Travelling Maori were the first to discover the incredible thermal springs when passing through the area.  There was never a permanent Maori settlement in the area and it wasn't until the 1850s that they were discovered by an early pioneer.

The pools have been publicly owned since 1883 when the Government Lands Department took over the development of the Thermal Pools area.  The pools have grown from a simple bathing area to a multi-million dollar attraction that is still in public ownership, under the Hurunui District Council.  Read more of our highlights below.

1859  William Jones, a farm manager from the Culverden area, discovered the pools when he noticed a strange fog near the track he was walking. On investigation he found some holes filled with water varying from luke warm to almost boiling. News of the discovery spread quickly.
1864  The construction of the Waiau Ferry Bridge provided easier access to the area and in turn, the visitors to the area increased dramatically. The bridge was later demolished by galeforce nor-wester winds in 1874.
 1871  A dressing shed was built next to the pools by the manager of the Jollie's Pass hotel.
 1883  The Government Lands Department excavated the main bathing springs to create swimming pools; one was fenced for privacy and protection from the wind. An area of two hectares was enclosed around the springs. Segregated nude bathing was the order of the day in the early years and hoisting the appropriate clothing (skirt or trousers) up a pole to indicate the gender of the moment controlled this. Later, of course, separate pools were introduced and, finally, mixed bathing – clothed of course! The first bathhouse built consisted of four private baths each measuring 2.4 x 0.6 metres.
1893 Dr C Little was appointed visiting medical officer. An earthenware pipe was placed over the hole on top of one of the hottest pools so people could inhale the full strength of the steam - this proved to be extremely popular.

The Government built an accommodation house described as a sanatorium. There were eight first-class rooms; 50 second-class visitors were put in tents. A hotel called The Lodge was also opened close to the springs. It contained two suites and 17 other rooms, and was very grand.

A massage room opened in the bathhouse.

 1911  The sanatorium grew to accommodate 18 patients, but was destroyed on the day that World War One began. In 1916 the first block of the Queen Mary Hospital was built next to the pools - this was after Hanmer Springs became the site for the South Island military hospital.
 1960  The Thermal Pools complex was purchased by the local community and gifted to the local council.
 1978  Three hexagonal pools and a freshwater pool were put in place.
 1985  A new entrance way was constructed in the south east corner and new changing rooms were built.
 1992  The entranceway was shifted to the visitor information centre. The men’s and women’s changing rooms extended, and the rock pools were constructed. Private Sauna and steam rooms were constructed and improvements made to the Private Thermal Pools.
 1993  A new massage and beauty centre was developed (Health Body and Mind). The Teahouse was converted into the Department of Conservation information centre and Garden House restaurant.

The Waterslide and Children’s Activity area and plant room was built.

The Waterslide end changing room was installed and the existing changing rooms were done up. The café deck was extended and the service yard and engineering depot constructed.

 1999  The current sulphur pools were developed.
 2004  Two new pools (Rainbow Pools) were opened at the front of the complex.
2007 The Spa at Hanmer Springs was opened improving substantially the offering of Health and Beauty services.
2008 A new Entranceway, and i-SITE Visitor Information Centre with retail shop were opened in February.
2010 Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and The Spa keeps going from strength to strength with it's busiest month on record.
2010 December - New AquaTherapy pools, the 15m high SuperBowl, new freshwater swimming pool with Lazy River and AquaPlay area opens.
2011 January - Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools experienced its busiest day ever at the peak of the holiday season, recording almost 5000 visitors.