Sydney's best pamper palaces
Venustus isn't a beauty salon in the common sense. It’s more like therapy for the body and soul. Before our massage, owner and modern-day sharmanic healer Jeannie Bourke is burning white sage and wafting the smoke around the room. We’re seated, shoes off, with our feet placed on a large white crystal, and Bourke is asking gentle but probing questions about how we’re feeling about life at the moment. This information will be used to tailor a transcendent massage and facial, with unusual elements like heated, weighted slippers for your feet, cooling jade rollers and house-made massage serums.
This spa is everything you’d expect from a pamper palace that’s been around for 25 years. Every word is spoken gently and with expert knowledge, there are floral fragrances floating through the vast relaxation areas and dimly lit treatment rooms, plus a surprisingly expansive garden. Start with a dip in the aquamedic pool to improve circulation, flexibility and muscle tone. The huge domed ceiling and butt busts gives it a very Greco-Roman feeling. Finish your ascent to ultimate relaxation with a foot soak and scrub – your job is to inhale frankincense like the royal baby you are – followed by an aromatherapy massage.
Balmain Bath House has to be the best bang for buck when it comes to sweating it out and scrubbing up. The staff are welcoming, knowledgeable and kind and they have all the perks of a pricier spa: fluffy robes, secure lockers, hair dryers, slippers and herbal tea on tap. Using the Bath House alone costs $31 per person for 30 minutes, but you'll want to try one of their intensive scrubs for the full experience. The full-body exfoliations use a seasonal wash – zesty in spring and nourishing in autumn – and leave you with skin as soft as a baby’s.
This is a plush, hushed environment designed to get you feeling relaxed before you’ve even checked in at reception. You’ll be guided through the low-lit, maze-like halls to your treatment room, which is warm to the point of complete relaxation without slumber. You could get a sports-level massage, but this is less a place for working out tired muscles and more somewhere to tune out. There's a tea room where you can rehydrate post-massage, have a piece of fruit and come slowly back to earth before you have to leave the sanctum and return to Pyrmont’s work-a-day pulse.
If you’re in the market for an absurdly luxurious experience – even if only for a few hours of real-life denial – visit Sol Spa. You've come here to pamper, and they will provide the herbal-infused, revitalising, soul-nourishing goods. Head to the opulent private treatment room, clambered aboard the heated massage table and move through a series of dry body brushing, a full-body exfoliation and re-hydration, followed by a head to toe massage. This treatment combo leaves you as relaxed and rejuvenated as a lazy summer holiday without the sunburn
This is the place to go if you want to play kings and queens for a day. Not just for hotel guests, the spa and fitness facilities can be used by anyone who fancies indulging the day away. The wow-factor here is the 20-metre indoor pool. It has a dark, twinkling night sky overhead. The Day Spa’s signature treatment is the Babor Facial (60 minutes, $220) and they also offer splendidly fancy massage treatments, using everything from Swedish and neuromuscular techniques to Champagne body cream.
Timeless elegance and classic luxury are what the Shangri-La Hotel is all about, and those values are held dear at Chi, the Spa on level two. Unwind – slip on a thick, fluffy robe; pour yourself a cup of hot tea or a glass of citrus-infused water; grab a glossy travel magazine, and start drifting away in the comfort of an ultra-cushy lounge chair made semi-private thanks to wispy curtains. Getting up might prove challenging when your therapist comes to collect you, but you can always sink back in again after your session for another cuppa and a quick mental debrief.
Style is paramount at SpaQ. You only have to peek into the Sweeney Todd-like barbershop to understand that the look of this establishment is part of its charm. Gentlemen can book in for a hot-towel treatment for beard care from a hipster hair groomer (dressed by MJ Bale, no less) and leave feeling as clean and invigorated as Patrick Bateman after his infamous morning routine. One of the most popular experiences for gents is the Mr Bond treatment (45 minutes, $80), which includes a wet shave, eyebrow and beard taming, eye mask and a massage.
On level three at the Four Seasons Hotel you’ll find hotel guests and relaxation-seeking locals in six treatment rooms, a steam room, sauna, pool and Jacuzzi. Endota Spa is running the show and our pick of their extensive treatment list is the Revive package (90 minutes, $235), which includes a relaxing body and foot massage, rejuvenating facial and a freshen-up on your nails.
This Surry Hills spa doubles as a luxe hair salon, so you can go head to toe with your self care routine. Their range of beauty services incorporate the cruelty-free Aveda products. Our pick for a rejuvenating romp is the Aroma Body Polish Treatment (45 minutes, $99).
Hands down, this spa has the best views in town. Finish an afternoon on the rooftop – there’s a pool overlooking the harbour, and you can get an Australian clay and hot oil massage (90 minutes, $235) to release muscle tension or an appropriately rich caviar facial to tone and redifine with antioxidants.