Australian city spas

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 12:00am

An Australian hotelier tells how gruff Aussie blokes deride his suggestion that they and their better halves try a spa treatment together. Disrupting the Darwinian ordinance that 'Bruces' drink beer while 'Sheilas' do their nails is taboo, after all.

With only a mild application of thumbscrews, however, the Bruces can be persuaded to join the Sheilas for a massage and scrub; and on subsequent days, says the hotelier, the Bruces frantically insist on as many repeat visits as possible before checking out. The arrival of the Aussie male at the modern-day temple of indulgence means the spa has entered the world's consciousness - and Australian cities now have some of the most sybaritic examples.

The Dome Retreat (pictured) A star magnet patronised by Bryan Ferry and Pamela Anderson (although not jointly) among others, the Dome is all warm wood, calming shades and flashy awards from the likes of Conde Nast Traveller. Signature treatments include remedial massage, aromatherapy, salt scrubs and Vichy showers. Guests may also enjoy the Dome's luxurious lounge areas, swimming pool half open to the elements and sauna and spa overlooking the Brisbane River. Marriott Hotel, 515 Queen Street, Brisbane, tel: (61) 7 3303 8000;

Angsana Day Spa One of two Angsanas in Sydney, both of which belong to the Banyan Tree group, this spa glories in its Asian influences - particularly its Thai therapists. A team of 12, having graduated from the Banyan Tree Spa Academy in Phuket, operates these two urban oases. Treatments are based on eastern massage techniques and skin-enriching ingredients. 15 Bay Street, Double Bay, Sydney, tel: (61) 2 9328 5501;

Crown Towers Cosiness might be the way to go in most spas, with their intimate approach to lavishing personal attention on patrons. Not so at Crown Towers, where big is beautifully relaxing. Palpable privilege comes with the monumental size of the spa's pampering suites, in which plumply upholstered daybeds, Jacuzzis, steam rooms, Swiss showers and a quarry-worth of marble offer the ultimate in privacy and prestige. Pedicures, manicures, hairstyling and facials are a warm-up for customised massages, body wraps and hydrotherapy. 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne, tel: (61) 3 9292 6666;

Escape@Burswood Ecstasy is the drug of choice at Escape and it's all perfectly legal. The Ecstasy Combo, a six-hour treatment marathon, is the piece de resistance of a menu providing a broad selection of 'maintenance' programmes. Guests can escape to one of eight treatment rooms, where they will find a Vichy shower and hydrotherapy tub and be offered exfoliations, mud wraps and deep-tissue massages. InterContinental Burswood Resort, Great Eastern Highway, Perth, tel: (61) 8 9362 5777;

Canberra Day Spa Ever fancied being a Magnum chocolate ice lolly for a day? You'll be well on the way to one of those melting moments if you treat yourself to the Canberra Day Spa's Chocolate Obsession Package. The first stage of this palatable treatment is a cafe latte body polish; next comes a chocolate wrap, a dunking in a coconut-fizz spa and a mint body-lotion waxing. The Waldorf, 2 Akuna Street, Canberra, tel: (61) 2 6257 9511;

The Observatory Hotel Day Spa As you might expect from a spa set in one of Sydney's most opulent hotels, there is no scrimping on the lavish. Gwyneth Paltrow is spa-struck by the place and a repeat visitor. The spa's heated pool is set below the stars (well, beneath a ceiling peppered with fibre-optic lights that mimic the constellations of the southern hemisphere) and is just the place to retreat to after a round of ancient Aboriginal massage. Enjoy the sensation of floating beneath the heavens in the Outback without fear of being eaten by dingos. 89 Kent Street, Sydney, tel: (61) 2 9256 2222;