You don't have to go to Iceland or Middle Earth find some serious thermal baths.
If you think you've already had enough of winter, you need a hot pool adventure. Yes, that's what we said, a hot pool adventure. We might usually associate the likes of Iceland and the French Alps with thermal baths, but the good news is that we have our fair share of Lord of the Rings-esque pools, too. Complete with unicorns. Okay, only some have unicorns maybe probably, but Australia certainly boasts quite a few enchanting forests where you can indulge in some serious mineral water therapy. Plus, we've got some serious mountaintops complete with supersized hot tubs, so there's that.
Here are six ways to warm yourself that are just a hop, skip and a jump away from your favourite downtown bar. How long you stay in these pools is your business.
PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS, MORNINGTON PENINSULA
This is where Victorians started escaping winter via thermal means. Jump in a car in the Melbourne CBD and drive for just over an hour in a south easterly direction, onto the Mornington Peninsula, and you'll hit the Peninsula Hot Springs, the state's first ever hot springs. No fewer than 20 steamy escapades are on the cards, including those to be had in caves, gullies and Turkish-style bathing rooms.
JAPANESE MOUNTAIN RETREAT MINERAL SPRINGS AND SPA
To do it Japanese-style (and in about as luxurious a fashion as it gets in Oz), head to the Japanese Mountain Retreat Mineral Springs and Spa, which you'll find in Montrose, just 40 minutes' drive from Melbourne, between the Dandenongs and Yarra Valley. You can book your very own private pool or go all- with one of their packages, which includes a variety of spa treatments, from aromatherapy facials to hot stone massages, as well as gourmet Japanese fare.
Rekorderlig Hot Pool, Thredbo Alpine Hotel
While not strictly a thermal spring, the heated, steaming waters of Thredbo's Rekorderlig hot pool get bonus points for being a complete music, food and beverage indulgence. The cider legends bring the towels, umbrellas, blankets and illuminated trees — you just need to bring your swimmers and the courage required to strip down to them in the snow. Not game? You're still welcome to while away some time poolside. Think deckchairs and beanbags, losing yourself in alpine sunsets and contemplating which black runs you're going to conquer in the morning.
HEPBURN SPRINGS, DAYLESFORD
The Hepburn Springs, about two hours' north west of Melbourne is slightly further away, but definitely worth the drive. The bathhouse, built back in 1895, is the oldest in the whole country. An array of communal swimming experiences are on the menu, including pools specifically devoted to therapy and relaxation. Plus, there's a cafe that has been serving up goodies to visitors since 1908 (go for the Devonshire Tea) and a day spa.
SPARADISE, BLUE MOUNTAINS
The Sparadise Japanese Garden and Bathhouse, the only Japanese hot springs experience to be found in New South Wales, boasts stunning views of Lake Lyall. You can opt for baths of the indoor or outdoor varieties, or kick back in the herbal steam room. To top it all off, the surrounding zen gardens and accompanying Japanese tea house provide the ultimate place to relax post-swim, and you can even stay the night in the onsite accommodation — a converted Tudor House.
Mataranka Hot Springs
Located in the Elsey National Park near the tip of the Northern Territory, Mataranka provides you with one lush thermal dip. You have two options: the bigger, more frequented Rainbow Springs and the off-the-beaten-track Bitter Springs. Both boast clear waters, which is perfect if you want to get a peek of some adorable freshwater turtles nuzzling among the reed beds. Camping or no-frills cabins are the sleep styles of choice around here, so these are the springs to go to for a real back-to-nature buzz.