Warm up at these natural hot springs this winter

Relax and let the health benefits of a natural hot spring wash over you at these steamy baths.

The Mataranka Thermal Pool is spectacular (and completely croc-free)!
  • Rachel Gray
  • June 2019

The warm waters of a hot spring are perfect for a rejuvenating soak, while you reap the health benefits for skin, body and mind. Head to one of these natural baths to thaw out this winter.

Heat things up in the Australian outback

In the Northern Territory? Slip into the crystal clear turquoise waters of Mataranka Thermal Pool, where temperatures hover around 34°C, or head down the road to Bitter Springs. “Bitter Springs is more natural because you swim down a little river but Mataranka Thermal Pool has better access,” says Des Barritt, owner of Little Roper Stockcamp opens in new window. Take a four-hour drive from Darwin Airport, rent a swag from the stockcamp, sleep under the stars and wake to a hot mug of billy tea at the morning smoko. For creature comforts (like aircon), head to the convenient Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping opens in new window.

Take a swish splash in Victoria, Australia

Ease worries (and tired bones) with a dip in soothing spring waters so deluxe, that locals have nicknamed them “nature’s Champagne”. Hepburn Springs in Victoria is heavenly spa country teeming with natural mineral springs and indulgent bathhouses offering massages and facials alongside the soaks. Savour the luxury with a stay in a Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa villa opens in new window – about a 90-minute drive north of Melbourne – where you can unwind and relax in between aromatic herbal steam therapies, invigorating vichy showers and salted baths.

You can enjoy luxurious spa treatments alongside your soak at The Hepburn Bathhouse
Luxury seekers will love the treatments at Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa.

Step outside your comfort zone in Japan

It will be a quick skinny-dip at Kusatsu opens in new window, located about 200 kilometres north of Tokyo, where bathers sit for a brief three minutes in the 42-43°C hot spring that is said to cure muscle fatigue, chronic pain, bruises and poor circulation among other benefits. For a gentler soak, drive 90 minutes south of Tokyo to the numerous ryokan bathhouses at Hakone, where views of the active volcano Mount Fuji tower in the distance. Many onsens here still maintain the traditional ethos of bathing naked (after washing) but most guests quickly become comfortable being in the buff, as it is not seen as vulgar. Just don’t stare.

There are plenty of onsens around Japan
Traditional Japanese onsens are a must-try experience.

Go pool-hopping around New Zealand

Rotorua in New Zealand is dotted with restorative hot springs but there is a Yin to the springs’ healing Yang: the smell of sulphur. The good news is that locals say you quickly get used to the eggy scent and it becomes part of the immersive experience. So take your time luxuriating in one of 28 Instagrammable geothermal pools at the Polynesian Spa opens in new window, which overlooks Lake Rotorua. About three hours’ drive south from Auckland Airport, the pools here are fed from two main underground natural springs – the alkaline Whangapipiro (aka Rachel Spring) nourishes the skin and relaxes tired travel-weary muscles, while the slightly acidic Priest Spring washes away aches and is said to provide relief from arthritis and rheumatism.

The Polynesia Spa pools are meant to have healing properties.
The Polynesian Spa natural hot springs in Rotorua are perfect for warming up on cold days.

Head to Vietnam to dip away from it all

Locals kept these hot springs in the Vietnamese countryside a secret for many years before recently revealing the warm waters to the rest of the world. At Tram Tau opens in new window, about a five-hour drive north-west from Hanoi, former teacher Vu Manh Cuong built two 40°C natural spring pools into the landscape in 2017 to help generate income for locals. Today, guests can stay in the stilted villas surrounded by rice terraces and pine trees, overlooking the outdoor baths in the charming but remote valley.