A new car park and toilet block has opened at the popular tourist site of the Blue Pools, north of Makarora on State Highway 6.
With an average 90,000 visitors per year, the Blue Pools’ popularity has resulted in an overflow of visitors and cars onto the highway, leading to urgent demand for a safer place for cars and buses to park — and for pedestrians to access the pools.
The carpark, which opened last Thursday, February 13, is a joint project of the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Department of Conservation. It can be found further up the highway opposite the Cameron Flat campsite. DOC operations manager said DOC “considered various options and concluded that the Cameron Flats site was the best place for the new car park... to provide for visitor safety, the impact on the environment and to enhance the visitor experience.”
Pedestrian access to the pools will be via an extension of the DOC track. Safe passage will add an additional 25-30 minutes walking each way, but with the promise of a new toilet block on return to the car park.
Wanaka local John Patrick was among the first to experience the new visitor setup. “[The walk] could be a bit longer, but if it stops the zoo on the main road, it has to be a good thing,” he said.
The old section of the Blue Pool track will be closed off and returned to native bush, according to Tubbs.
Simon Underwood, senior project manager for NZTA, added that the car parking area had been designed over three terraced levels to follow the area’s natural slope, with native plantings to screen it from the highway and help it blend into the national park environment.
The parking area will provide space for 61 cars, 21 campervans and six buses.