Nothing works up a thirst quite like the Aufguss ritual.
After alternately sampling several saunas, steam rooms and hot, warm and cold pools, my wife and I complete our first thermal circuit of the 100,000-square-foot Nordik Spa Nature near Ottawa by taking a time-out in a pair of heated hammocks. Cocooned contentedly, we’re roused by the sound of a distant gong, which signals the start of the bi-hourly Aufguss.
Dramatic music fills the tiered Finlandia sauna as the Aufguss master drops three essential-oil-infused snowballs onto the enormous central stove’s super-heated rocks. Juniper-scented steam sizzles into the air and is skillfully dispersed by our guide as she whirls a folded towel, her tattooed arms glistening with sweat. Ten minutes and six more snowballs later, I’m drenched, elated, and can almost taste the dozen craft beers and ciders being poured in Nordik’s year-old Biergarten.
Like many Canadians, I’ll take any patio time I can get come spring. But Nordik’s panoramic terrace, situated next to a steaming infinity pool overlooking the Gatineau Hills north of Ottawa, ably demonstrates that not all patios are created equal. Some offer superior views. Others are more beautifully designed or landscaped. Certain patios serve especially enticing beverages. And some, such as those at Nordik and at the five other venues listed here, combine these exceptional attributes with spa treatments that take al fresco bliss to a whole new level.
For more information on Nordik Spa Nature, visit chelsea.lenordik.com. For information on Nordik’s Thermëa location in Winnipeg, visit thermea.ca. A third Nordik spa, in Whitby, Ont., is slated to open in 2019.
100 Fountain Spa, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
The Pillar and Post’s poolside patio, surrounded by lush gardens and plush lounge chairs, isn’t just for overnight guests. Spa-goers are also granted access, which presents a prime opportunity to sip the fruits of Niagara’s bounty before or after being exfoliated with them in the historic hotel’s 100 Fountain Spa. The 105-minute “Head to Toe Wine Taster” treatment, for instance, includes a “Beyond Vino” Facial and Body Wrap, both of which incorporate a grape-extract exfoliation that’s said to be rich in antioxidants. Then comes a “Purple Feet Pedicure” with a grape scrub and a maple-grape mask, and finally, a complimentary glass of local wine.
More information: vintage-hotels.com
Kananaskis Nordic Spa, Alberta
With three saunas, two steam cabins and a trio of hot, warm and cold outdoor pools, this brand-new spa circuit on the grounds of the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis is about half the size of Nordik’s. Then again, it outshines its Quebec rival when it comes to scenery, surrounded as it is by the Rocky Mountain splendour of its namesake provincial park system. Like Nordik, K-Nord doesn’t let serenity and wellness get in the way of a good time. No signage shushes guests on the covered patio of its Two Trees Bistro, which serves an array of sharing platters and small plates along with wines, craft beers, herbal teas and espresso drinks. Some shushing may emerge in June, however, when a dedicated quiet pool and Relaxation Lodge are slated to open.
More information: knordicspa.com
Bota Bota: spa-sur-l’eau, Montreal
Next-level patio time takes a unique nautical turn on and around this former St. Lawrence River ferry moored in the Old Port of Montreal. Since its audacious 2010 transformation, Bota Bota has enhanced its five decks of port-holed saunas, eucalyptus steam baths and outdoor whirlpools by covering its island moorage with gardens, pools, decks and terraces. All these al fresco options, along with the ferry’s various hot tubs and balconies, are serviced by Bota Bota’s in-house restaurant, La Traversée, which features a floating outdoor dining room.
More information: botabota.ca
Boathouse Spa, Victoria
There are no actual watercraft in the Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s stylish Boathouse Spa, but with its three outdoor mineral baths set right on the shores of B.C.’s Salish Sea it’s very easy to hop into one should the need arise. Not that you’d ever want to leave: Along with an extensive menu of treatments, the spa serves up an array of beverages, snacks and desserts on its licensed patio. Who needs a kayak, after all, when you can pair a “Potted Black Forest Trifle” of dark chocolate brownie, whiskey cream and cherry compote with a glass of Prosecco and an Indian head and shoulder massage?
More information: oakbaybeachhotel.com
The Doctor’s House Inn & Spa, Green’s Harbour, Nfld.
Canada’s East Coast looks similarly scenic from this Avalon Peninsula estate. Named in honour of its original psychiatrist owner, this 17-room luxury inn is surrounded by 100 acres of gardens, greenhouses, livestock pastures and walking trails. Its spa, meanwhile, offers packages that include scalp massages, facials and wine-forward lunches from the in-house Secret Garden Restaurant — think flambéed calamari and seared duck breast with cherry port sauce — served on a private spa deck overlooking Trinity Bay.
More information: doctorshousenewfoundland.com