Getting Hot and Steamy in Mornington
We are a couple divided. On this occasion, it is out of necessity. We are branded with electronic tags and ushered out of the swelling crowd. He ambles through the gent’s and I mosey through the ladies. Suitably attired in ‘bathers’ we are more than ready for the upcoming experience.
To the left a ground-recessed, waist-deep, naturally-heated pool awaits. To the right a shallower version for kiddies and those that fancy lounging about, a perfectly acceptable pass time in these parts. We are compelled to investigate the path beyond. A wooden jetty protrudes from the native greenery and four carefully placed deck chairs sit invitingly. The front row seats reveal a small lake with native birdlife in, on and around it. Melodic Asian tunes waft around us.
Mornington’s Peninsula Hot Springs offers a range of indoor and outdoor bathing experiences in its Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre. Pools are refilled daily with water derived from natural hot springs 637 metres below ground. An on-site health spa provides a cocktail of relaxation treatments. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the two on-site cafes and diners can enjoy ‘Pizza and bathe’ package deals. The heated oasis is open seven days from 7.30am to 10pm.
Over a bridge, past a tin shed and into the hot water we sink. Time slows. In fact the clock has no numbers. Instead, there are birds every fifteen minutes. That’s odd, we think. A group of six are positioned against the pool edge. They remind me of women at the hairdressers waiting for their perm. We are disrupted by a low thrumming noise then violent streams of water pummel the row of people and the mystery is revealed. It has struck bird-o’clock, which seems to instigate the firing of water jets onto a line of bathers. It all makes sense now.
We debate as to whether there are warmer pools. Husband thinks this is it. I dutifully studied the website and know there’s more. We resolve the argument with a neutral stranger. Next to us, a woman chats to her teenage son in hushed tones. Husband interrupts boldly and asks “excuse me, do you know if there are hotter pools than this?” “There are heaps up the hill” she replies. I discover that there are more than 20 different bathing experiences with temperatures ranging from 37 to 43 degrees Celsius. Conversation flows and we learn that our adjudicator is an English migrant. We share our own expat story and reveal our New Zealand heritage. All agree there are no regrets, particularly at this moment.
“That’s my wedding anniversary sorted,” our English friend surmises to return without children. As soon as the hairdressing line arises from their thrones, we nab them and line up, Kiwi expats, English expat and her offspring all in a row. Our backs, necks and calves receive a blissful water-massage from the hydro jets. Fifteen minutes of bubbling bliss.
Our warm, thick towels come in handy as we trek the landscaped incline between pools. We make a beeline for the hottest of the hot springs, to experience 43 degrees Celsius bathing. Husband is mindful of the recommended 10 minute time limit at which point one turns into a prune with possible negative health effects.
The underground sauna is beneficial for the pores. A film of sweat envelops my body and I practice deep breathing. Fellow fryers quietly mutter among themselves. A ruckus breaks out in the corner and we can’t decipher the foreign language being exchanged in elevated tones. One member of the group turns to face us. “Ants” is all he needs to say. We join the laughter. The young woman that encountered the harmless insects yelped and escaped the sauna quicker than I could say “they don’t bite.” Outside I catch sight of a body propelling through the air and disappearing down a narrow opening. A lady emerges squealing. The temperature in the chilly plunge pool was apparently a surprise to her. Perhaps she missed the sign. It seems that the female guests are getting more than they bargained for today.
Did you know that there are even silent pools that forbid talking altogether? I keep walking but it’s proving popular with the golden oldies today. The variety of bathing, activities and environments we encounter at the hot springs is unexpected, despite having read the brochure. From aqua therapy to cold plunge pools, from foot baths to cave pools and from reflexology walks to saunas. There truly is an option that suits everyone.
Through the mist we spy an oblong shaped marble slab with a woman sprawled on top. Others in the Turkish steam bath are more astutely seated on surrounding benches. People are filling bowls with cold water then dousing themselves. A cooling technique, I soon discover. It’s rather effective too.
A short distance up the winding steps and then I am serenely soaking at the top of the hill. Bushland hugs the eastern perimeter and sprawling farmland envelops the western front. A waft of sulphur permeates my nostrils. Healing qualities that experts speak of are not just in the water. The natural surrounds are surely soothing my soul. Our time in this natural wonderland has come to an end and there’s only one thing left to do: divide and conquer the change rooms once again.
Peninsula Hot Springs is located in Mornington Peninsula and it takes 90 minutes to drive from Melbourne. Bath house bathing is $40 per Adult and $25 per Child on weekends, with discounted off-peak rates. For more information, click here.