Spring into action

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Hep­burn Bath­house & Spa has re­ceived a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar facelift; it’s now the coun­try’s largest day spa, with com­mu­nal min­er­al­rich bathing pools and a se­lec­tion of spa and beauty treat­ments beauty was fi­nally as­sured. An ad­di­tional $2.6m was promised by the Hep­burn Shire Coun­cil and in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Cox Ar­chi­tects & Plan­ners were signed up to over­see the project.

Two years later, the orig­i­nal, her­itage-listed Ed­war­dian build­ing, with its vaulted ceil­ing de­signed to vent the car­bon diox­ide pro­duced by an ear­lier pool, is vir­tu­ally un­recog­nis­able. Al­though orig­i­nal fea­tures have been re­tained and en­hanced, the ex­panded struc­ture houses wet and dry treat­ment ar­eas, change rooms, in­di­vid­ual min­eral bath rooms and re­lax­ation spa­ces.

A sep­a­rate, ul­tra-mod­ern bathing wing en­com­passes re­cep­tion area, com­mu­nal min­eral wa­ter bathing pool, salt pool and spas, steam rooms, lounge and re­lax­ation deck.

To­day’s bath­house — Aus­tralia’s largest day spa — is a sleek, con­tem­po­rary and so­phis­ti­cated new space be­fit­ting a cen­tury well­ness es­cape.

‘‘ Many peo­ple who used the bath­house be­fore the re­fur­bish­ment have come back to see it since it re­opened and they’ve just walked in and gone, ‘ Oh my god’,’’ says sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager Ta­nia Ja­cobs.

‘‘ Things are go­ing re­ally well. We’re get­ting a lot of sup­port from the lo­cals, some of whom come three or four times a week, and we also

21st- get a lot of Euro­peans who are very used to the min­eral bathing con­cept.’’

Those wish­ing to sim­ply bathe in the com­mu­nal pools can pay $15 for week­day ac­cess to the bath­house (dis­counts are avail­able for lo­cals) or $30 at week­ends. But there also is a mind-bog­gling range of prod­ucts and ther­a­pies avail­able to those who want to ramp up the ex­pe­ri­ence: wa­ter ther­a­pies, body pol­ishes, body masks and wraps, fa­cials, a va­ri­ety of mas­sages, man­i­cures, pedi­cures, full­day pack­ages and more.

Due to a wardrobe mal­func­tion (my bathing cos­tume has in­ex­pli­ca­bly shrunk in the six months since I last wore it) I opt out of the com­mu­nal bathing ex­pe­ri­ence through re­spect for fel­low spa-go­ers and choose in­stead a two-hour In­do­ceane treat­ment in the spa pavil­ion, which be­gins with a 30-minute soak in a one-per­son min­eral bath in the pri­vacy of my room.

Filled with 100 per cent min­eral wa­ter, the bath is ex­pected to ‘‘ pro­mote in­creased phys­i­cal and men­tal re­lax­ation, in­crease endorphin pro­duc­tion, nor­malise gland func­tion and en­hance im­mu­nity’’. As a bonus, ac­cord­ing to the brochure, my psy­che can ex­pect to be en­livened.

I’m not sure about all that, but as I lie in this whis­per-quiet room, us­ing the bath salts and scrubs I’ve been sup­plied with, I rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to sink into the steam­ing depths and com­pletely switch off. No com­puter, no mo­bile phone, no mad rush to dead­line. Time, I re­alise, is the ul­ti­mate lux­ury, and at this mo­ment I can think of no bet­ter way to spend it than in the splen­did en­vi­rons of this sleek and el­e­gant sanc­tu­ary.

Thirty min­utes later, and with my nor­mally tense and in­flex­i­ble body now sur­pris­ingly mal­leable, I am be­ing mas­saged, oiled, wrapped and soothed by ther­a­pist Kerrie. This lux­u­ri­ous 90-minute episode is capped off with a head mas­sage so good I al­most weep for joy.

Af­ter I’ve been coaxed re­luc­tantly off the treat­ment bed, Kerrie de­liv­ers me to a re­lax­ation area where I am dis­pensed a sooth­ing pot of herbal tea. En­cased in a fluffy robe, I sip tea, flick through mag­a­zines and pon­der the thought of leav­ing this haven and en­ter­ing the crisp, fresh Dayles­ford air.

I may be mis­taken, but it seems my hi­ber­nat­ing en­dor­phins may fi­nally have kicked into action.

Who’d have thought it? Like the old bath­house, I’m feel­ing like a new woman. Michelle Rowe was a guest of Tourism Vic­to­ria and Hep­burn Bath­house & Spa.

Check­list

Hep­burn Bath­house & Spa is about 80 min­utes’ drive north from Mel­bourne’s Tul­la­ma­rine air­port. The bath­house is open daily for com­mu­nal bathing in the re­lax­ation pool and spa pool; $15, Mon­day to Thurs­day; $30, Fri­day to Sun­day. Hy­dro and steam ther­apy treat­ments from $50. Pri­vate spa and beauty treat­ments in the Spa pavil­ion are avail­able from $65. Ex­cel­lent break­fasts, light lunches, cof­fee and cakes are avail­able in the ad­ja­cent Pavil­ion Cafe. More: (03) 5321 6000; www.hep­burn­bath­house.com.

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