Travel

Visit Australia’s Top 15 Natural Spas, It Won’t Cost You A Cent

Why pay for a day spa when Australia offers the best natural spas for free.

Fancy a spa day? Why not visit Australia’s natural spas. From thermal pools, waterholes and rock pools, Australia is home to some spectacular mother-nature made spa’s hidden in enchanting rainforests, along coastlines and even in the desert. 

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of hot springs and rock pools, we scoured the sunburnt country to find the best of the best. 

So, if you’re looking to soak up natural minerals or are up for an adventure through rainforests and over large smooth boulders, head to one of these amazing spots for a dip. 

hot springs
Photo Courtesy Of Peninsula Regional Tourism

Peninsula Hot Springs

Victoria
This award-winning spa is 90-minutes from Melbourne, hiding deep in the Mornington Peninsula. It’s a spa destination, so you will find a bathhouse and spa centre, however, it’s the pools that have us packing our bags. There are cave and rock pools filled with pure thermal mineral waters, some on a hilltop offering panoramic views of the region. It’s a sanctuary for the soul, at the same time being an escape from the city. Relax, rejuvenate and enjoy. The spa is open from 7 am to 10 pm daily. 
Book here

natural spa
Photo Courtesy Of Tourism Australia

Wyadup Spa

Western Australia
Margaret River is known for two things: waves and wine. Only one leads to a hidden spa. The Wyadup Spa, also known as Injidup Spa, is a clear rock pool, where waves spill in through narrow gaps to create just the right amount of bubbles for an all-natural jacuzzi. To get here, take Wyadup Road off Caves Road and park at the end. You will see a small, unsealed footpath to your left. Follow this as it veers right in between two rocks, where you’ll find the spa. Happy hunting. 

lake
Photo By @Jason-Van-Miert/Courtesy Tourism NT

Bitter Springs

Northern Territory
Originally discovered by surveyors of the Overland Telegraph Line in the late nineteenth century, the Bitter Springs is located two kilometres from Mataranka in the Katherine Region. Set amongst palms and tropical woodlands, you will find the natural pool. The best way to enjoy it is by renting a foam pool noodle from the nearby caravan park and letting the gentle current take you downstream (200 metres). Once you reach the end, climb out and do it all over again. 

cliff edge
Photo By @Callum-Jackson

Whalers Way

South Australia
South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is rugged and dramatic, which makes it the perfect backdrop for blowholes and swimming spots. To access the rock pools, you will need a permit and a key, since it’s located on private land. Simply visit the Port Lincoln Visitor Centre for everything you need. Once through, enjoy access to unforgettable cliffs, caves, crevasses and rock pools, everywhere. Remember, this is truly a hidden gem, which means it’s not easy to access and rock pools can be dangerous, so proceed with caution.

rock pools
Photo By Matthew Charlesworth

Blairgowrie Back Beach

Victoria
Towards the end of the Peninsula, there is the quaint seaside village of Blairgowrie. Here, the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay occupy the front beach, while the wilder Bass Strait waters consume the back beach. During low tide, several natural rock pools, varying in size reveal themselves. There’s a cliff jump you can do, but it’s a seven-metre free fall into a three-metre deep rock pool. If you’d rather relax, sit in one of the pools and watch the waves tumble in. 

lake and rocks
Photo Courtesy Of Simon Sturzaker

Douglas-Apsley National Park

Tasmania
There are plenty of waterholes waiting to be discovered in Tasmania’s Douglas-Apsley National Park. On the east side, you’ll find gorges and waterfalls. There are several walks you can take to find the bigger waterholes. One of them is the Apsley Waterhole to Apsley Gorge, which begins with a gentle stroll to Apsley Waterhole where you can go for a swim before continuing on to the gorge. The return trip takes anywhere between three to five hours, depending on which track you take home.

rock pools
Photo By @Darren Jew

Champagne Pools

Queensland
One of the highlights of Moreton Island is the champagne pools, located on the north-eastern tip. The pools get their name from the sparkling effect created as the ocean’s wave crash over the volcanic rock and sandstone break wall. It’s a sight that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s also a great swimming spot, since the wall sits higher than the water level, forming a protected pool and little waterfall to sit under.

