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Still water

With a growing number of hot spring developments in the pipeline in Australia and New Zealand. Co-founder of Peninsula Springs, Charles Davidson, talks us through some of the activity and the reasons behind the boom

Thermal mineral waters have flowed in the outback for millennia Peninsula Hot Springs
Peninsula Hot Springs
Peninsula Hot Springs offers a range of wellness activities Peninsula Hot Springs
Australia is developing its own hot spring bathing traditions Peninsula Hot Springs
Hot springs projects are in development all over Australia Peninsula Hot Springs

All water bodies, whether hot springs, oceans, rivers, lakes and pools, all have positive associations with escape, holidays, relaxation and nature. This may be because we are largely made up of water: 70 per cent by mass and 99 per cent by molecule.

However, unlike other waters, hot springs make the water experience both comfortable and reliable. No matter what the weather conditions, lying back in thermal waters provides a soothing experience. The colder the weather, the nicer the bathing experience.

Hot spring bathing is synonymous with the origins of the spa industry – Salus Per Aquam or health through water. The most appealing form of water for humans to enjoy is when it flows naturally warmed from the earth. Thermal waters provide the buoyancy and weightlessness of bathing, with the healing energy of heat, and the health giving properties of minerals.

Bathing in nature
With the pandemic as a backdrop and wellness as a way of life in high demand, hot springs with an offering of nature-based wellbeing practices, are on the rise. An industry and a thermal bathing culture which celebrates the gift of natural thermal mineral waters is rapidly emerging in Australia.

Until the recent renaissance, hot springs bathing was not a primary motivator for travel, but this is changing with purpose-built, multi-facted thermal bathing facilities emerging, which are weaving together the best practices from traditions around the world.

The Aussie bathing culture incorporates reflexology walks from China; outdoor nature bathing from Japan; hammam steamrooms from Yemen, Turkey and Morocco; saunas and ice plunges from Scandinavia; clays and muds from Europe, all wrapped up in the nature found at the individual locations.

For me, the ultimate Australian hot springs bathing experience is found in the remote outback, where thermal mineral waters have been flowing from the earth for millions of years. These locations offer a place where one can live for a moment feeling at one with all that is.

Busy pipeline
With a small base of six commercial and 30 identified natural hot springs across Australia there are new developments being delivered, under construction or planned in every state. In January 2020, Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs, in Warrnambool, Victoria opened a AUS$3.5m (€2.25m, £1.89m, US$2.53) cave-based hot springs bathing park in the grounds of its oceanside hotel.

In December 2020 Peninsula Hot Springs, on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, introduced a luxury glamping experience which has achieved 95 per cent occupancy and AUS$650 (€418, £351, US$469) a night room rates with rave reviews since opening.

In June 2021, Talaroo Hot Springs in the Gulf Savannah country in outback Queensland also opened. This million-year-old mound spring has been made available and is operated by the Ewamin people, the Aboriginal custodians of the country.

In 2022, three new hot springs developments in the State of Victoria will come on-line including Metung Hot Springs, in East Gippsland, in January, which boasts spectacular views over rolling hills with tea trees and gum trees, wombats, echidnas, dolphins and swans.

Alba Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula launches in September and a month later Phillip Island Hot Springs in South Gippsland opens its doors, with rolling sand dunes, native grasses and views over the Bass Strait and the ocean, with whales, dolphins and penguins.

Peninsula Hot Springs will add a further 35 rooms, relaxation dining lounges, and a food bowl where produce and herbs are grown, gastronomic education is offered and music and arts concerts are held for events with audiences of up to 1,000.

At the same time other hot springs will be under construction in 2022 opening in 2023 including Tawari Hot Springs in Perth in Western Australia and Cunnamulla Hot Springs in an outback town in South West of Queensland.

Broadening access
There are at least 20 other significant hot springs developments across Australia, in various stages of the planning and development process. Hot springs are rapidly emerging to be a driving force for wellness practices which are accessible to the masses. One of the advantages is that they allow a wellness experience with a large footfall, making them more accessible to a broader range of guests. If the experience includes self-guided activities then overheads can be kept down, which can reduce the price point, further widening the accessibility.

The challenge is to keep cohesion and connection between the various people and organisations in the sector, a role which is being filled by the newly launched Australasian Hot and Mineral Springs Bathing Alliance.

The skill in design is to provide enough facilities and experiences for guests to feel like they have had a complete wellbeing escape in the core offering, while also providing additional optional services, at a supplementary price, for guests seeking a deeper journey.

About the author:

Charles Davidson is the Co-founder, chair and creative director of Peninsula Hot Springs and the Chairman of the Global Wellness Institute Hot Springs Initiative.

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2022 issue 1
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