An hour and a half from Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, nestled between golf courses, pastures and state park, tucked down a little back street and hidden by bush is the Peninsula Hot Springs – a serious contender for heaven on earth.
When: all year 7.30am – 10pm
Where: Springs Lane, Fingal. Click here for map.
Cost: There are loads of different options so best to consult bathing rates on their website, as a guide an adult during peak time is $35, child $20 – but there are discounts if you come early / late / midweek.
In late 2009 the Bath House Thermal Pools section of Peninsula Hot Springs (PHS) opened to the public – the “Bath House” is not a house in the typical walls, roof, door and windows kind of house – it in fact refers a building where the change rooms are located and also to 20 hot spring pools dotted throughout a very pretty hillside bush setting, surrounding a lake.
If you have ever had a look at the Peninsula Hot Springs website and been overwhelmed by the different things on offer – you’re not alone. I spent quite a bit of time reading through their website last year when organising a girls weekend… none of us had been so we had no idea what to book (and the menu is huge!). It wasn’t until I was waiting at my daughter’s gymnastics class one day and one of the mums sitting with me mentioned she had been many times, so she could tell me exactly what to book and reassured me it would be utterly amazing. I was still a little dubious – but I had been regularly going down to the Peninsula for 20 years and the PHS had been on my bucket list since it opened. So I followed gymnastics mum’s advice and bypassed the private bathing options and we went to the “Bath House”. It was every bit as amazing as gymnastics mum had told me – and then some.
For the next week or two I bored everyone senseless regaling them with my blissful Hot Springs experience. Eventually I found a friend who had also been – and she had taken her kids; this was a revelation to me. So when the opportunity came up to do a review I was there in a flash… roadrunner-esque. Kind of a 360 degree turn for me, as I have never been a spa lover until now.
So yes – don’t be bamboozled by all the incredible sounding treatments and experiences** (families under 16 years can’t do them anyway) just head straight for the Bath House Thermal Pools. I have now experienced the pools in daylight and at nigh-time and it’s just as pretty either way. The lake is full of frogs and the occasional duck. The vegetation has been returned (from farming pastures) to it’s original native state – with the addition of winding paths, drinking fountains, driftwood seats, lights along the paths and of course the spas.
The owner apparently extensively researched bathing houses and spas around the world (tough gig!) when developing the design of Peninsula Hot Springs – and while it is largely very sensitive to the native area there are also nods to Japanese and Turkish spas.
After 10am in the morning children are restricted to the lower 14 pools only (allowing the six pools up towards the top of the hill to be quiet adult areas from 10am – 10pm). If you can make an early morning bathe (or you come without kids or can sneak off and leave the kids with someone else) it’s worth a trip to the top of the hill (with a dip in each spa along the way) as the view up there is something else… it’s 360 degree view – my photo’s don’t do it justice!
The 14 pools in the lower section provide a great variety and are perfect for families. Even with 14 to choose from we didn’t make it into all of them! The highlights were the Wine Barrel and Infant Rock pools (see photographs) as well as the Cave Pool, the Hamam (Turkish steam room), the Geothermal Showers and the Lakeside Hydrotherapy Pool (which has ‘bubbles’).
Being a cold winter day (it was 4.20pm and about 11C when we arrived, and quite quickly became dark and colder) it was lovely in the water and depending on the spa the water temp ranged from 34 – 40C. By the end of our bathe we were watching the twinkling stars and the kids were seeing how much steam they could make when they emerged from the water. The PHS really is about experiencing nature and the elements – during my previous visit (which was on a cold stormy night) I got to experience torrential rain… which might sound awful – but in fact it was lovely; I was already wet, but toasty warm – in fact the rain provided cool relief! It’s hard to imagine the spas being quite so delicious in warmer weather… that extreme hot and cold gives it an element of thrill.
By 6.05pm the kids were hungry – so we hit the showers and then headed to the Bath House Cafe for pizza dinner. Our now showered and dressed bodies still lovely and warm from the spa.
If you come during the day there are picnic areas where you can eat your own food – however food is not allowed into the bathing areas. So if you were visiting with small children (who like to snack) you would want to carefully plan your visit to work between meals so that (at least in winter) you’re not either cutting your visit short or having to retreat to areas where you can eat while damp and chilly.
Also if your feet are sensitive to the cold and/or surfaces rougher than carpet (like all the men in my family) then pack thongs for the brief walks from spa to spa. We packed towels for outside as well as towels for afterwards – the towels you carry around outside get wet quite quickly (even more so if it’s raining) so it’s handy to have some dry ones for when you’re getting changed at the end of your visit. I noticed some people wearing towelling robes (I suspect they came from the Spa Dreaming Centre – those private spas and treatments next door for 16 years and up) but to be honest they would probably take longer to get on and off once they got wet. FYI there are lockers available which come with electronic wristband keys (perfect if you dislike coming up with pin numbers!).
The Peninsula Hot Springs is not recommended for tiny babies – and personally I am glad we hadn’t come any sooner with the kids, 5 years and older worked really well for us (of course everyone is different) and given it’s a special treat for us I would hate for the swim to be cut short. FYI Charlie (5) is about 110cm and he could easily stand in all the pools we went into. The visit with the kids was almost 1.5 hours (next time I might try a morning visit and I reckon we’d make it to closer to 2 hours) and the first time when I came without kids we swam for almost 3 hours – mind you we were so relaxed after 3 hours we could hardly walk to the car.
My final note. For this visit we drove from Melbourne especially. It was just under an hour and a half one way – and I drove down (husband drove back). It was totally doable but if you were down on the Peninsula for the night, then I would take advantage of being local. Mind you for the drive home the back seat was very very quiet – spa swimming is an excellent bedtime tactic.
Now you might have questions about the minerals and the pool hygiene? Click here.
Have you been to the Peninsula Hot Springs? I would love to read about your experience in the comments below.
**I was taken on a tour of both the Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre – I can report back that if you are planning any pampering (facials, body scrub, massage etc) without the kids the Spa Dreaming Centre looks lovely, but it’s hugely popular so you need to book in 6-8 weeks in advance.