Melbourne's favourite sea baths are back and they're bigger and better than ever.
In the 19th century, the St Kilda Sea Baths were used by a wide cross-section of society. Back then swimming at an open beach during the day was prohibited sea baths were the only option. People drank sea water with brandy or milk as that was thought to be beneficial for easing various ailments.
Apart from physical wellbeing, baths were used as meeting places, particularly amongst Europeans and Jewish people.
In 1956, the South Pacific Health Club opened and attracted a more cosmopolitan clientele by offering mudpacks, Turkish baths and massages from "men with big strong hands".
Redevelopment was approved in 1992 as during the 1970s and 80s, St Kilda became quite sleazy … but never has Melbourne seen a project fraught with so many problems and dramas. Even when the centre opened last year, there was still community criticism, but people have quickly embraced it. Fears of elitism and high prices were unfounded and the Hepburn philosophy is to embrace all, and they are proud of their community-minded attitude.
The new Hepburn St Kilda has upstairs and downstairs.
Downstairs houses public access facilities. A heated 25 metre sea water pool, hydrotherapy spa pool, men's and women's steam rooms and lounge area. An ozone system is being installed meaning a minute amount of chlorine needs to be used and the water is cleaned much more naturally.
The hydrotherapy spa pool is proving to be the centre’s most popular attraction. The purified water is heated to 36º-38ºC and features hydro jets. All water is very buoyant because of the salt content, and people plagued with joint problems find the whole exercise very comforting. The segregated steam rooms are also very popular.
Upstairs is the private health spa area called Thallassotherapy Spa thalassa is Greek for sea. Here you can indulge in the same treatments as those at the parent Hepburn facility mud and seaweed wraps, facials, personal hydrotherapy and spas, milk baths, massage, flotation tanks and body scrubs.
This facility has private salt water spas where you can enjoy the bubbling heated water and look out to sea.
Some therapy rooms open to a balcony which gives the feeling of letting the ocean into the room.
St Kilda now is a friendly place to go there are walkways and bike paths, in-line skaters, windsurfers and kiteboarders. It has transformed into a cosmopolitan waterfront playground with a great variety of restaurants, kiosks and cafes.