One upshot of the border closures The Spicy Cough has imposed on us is that it’s forced Australians to look within our own backyard for memorable travel experiences. This has sparked somewhat of a tourism renaissance for some regions – none more so than Tasmania, Australia’s smallest and most isolated state.
Actually, Tasmania’s not that isolated, really. It’s only a 90min flight from Sydney (even less from Melbourne), so you could quite feasibly do a Tasmanian day trip if you were so inclined.
One destination you should seriously consider adding to any Tasmanian trip – whether that’s a day trip or months-long ‘digital nomad’ escape – is the Floating Sauna Lake Derby, perhaps the most luxurious and picturesque sauna experience in the country.
Derby, about 100km east of Launceston, has become one of Tasmania’s hottest tourist destinations in recent years. Originally the home of one of the world’s largest tin mines, the tiny town has since been rejuvenated thanks to a huge investment by the Tasmanian government in 2015, which redeveloped the old mining precinct into one of the best mountain biking areas in Australia.
The Blue Derby network features 125km of purpose-built mountain bike trails, as well as luxurious experiences like the Blue Derby Pods Ride, where you combine your biking adventures with dinner and accommodation in exclusive architecturally designed ‘pods’ nestled amongst the trails.
But what’s this got to do with sauna? Lake Derby, one of the most scenic parts of the network, is home to, as you may have guessed, a floating wood-fired sauna. Not only is it a perfect way to unwind after a long day’s biking, but it’s also easily one of the most Instagrammable places on the planet. Indeed, it’s quickly become a favourite of influencers and celebrities alike.
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The sauna really comes into its own during the cooler times of the year, too, when you can engage in a bit of hot and cold therapy. Soak up the heat in the sauna, then plunge in the freezing depths of the lake, rinse and repeat (quite literally).
Now, I’m a sucker for a good sauna. My best mate from high school went on exchange to Finland and therefore developed an addiction and appreciation for a blisteringly hot sauna, which he also got me hooked on. For years, we’ve conducted an informal yet serious review of Sydney’s best public saunas (tip: Willoughby Leisure Centre’s is great and the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre’s is dogshit) but none really quite hit the spot.
The Floating Sauna Lake Derby, however, is the real deal: not only is it a cracking sauna, but the ability to do hot and cold therapy as well as the stunning views make it easily one of the best in the country. It’d even give some of Finland’s finest a run for their money, I reckon.
Last week, I was in Derby for the launch of the Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic, putting the watch through its paces with a spot of golfing and mountain biking. Tired after a long day of biking, the sauna was a welcome respite. Admittedly, I’d actually been looking forward to the sauna more than the mountain biking.
Of course, if you’re doing sauna properly, you’re supposed to have a cold shower or rinse before you get in the sauna. With the air temperature sitting at a nippy 10°C (and the water temperature closer to 3°C) jumping in the lake was a daunting prospect – but when in Rome…
The water hits you like a slap across the face. Refreshing, but painful. Having swum in glacial rivers before in Europe, I thought I was prepared for the cold, but I really wasn’t. I could feel it in my teeth, it was so brisk. Scrambling for the ladder, I couldn’t wait to get into the sauna.
We hastily threw a few ladles of water on the rocks to get the heat going. Once we’d composed ourselves, we were then able to take in the beautiful surroundings of Lake Derby: the wall of the sauna overlooking the lake is ceiling-to-floor glass, a dramatic and unique feature that adds to the serenity of the experience.
With the sauna now at a good 95°C, we did a bit of Wim Hof style breathing exercises to maximise the curative effects of the sauna. Then, we ran back outside and jumped into the freezing water once more. As I said, rinse and repeat.
By the end of the session, I felt restored in a way that I’d never felt before. Not only was it one of the best saunas I’ve ever tried, but the total experience – the lake plunge, the unparalleled views – was easily one of the most luxurious and memorable things I’ve ever done in my life. High praise, I know.
The problem is that the natural high was so unbelievably good that I now feel like an addict in withdrawal. I went to a local sauna back in Sydney after the Derby trip, and it paled in comparison. Not to mention that staring at a wooden wall doesn’t hold a candle to taking in the beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness…
You can discover more about the Blue Derby network as well as its floating sauna experience online here.