishing is not allowed at Blue Pools.

How to get to Blue Pools

To get to Blue Pools, you can take State Highway 6 from Wanaka in the direction of Lake Hawea, and then onwards to Makarora.

Blue Pools on the South Island of New Zealand

The drive from Wanaka to Makarora is about 64 km (40 mi) long and it should take you approximately 50 minutes to get there.

Continue driving past Makarora for about 8 km (5 mi) more until you see a sign for Blue Pools on the left hand side of the road and a fairly large carpark for the Blue Pools walk on the right hand side of the road.

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There are information panels at the start of the walk telling you about tracks in the area and also about the forest you will first be walking through.

The forest is a beech forest and pretty dense, so it can be scary at times, especially if you decide to walk there alone.

It should not take you that long to walk through the forest, though, since the entire walk to Blue Pools should take you about 10 to 15 minutes (one way).

Once you are out of the forest, there is a swingbrige that goes across the Makarora River to get you on the other side of the river where you can then go left to a viewing platform above the pools.

Note that the suspension bridge can only hold a limited amount of people at a time.

Trees in the beech forest of the Blue Pools walk on the South Island of New Zealand

Swingbridge crossing the Makarora River on the Blue Pools walk on the South Island of New Zealand

On quiet days, you may see brown trout swimming in the clear water of the pools below the viewing platform.

Blue Pools blue water as seen from the viewing platform on the West Coast in New Zealand

From the viewing platform, you can walk down to the Makarora River and Blue River if you wish, or walk back to the start of the walk.

The junction of the Makarora River and the Blue River on the West Coast in New Zealand

Why visit Blue Pools?

Blue Pools is a pretty popular tourist attraction, so you should enjoy spending some time there. But beware of the sandflies that lurk around and can sting pretty badly. In my opinion, they are worse than mosquitos.

Blue Pools is also not too far from Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls, so you can easily visit Blue Pools and the other attractions in the neighbourhood on the same day if you wish.

However, while waterfalls can be visited when it is raining, it is best to visit Blue Pools on a sunny day, since you will enjoy the blue color of the water more, and perhaps also see light refracted in the clear water of the rivers.

Light refraction in river water near Blue Pools in New Zealand

Video of the Blue Pools walk

The following 30-second video gives you a short impression of things you will see and experience if you visit Blue Pools that is located North of Lake Wanaka on the West Coast on the South Island of New Zealand.

 

Note: Places can change and/or become inaccessible. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.

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