If you can find us an activity more decadently wintry than slipping into a steaming bath of natural mineral water in the middle of the wilderness, we'll eat our collective hats. You might usually associate the likes of Iceland, the French Alps or New Zealand with thermal baths, but the good news is that we have our fair share of stunning hot pools. Australia certainly boasts quite a few enchanting forests and plateaus 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 five 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.
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.
It's not hard to see why this thermal pool in the Kosciuszko National Park is a local favourite. Quiet and secluded, with heaps to explore in the surroundings, it's the perfect destination for a crisp winter day. Filled with water from a natural hot spring, the 20-metre pool remains at a perfect 27 degrees all year-round. Get there via a short (but steep!) 700-metre walk from the nearby car park, or wind your way along the three-kilometre River Walk. If the temps aren't too frosty, have a post-swim feed in the adjacent picnic area before exploring the surrounding caves. Check out our feature for more of NSW's natural hot springs.
To hot pool it Japanese-style, 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-out with one of their packages, which includes a variety of spa treatments, from aromatherapy facials to hot stone massages, as well as nourishing Japanese fare.
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.
Located just outside the opal-mining town of Lightning Ridge, these delightful baths are surrounded by remote bushland and gloriously removed from all signs of civilisation. Open 24 hours a day, you can soak in the hot waters at sunrise, sunset, or any other time your little heart desires. Night swims are particularly recommended as you can float in the 40-degree water while taking in the stunning expanse of the starry rural sky. A popular meeting place for Lightning Ridge residents, the baths are also a great place to get a feel for local life. Best of all? Entry to the baths is totally free.