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Stephanie's Spa Brisbane
Photograph: Stephanie's

The best day spas in Brisbane

Whatever experience you’re after, find the perfect spot to get your zen on

Written by
Zoe Briggs
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Brisbane has finally thrown off the shackles of its ‘big country town’ image, a place best thought of as a gateway to the coast, and stepped into its role as an interesting destination in its own right. Increasing numbers of clued-in visitors have brought about a flurry of new high-end hotels, which, pleasingly for massage mavens and facial fanatics, also means a flurry of new hotel day spas.

Whether you’re lucky enough to call the River City home or you’re in town for a GOMA exhibition (hopefully followed by reservations at one of our latest impossible-to-get-into restaurants), here are five of Brisbane’s best day spas you’ll want to put at the very top of your to-do list.

Looking for an upscale place to relax after your spa treatment? Try Hotel X.

If you’re after: Urban luxury

The W hotel brand may conjure images of partying rather than pampering, but this new addition to the Brisbane spa scene is set to change that. Thoughtful touches and design choices abound, from heated neck pillows and cushioning under your knees during a massage to the enormous treatment rooms, some of which boast showers, huge, inviting couches and, best of all, stunning floor-to-ceiling views of South Bank.

It’s not all downhill after your treatment is over, though. Your next stop is the Relaxation Pods, aka the ‘come back down to Earth’ spaces. Intended to ease the transition between treatment and real life, these are places to sip rejuvenating tea on your wave-shaped bed overlooking the river and contemplate how wonderful life is, at least in this escapist, luxurious moment.

Want to prolong the experience even further? The separate men’s and women’s changing areas, each with a sauna and private showers, offer shared access to mineral pools. After a leisurely soak, top-of-the-line hair tools are available in case the siren songs of work or play call more persuasively than robes and room service. 

If you’re after: Visible results

The Calile Hotel is the star in the revamped James Street’s crown, renowned for its Instagram-worthy clientele, buzzy restaurants and slick, '60s-inspired design. It stands to reason, then, that there was some major pressure for its spa to be something special.

Luckily, Kailo exceeds all expectations; if you’re serious about your skin, this is the place to be. The salon – with curved archways, Scandi blond wood and soothing hints of cream and sage – is one of only eight in the country to offer treatments from venerable French skincare brand Biologique Recherche. Yes, a custom BR facial will set you back a pretty penny, but when your expertly trained therapist pauses mid-treatment to show you the difference between the side of your face she has worked on (taught, lifted, glowing) versus the side yet to be treated (honestly, utterly haggard by comparison)… what price perfection?

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If you’re after: Something different

Take the elevator up to level 21 of the glitzy Emporium Hotel and step into another world as you enter the intimate, atmospheric Healing Stone. Inspired by traditional Japanese design, with dark-stained walls of bamboo and shoji screens sectioning off rooms, the spa is as interesting as its treatments.

You’ll be welcomed with a warm foot bath, during which your shoes are whisked away and replaced with geta (a type of Japanese thong slipper). Then it’s time for an elegant massage, incorporating a combination of shiatsu and deep pressure techniques. The rhythmic, fluid movements lull knots into gentle submission.

Afterwards, don’t miss the ganbanokyu, a glowing cave filled with Himalayan rock salt that emits a mellow infrared heat to soothe weary bodies and minds. An hour is recommended, but even ten minutes is enough to boost feelings of tranquillity.

If you’re after: Cocooning

This slightly futuristic space in tones of greige, blue and green makes for a serene oasis at the Westin in the heart of the CBD. Yes, this location means there is some street noise to be heard in the treatment rooms, but such high levels of attention have been paid to ensuring you otherwise feel cosseted that it is easily ignored.

Treatments begin with choosing an aromatherapy scent and selecting one of three pebbles etched with a single positive emotion, to help focus your mind. (Rest assured that, even if these elements wouldn’t float your boat in everyday life, in the peaceful environs of this particular spa, they are genuinely lovely and uplifting.) Chimes signal the start and end of each session, which takes place on a generously sized, heated massage bed and is performed by a caring, experienced therapist.

Once your treatment is completed and you have been led to your private section of the lounge area, said therapist provides a short debrief on any areas of concern in your skin or muscles and makes suggestions to help you to try to alleviate said issues in future. This is practical, helpful and a sales pitch-free zone. Then you’re left to relax, completing the experience with some final, crucial elements of self-care – rehydrating with herbal tea and reenergising with antioxidant-rich chocolate, handmade by the hotel’s pastry chef.

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If you’re after: A classic spa experience

The rest of the spas on this list are relative newcomers compared to Stephanie’s, the grande dame of the Brisbane spa scene. Its setting, while cosy, could do with a refresh, but its top-quality staff ensure it is still deserving of the reputation it has built over the years.

The signature offering is the Opal Rasul Temple, inspired by a Turkish hammam experience. This won’t be for you if you don’t do well with claustrophobic spaces or heat, but if you’re a sauna fan, the candlelit, mosaic-tiled room levels up that experience. Apply the provided masks to your face and body, then sit back and let the steam do its work. It fills the room quickly, so be prepared; the heat is intense and you can’t see much around you, but once you relax into it and focus on the dome above you, designed to resemble a starry night sky, it’s quite meditative. A delicate mist falling from the ceiling signals that it’s time to rinse off under one of the three rainhead showers. Once you’ve freshened up, enjoy a treatment – ideally a massage, which begins with a warm foot soak in a basin full of fresh rose petals. The therapists are excellent, knowledgeable about the body, and work to the exact pressure requested. 

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