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  • Craig Cooper Photography

The Azure Pools of the Makarora River

New Zealand is filled with endless day and multi-day treks that will keep the average adventurer busy. However, situated quaintly in the lush beech forests of Mount Aspiring National Park lie the azure pools of the Makarora River. The crystal-clear pools are only a brisk 15 minute walk to one of the most tranquil locations I experienced in New Zealand.

View of the crystal-clear waters of the Makarora River from the trail

As we were planning our trip to New Zealand, we were well aware that we were going to be on our feet quite a bit in order to experience the beauty that the country has to offer. So when I discovered the short hike to the azure pools of the Makarora River, I knew immediately that this location was a must-see, and would be a nice break from the more strenuous and difficult hikes of the trip.

The Makarora River is located within Mount Aspiring National Park, in the Otago region and nearby the local adventure town of Wanaka. We booked our accommodations in Wanaka, and made the 1 hr daily drive to the park in order to experience the beauty of Mount Aspiring National Park.

Our day began early as to try to avoid the rush of trekkers that would surely saturate the short trail to the azure pools. We arrived to the Blue Pools carpark via the Haast highway at approximately 8am and began the short walk to the pools.

The trail begins through lush beech/podocarp forest on a nice gravel trail, and at times a wooden boardwalk. Keep your eyes peeled along the track for native wildlife scattered along the forest floor, such as the South Island Robin pictured below.

The wooden boardwalk trail leading to the azure pools

The South Island Robin

Bracken fungi along the forest

After a short walk through the forest, the trail opens to the first wooden suspension bridge. The bridge only allows for a certain number of trekkers at once, so it is important to respect others and take turns crossing the bridge. As we looked down, we got our first glimpse of the crystal-clear glacial waters of the Makarora River. Some might even spot brown trout swimming down the river, though we weren't as lucky.

As we continued on, we shortly came to the second suspension bridge. The view point from this bridge is even more captivating than the first. We were able to make our way down to the rocky river bank and explore further. Some more adventurous hikers were taking turns dipping into the freezing glacier water, but we decided to admire the water from land.

This short hike should be on anyone's to-do list when visiting this particular area of New Zealand. I highly recommend starting your day early with this walk, due to the popularity and amount of visitors that visit this site daily. You should also pay attention to the sandfly warnings as you begin your hike, as I learned that lesson the hard way. Sandfly bites are, in my opinion, even more harsh than those of mosquitoes, and we received our fair share of them. Make sure that you apply generous amounts of repellent in order to avoid the rigorous bites of these little rascals.

Grade: Easy

Length: 1mi there and back, 1hr return via same track

Elevation Gain: approx. 41'

Highlights: swing bridges, azure pools, native beech forest, picturesque views

First suspension bridge hovering above Makarora River

First views of the azure waters

View of Makarora River and surrounding mountains from the second bridge

Second swing bridge

This picture gives you an idea of how clear the beautiful glacier water really is

View of the second swing bridge from the rocky shoreline of the river

A glacial, tropical paradise!

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