The calming effects of Aurora Spa & Bathhouse kick in from the moment you arrive.
Tucked behind the InterContinental Hotel Sorrento on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, the space is all neutral tones with gentle lighting, oak panelling and a soothing, custom-made scent that seems to follow you no matter where you go.
Aurora Spa & Bathhouse
Softly spoken staff greet you on arrival, and guide you through the process. You can choose the 10-step ritual, or go your own way, but both start with a cleansing botanical salt ritual. I start at the 36-degree sky-lit Daydream pool, and – after a deep breath – hop into the interconnecting 10-degree cold plunge. Afterall, it’s said to have many multiple health benefits.
After 20 minutes in the reflexology pool, I opt for a break in the thermal loungers with some herbal tea before trying out the ‘sensory’ showers.
There’s also a timber-lined Nordic-inspired spa, aromatherapy steam room, halotherapy (salt) suite, and one of the largest saunas in the Southern Hemisphere. While the custom-made Glacial Mist Room recreates the elements. Think mist, rain and ice in a refined version of the Finnish tradition of rolling in the snow after a sauna. And it’s all indoors, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a cool, overcast day like it is when I’m here.
There are only 60 people here at a time, but if you do want a space to yourself, choose the private float room filled with 600 kilograms of Epsom salts which makes you buoyant, so you can lay back and watch the starry sky.
Eight treatment rooms mean you can finish with a treatment of your choice. Maybe a Himalayan sound and stone massage, or Wattleseed body smoother. Treatments incorporate the spa’s own products, ASPAR – a range used in Qantas’ first-class lounges, and you can opt to mix your own treatment at the end of a session from the ‘apothecary’ – a table of ground botanicals and salts.
Australia’s first official spa
Owner Lyndall Mitchell started Aurora more than two decades ago in St Kilda, in what was Australia’s first official spa. “I’m not sure St Kilda was ready for it at the time. I spent a lot of time explaining the type of massage we did,” she says with a laugh. But as the concept grew, so did her success and she moved into The Prince Hotel, before working with renowned designer Woods Bagot to build the new 500-square-metre spa at Sorrento.
Founded by Lyndall Mitchell
Mitchell’s passion for wellness began at a young age when at just 14 years old she worked at Eden Health Retreat in Currumbin Valley where she grew up, and after leaving school, she went back there for five years.
“I loved watching people transform their lives, but I wanted to launch something that could be ongoing. An urban retreat.”
And Aurora Spa & Bathhouse feels exactly like that.
Mitchell also holds three-day workshops that include a coastal walk, educational sessions, nutritional meals, and of course bathing, and she is the author of four well-being books – each about how you can ensure a happier and healthier life.
She hopes to one day expand her concept around the world. “I think people increasingly want to disconnect from screens and the stress of life and unwind and this gives them the chance to do that.”
But mostly, she wants to spread the word about the long-term benefits. “We have regular visitors who say their quality of sleep is much better and their skin is smoother. It has far-reaching benefits and that’s what I set out to achieve.”
I leave feeling lighter, as if I’ve had a massage, and that night I have one of the best sleeps I’ve had in a long while. It’s little wonder bathhouses are seen as a ritual in Europe, and Australians are fast catching on.