blue lake
Photo By Joanna Rogers

Little Blue Lake

South Australia
Little Blue Lake is a natural water-filled sinkhole in the Kanawinka volcanic area between dormant volcanoes, Mount Schank and Mount Gambier. The swimming hole gets its name from when it turned blue on an annual basis, similar to Mount Gambier’s Blue Lake. Although today it has more of a green tinge, it is still a great spot to go for a swim. There are stairs and a floating pontoon for safety and easy access. The lake itself is 40 metres in diameter, eight-meters above water level and has a depth of 47 metres. The shallowest point is still 25 metres. 

spa pool
Photo Courtesy Of Tourism and Events Queensland

Cardwell Spa Pool

Queensland
This spa in pool North Queensland is a naturally-fed, seasonal creek, which means its water levels change throughout the year. It’s a short walk to the pool, which is also located near waterfalls and other swimming holes. Travellers love this pool because of its blue colour, which is the cause of chemistry from the rocks and water. The water that flows here is from underground and it picks up minerals from rocks, resulting in high levels of dissolved magnesium and calcium. Depending on the time of day, you will either see a bright, baby blue pool or milky-in colour. The best time to visit is from May to September.

rock pool
Photo Courtesy Noosa Shores Resort

Fairy Pools

Queensland
Visit the enchanting Fairy Pools in Noosa National Park, a set of two pools, one magically reveals itself at low tide, while the other is always visible. To get here, you will have to scramble down some rocks, but it’s worth it. Once you pass Winch Cove and Picnic Cove, there is a bench which marks where you need to start climbing down. Another easier route is to walk through the national park from the side of Sunshine Beach as there are entrances from Parkedge Road and The Esplanade. 

springs
Photo By Cathy Lu

Dalhousie Springs

South Australia
At the Simpson Desert’s western edge, water bubbles to the surface at several locations around Dalhousie Springs. Here, you can enjoy mineralised waters sitting at a comfortable 37 to 43 degrees celsius. It’s a desert oasis and a great spot to experience an outback sunset. The Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru people have used them for millennia.

rock pools
Photo By Paul Rckey

Figure 8 Pools

New South Wales
This Instagram favourite is not easy to find, but worth the 3.5km track down more than 100 metres of elevation to the rock ledge. Once you hop over the slippery rock ledges, you’ll find a shelf of figure 8 pools to swim in. You will need to go at low tide and it’s best to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the pools before they disappear at high tide. There are signs along the walk that show when the pools can’t be accessed, especially if waves are breaking. It’s a dangerous area, so planning is vital, but it’s worth the adventure. 

natural pool
Photo By Sam Earp/Courtesy Of Tourism NT

Gunlom Infinity Pools

Northern Territory
Enjoy the sweeping vista across three habitats–stone country, woodland and riverine areas–from the comfort of a crystal clear lake pool. The Gunlom Infinity Pools consist of two main attractions. The cliff top pool and the emerald pool at the base of a seasonal waterfall. Whichever you choose, they both offer magical displays of nature, especially at sunset. It’s a short walk from the Visitor’s Centre, although it’s a steep climb up the escarpment. 

hot spring
Photo Courtesy Of Tourism Australia

Katherine Hot Springs

Northern Territory
Take a refreshing dip in the natural thermal springs situated on the bank of the Katherine River. You will find several pools, starting with the top pool. Whichever you choose, the bubbling hot springs have an average temperature of 25 to 30 degrees celsius. You can visit the springs between 7 am and 7 pm daily. It’s also wheelchair accessible and is easy to get to, with an open grass area, great for picnics.

ocean pool
Photo Courtesy Of Tourism Western Australia

Greens Pool and Elephant Rock

Western Australia
This short walk leads to a stunning little swimming spot in William Bay National Park. The 1.5km loop track descends to the calm waters of Greens Pool, where you can take a dip or keep going through the dunes until you reach Elephant Cove and its famous smooth rock formations. The pool is almost completely sheltered from the waves, which makes the calm clear waters perfect for swimming in. The rounded boulders at Elephant Cove create little pools and secret swimming spots between them. You will often see swimmers jumping off the rocks or snorkeling for stingrays.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.