The Japanese do it, Nordic people and Hungarians do it, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Ottomans all did it, too. But in Australia we’ve been a little slower to catch on to the idea of warm bathing for the pleasure of it.
Here’s a handful of places in Melbourne (or just outside town) dedicated to stripping off and thawing out.
Japanese bathing at Onsen Ma
At this secluded CBD bathhouse, things are done the trad way; you strip off, scrub down, then ease your stark-naked self in a big pool of hot, hot water (38 to 40 degrees) until you start to feel normal – after which, you’ll start to feel very good and supremely relaxed. You can alternate between bath and sauna (but don’t forget to rinse again before re-entering the bath). Then follow up with a shiatsu and an extended lounging session with a pot of tea.
Tri-bathing ritual at Chuan Spa, The Langham
When you can’t quite justify a five-star hotel stay, but still want to enjoy its high-end spa, Chuan wins – especially in winter. The spa’s “tri-bathing ritual” is all about warming up, calming down and zoning out, and it makes a great entrée to the range of deluxe Eastern-inspired treatments on offer. Start with a leisurely soak in the salt-water Jacuzzi, get loose in the steam room, sweat it out in the sauna, and finish with an invigorating “river stone snail shower”, where a series of 12 high-pressure water jets give your muscles a polite pummeling. When you’re done, wrap up in a fluffy robe, get horizontal and reflect on your newfound, toasty bliss in the Zen-like lounge area.
Coconut milk bath at Miss Fox
This sophisticated salon and spa is all about “conscious therapies”, which means the spa menu is as vegan and organic as the post-treatment snack menu (which comes via Pressed Juices). A range of bespoke bathing options lets you sink into an oversized copper bath and forget the cold outside. We tried the soothing coconut milk bath, filled high with sweetly aromatic organic coconut milk powder and pink rose petals. Backed up with an excellent aromatherapy massage (in the same private room) and Miss Fox’s insistence on enjoying a glass of Moët while you’re at it, it’s one for the conscious hedonist.
Crown Spa Melbourne
You’ll likely have to dodge a few excitable kids en route, but once you’re ushered through to the calm spa zone the energy mellows. For a private experience, splash out on the wellness suite, where you (essentially) get your very own treatment apartment featuring a huge spa, self-contained steam room, massage tables and lounge area. After your appointment, you’re welcome to relax with herbal tea and glossy mags in the communal lounge before facing the outside world again.
Crown Spa Melbourne
Level 3, Crown Towers
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
(03) 9292 8327
Private bathing pavilions at Peninsula Hot Springs
Set in tranquil native bush not far from Rye, this is a sprawling oasis of thermal rock pools, plunge pools, massage showers and hidden caves. With more than 20 globally inspired bathing experiences (Turkish steam rooms, Chinese reflexology pools and Greek-style foot baths are just some) it’s easy to lose several hours just doing the rounds. If communal bathing doesn’t float your boat (it’s pretty popular with kids and groups during peak times), then opt for the more-secluded private bathing options. Don your thongs and robe and go through the lush tea-tree garden to your own private pavilion, where a deep, steamy-hot ceramic bath (with your choice of lemon myrtle and honey; lavender milk; or detoxifying mud) and soothing garden view await.
The writer was a guest of the above venues.
This article was updated Wednesday June 21.