Funny name, serious relaxation: Sparadise in the Blue Mountains is the place to go for some quality R&R
When a friend asks if you’d like to spend half a day soaking in a hot spa in the Blue Mountains for a mere $60, there is only one answer: hell yes.
I’ve been meaning to go to Sparadise for years but it was only recently the stars aligned and a) I had the time, and b) I had the occasion: joining a group of newish mums in desperate need of some time out (maybe that should be a ‘haze’ of mums… if anyone has a better collective noun, let me know!).
The name ‘Sparadise’ is a little passé, sure, but focus on ‘Japanese Bath House’ and you’ll get a more accurate idea of what this tranquil retreat is about.
Sparadise is located in a beautiful rural valley overlooking Lake Lyell on the outskirts of Lithgow. From Monday to Thursday it’s used as a private retreat by the owner, and Friday to Sunday the spa opens its doors to the public.
The drive there takes you away from the dramatic scenery of the Blue Mountains and into the pretty neighbouring countryside. The turnoff from the main road is marked by a big yellow teapot – a reminder that Sparadise is more than just a bath house: one of the features is The Tea Shack, which offers over 30 different types of herbal tea and tea blends, along with a simple Japanese menu, and accommodation is available as well.
Food is on my mind when we arrive at the Tudor-style building for our three-hour spa session beginning at 11am. I’m acutely aware this timeslot will span my hungriest part of the day, and I’m relieved to hear I can dine any time at the Tea Shack, though the minutes spent eating will consequently eat into precious spa-soaking time. It’s a small compromise.
We’re greeted by a pair of hosts in grey kimonos who instruct us to remove our shoes and slip into a pair of garish plastic flip-flops. I nearly trip over trying to walk in them and we’re told they’re specifically designed to encourage a slow, ‘scuffing’ gait, like a traditional Japanese woman. “They make you walk at a gentler pace, giving you time for contemplation,” says our host.
We are given a brief tour of the spa, which is made up of an outdoor 40°C hot spring pool with adjacent reflexology footpath, Japanese stone garden and gazebo for meditation and reflection; the 38°C indoor spa and cold plunge pool; the herbal steam room and the meditation lounge. The spas use water from a natural mineral spring underground and a volcanic hot rock system maintains their toasty temperature.
The ladies’ change room is communal and quite squishy with our group of five along with several other women all dressing down into their swimmers. A small heater tries to keep things warm as we bare our skin to the winter air. There’s no feeling of day-spa luxuriousness in this room (a new change room is currently under construction in the new building next door), but the thought of melting into the hot spring pool very soon makes it all okay.
Even in the middle of a Blue Mountains winter, a fleeting wade in a 40°C-pool has us fanning our faces.
Both men and women share the spa, and guests are required to wear swimmers and bring their own towel. As is the traditional Japanese bathing ritual, we’re asked to shower before hopping in the water and we’re each given a special exfoliating towel to slough off our skin-surface toxins. It feels good, and the anticipation builds as we step outside into the chilly air and dash – or slowly scuff – our way towards the hot spring.
One step, two step… Aaaaaaahhh.
The warmth is as delicious and all encompassing as I had imagined. After a few minutes of lolling, hypnotised with heat, I notice each of us begins pulling a limb or two out of the water to – would you believe it – cool down. Even in the middle of a Blue Mountains winter, a fleeting wade in a 40°C-pool has us fanning our faces. A few ladies casually stroll up the reflexology path, prodding the soles of their feet on strategically places stones, in nothing but bathing suits (it couldn’t have been more than 13°C outside): such is the bone-deep warming effect of the hot spring.
Next we retreat indoors to the slightly cooler (38°C) spa for a dip and discover it’s much more suited to longer-term soaking. If you can get a spot near the cold pool, claim it – it’s refreshing to splash yourself with near-freezing water every now and then. Some brave souls take a full-body plunge in the cold pool (it supposedly increases blood flow and acts as an anti-inflammatory). I prefer the occasional splash.
From all reports the herbal steam room was excellent (I’m not one for steams) – a very intense humidity with lemon myrtle, tea tree and eucalyptus-infused air. Just be ready for the loud, 20-second rush of steam as it’s pumped into the room – it’s a real conversation stopper.
Speaking of speaking, visitors are asked to keep talk to a minimum, understandably so as not to disturb others. This is hard to do with a group of women, but we found we were able to chat quietly without being bothersome.
After two hours in the spa I was very ready for lunch and so made my way to The Tea Shack, still in my swimmers with a towel around my waist, to peruse the menu. There are around a dozen noodle soups and rice dishes to choose from. I went for the Japanese curry – a substantial serve of mild beef curry with carrots and potatoes – not your typical light and cleansing spa-food choice, but it was just what I felt like. And afterwards I still had half an hour left for another dip.
At 2pm we were asked to return to the change rooms and gather our things. Usually after a spa treatment I’m shocked that time has passed so quickly, and I’m left feeling disappointed it didn’t go for longer. But after this three-hour spa session I feel completely satisfied. There’s no sense of lacking at the end.
One final visit to The Tea Shack for some tea (try their signature Harmony tea – $8 for one pot or $9 with an extra cup) and udon noodle broth with seaweed and tofu for my friends, and soon enough we were shuffling – at a contemplative, gentle pace – back to the car.
We arrived as a ‘haze’ of exhausted mums, and we also left as a haze – this time of the revived and relaxed kind.
VERDICT: Would I recommend Sparadise? Absolutely! It’s perfect if you have half a day to spare and want to do something purely indulgent; and the good thing is – you can come no matter the weather. There are also massages and facials available, but these are quite expensive. Really, you can’t go past the standard spa session for one of the most value-for-money spa experiences in the Blue Mountains. Just remember to bring cash!
- Address: 259 Sir Thomas Mitchell Drive, South Bowenfels NSW 2790
- Phone: (02) 6352 3122
- Web: www.japanesebathhouse.com.au
- Opening hours: Fri 2pm–9pm, Sat 12 noon–9pm, Sun 11am–5pm for day visitors (11am–8pm for overnight guests)
- Prices: Single entry $60; multiple entry/day pass $90; massages from $80 for 30mins (accommodation packages available)
- Cuisine: Japanese
- Licensed: No
- Bookings: Essential
- Views: Yes
- Wheelchair access: No wheelchair access inside the facility; carers are required to assist when using the spa.
- Cards accepted: Cash only, no EFTPOS (10 per cent service fee applies for Visa and MasterCard)