Natural spa experiences in NSW
You don’t need to head to an expensive spa or wellness retreat when you’re feeling overloaded. Immersing yourself in our glorious natural landscapes will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
From the dappled depths of the rainforest to the mesmerising colours of a coral reef, these unforgettable environments are the perfect way to have a (free) spa experience in nature.
Zone out in an ocean pool
Swimming in the ocean has a multitude of health benefits, mostly due to the strong mineral content of the water (hello, sodium, magnesium, calcium and sulphate). No wonder that a dip in the ocean is such a mood-booster. You don’t have to be a strong swimmer to enjoy the experience either, thanks to the 100 or so ocean pools sitting along the NSW coast. Carved out of the rock, fed by natural seawater but sheltered from the waves, these pools offer a mind-clearing dose of ocean therapy, a calm zone where you can feel the Zen.
You’ll find ocean pools everywhere from Yamba in the north to Bermagui on the Sapphire Coast, where the photogenic Blue Pool captures the sky’s shifting moods in its depths. Lively Newcastle is home to not one but two extraordinary swim spots: the Bogey Hole, hand-carved by convicts, as well as the largest ocean pool in the Southern Hemisphere, Merewether Ocean Baths.
Not to be outdone, Sydney has three dozen ocean pools to choose from, including the much-loved Wylie’s Baths at Coogee, Bronte Baths and North Cronulla Rock Pool. That expensive kelp wrap at the spa? Re-create it with seaweed for a truly rejuvenating experience. Is the water is cold? Just think of your dip as hydrotherapy.
Immerse yourself in an ancient rainforest
You don’t have to walk far into a rainforest to feel your pulse slow down. It’s all due to the soft light, filtered through the canopy of soaring trees, and the way your feet fall softly on the rich leaf litter, as well as the oxygen-rich air that plants breathe out all around you. Every rainforest is a riot of life, from strangler figs clinging to the trunks of carabeen trees to tree ferns cascading over fallen trees.
Rainforests are found all over NSW, including in Budderoo National Park near Wollongong south of Sydney. Among the most spectacular are the World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests, the largest area of subtropical rainforest in the world. Nightcap National Park near Lismore, Border Ranges National Park near Murwillumbah and Dorrigo National Park near Coffs Harbour all offer a broad range of walking trails. Our suggestion? Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and breathe all that goodness in.
Embrace the calm of the underwater world
Forget float tanks. Slip on your mask and snorkel and slide into the water and you are poised to enter the rejuvenating silence of the underwater world. It’s not just the colourful marine life that makes snorkelling so relaxing, but that sense of being removed from the wider world, of being alone with your thoughts.
On NSW’s long coastline, the next great snorkel spot is never far away. At Manly’s Shelly Beach you can wade out from the sandy beach to explore Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, a sheltered area that is home to more than 150 species of fish including blue groupers, giant cuttlefish and weedy sea dragons that live among the seagrass.
Other great spots around the state to take the plunge include: Cook Island Aquatic Reserve at Tweed Heads, known for its large turtle population; off Little Hyams Beach near Jervis Bay; Montague Island on the South Coast; and Lord Howe Island Marine Park, home to the southern-most coral reef in the world.
Feel revived by a cascading waterfall
A great spa experience always involves a soothing soundtrack, and there are few sounds – or sights – more soothing than a waterfall. It’s an experience that works both at a distance and up close.
Take the long drop of Belmore Falls near Kangaroo Valley, a 2hr drive south of Sydney, a torrent of tumbling water which is best admired from a lookout. Equally eye-catching is Gloucester Falls at Barrington Tops, a 3hr drive north of Sydney, an oasis that draws wildlife including platypus, lyrebirds and bowerbirds.
If you’re looking to get wet, the family-friendly Somersby Falls on the Central Coast north of Sydney is great for splashing about in, as are Winifred Falls in Sydney’s Royal National Park, an hour’s drive south of the CBD, where you can relax on a perfectly positioned rock ledge and be mesmerised by the falling water.
Slow down on a riverbank
Rivers take their time but always get where they are going in the end, and watching their ceaseless flow is one of the best forms of meditation around. Whether you sit beneath the canopy of a sheltering tree or find a perch on a rock where you can dangle your feet in the flowing water, an afternoon spent sitting by a river will melt your stress away.
Even the harbour city of Sydney offers plenty of inviting places to relax by a river. Follow the 30km Cooks River Cycleway through Sydney’s Inner West to find a perfect riverside spot or, for a more rugged feel, walk the Nepean River Walking Track, in the city’s west, as it passes through dramatic canyons and verdant bush.
Further afield in the Riverina in the state’s south, some of the loveliest places for riverside relaxation are found in the Murrumbidgee River Regional Park where the banks are scalloped by white-sand beaches shaded by ancient river red gums. In the Snowy Mountains, there are countless river spots perfect for wild swimming, from Thredbo River to the Paddy’s River Falls.