The Lost Spring really was lost.
There had always been stories in the old days of healing waters beneath the town of Whitianga, but the spring was elusive and lost for generations. The Coromandel experienced intense volcanic activity many millions of years ago, resulting in the iconic coastal formations found in nearby Cathedral Cove and surrounds for which we are so famous. Local Maori legend speaks of secret locations where heated waters bubbled to the surface, springs revered for their warmth and healing properties, and a lost hot spring that had once flowed into the Taputaputea Stream. Until one very determined local, Alan Hopping, the founder of The Lost Spring made it his life's mission to re-discover the rare and delicate source. It took him twenty years.
These days, Alan has been joined by the next generation: his daughter Alanna and grandchildren too. The Lost Spring is very important to the local community, for bringing people together, for celebrating things both happy and sad. It truly reflects the healthy vibrant way of life, with rays of light, fun and laughter and good-for-your-soul moments.
We caught up with Alanna as she awaited the news that would determine when The Lost Spring could re-open after the national Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. While the thermal pools are well-known, the resort also has a poolside Cafe and Restaurant and a full service day spa.
Alanna explained what has been happening behind the scenes at The Lost Spring while we have all been away, staying home, saving lives:
Dad has been working hard behind the gates. We are about ¾ way through pruning out the gardens and have almost completed re-coating the pools and attacking things we cannot get to when we are open. After 11 years of operation there are many large canopy trees being revealed now as we cut the fill out that was planted while we waited for the canopy to grow above. So, while you have been away….the flowers have come out in abundance and our spirit has grown….we are working together - staff and family - to reopen beautifully.
We know the story of Alan and The Lost Spring, but where do you fit in?
For dad this was always about family and generations. Creating and growing The Lost Spring for the family, teaching us about working hard and going out on a limb for your dream. After building The Lost Spring for all those years, at the end without my Mum or my brother beside him, it was only his energy that kept the project moving. Initially he thought that he would open and that would be the hard work behind him. But as we have grown over time to 70,000 visitors and 37 staff and the shift changed from creation to the hard slog of a business open 364 days a year, Dad needed the support of family. I had been away from New Zealand on yachts more than half of my life. As a child I was pretty motivated. I studied business and tourism and I had always wanted to do something in this area, Jonathan and I had two children and I was a stay at home mum in Florida while he was still working as a Captain at sea and I was just turning to mush; it was time to come home and do something that truly inspired me. Time to bring home the family and show our children that mums go out to work too and what risk and reward is about.
What was the inspiration behind The Lost Spring and how has that changed (has it)?
Inspired by the hills and riverbeds and bird filled bush of The Coromandel, the purpose has not changed.
We are committed to exceeding expectation, and bringing magic back into adults lives in a Pacifica experience.
Which is the favourite pool?
That is a tough one. Our regulars all seem to have their favourite spots. Val tucks herself right into the hottest corner underneath a little out-crop of the crater. Bernie always brings his book and wedges himself on the edge of the bathtub in the main pool while his wife walks laps under the hibiscus flowers. Those who come on the weekends from out of town seem to enjoy the grotto or the shallow end of the big pool where they can order drinks and eat their food more easily in the pool. There is a corner for everyone and as we say at The Lost Spring; everyone has a different story and a different need and we hope to fulfil those needs. My favourite spot is the raised shallow pool in the corner of the crater, I can tuck my legs over the edge and lean back and look up into the big Puka above.
What is that is so great about the water?
It’s the real deal; it comes from deep down in the earth. It is highly mineralized, alkaline, high in salt and at least 16,000 years old! We have many locals and visitors who truly swear by the water as a treatment for pain relief and for skin conditions – we hear all-sorts of healing magic stories like “nothing helped” and “your water does amazing things”, all the time. Local Ange came to dad when her daughter Georgia was a baby. They were at their wits end as Georgia had terrible eczema and was in a great deal of distress; they could not get it under control. Dad offered for her to fill a bucket of water every few days with water directly from the well. Ange swears the relief was instant for her baby.
What is the biggest challenge keeping the spring flowing?
Getting up every morning, getting up in the night, you never stop thinking about it. Almost like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway, you turn light on and off, on and off in the night to check the temperatures. The water is a living thing, every day it is slightly different. It comes out faster or slower, or slightly hotter or cooler, and on occasion it doesn’t come out at all. Keeping it running is a 24-hour job.
A naughty guest experience? Or a romantic/touching one of course!
Yes, a great one occurred right after opening. A young guy called and spoke to dad wanting a special experience for his planned proposal to his girlfriend. His idea was that he was going to walk onto New Chums Beach with her, propose and then walk her over to a helicopter already sitting on the beach and they would fly off to The Lost Spring and land and come swim and drink champagne. That’s exactly what happened (she said yes!) and apparently she was overwhelmed. When they walked through our secret little gate next to the helicopter landing spot, she was greeted with uniformed staff and champagne. She had no idea where she was; they had an incredible day.
What is your favourite spot/thing to do at The Lost Spring?
Personally happy hour is my favourite, when I finally get out of my office and get to meet our musician for the night and all our lovely locals come in. I get to hear about their week and see my staff working as a team together. We are a happy place and Happy Hour is always a highlight for me. One of our musicians has a great version of my favourite song, “The Whole of the Moon”, by the Waterboys. I love those lyrics, they just seem so relevant to me, and my family and our lives.
"I pictured a rainbow
You held it in your hands
I had flashes
But you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon"