The Japanese get it. So do the Scandinavians. And as someone who grew up in geothermal New Zealand, I too am duty-bound to seek out any opportunity to marinate in mineral water. So in November, when the ribbon was finally cut on the $12 million Metung Hot Springs, a promised haven of hot pools, glamping and wellness on Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes, I was already dressed in my bathers.

It’s four hours’ drive east from Melbourne to the lakeside village of Metung, but I make excellent time. In fact, it appears I’ve arrived before the hot springs have even been built. Temporary fences, string line and star pickets stake out what’s quite clearly a construction site. Earthworks equipment is dotted along a denuded valley, with terraces carved into the hillside like an open cut mine. As I’m standing there scratching my head, wondering if I’ve misread the press release, a golf buggy pulls up. “Jump in,” the driver says with a wink. “All will be revealed.”

Geothermal springs were discovered under Metung by accident in the 1920s, by prospectors drilling for oil. In the 1970s free, council-run hot pools were built in a small park near the town, and much adored by locals. Rachel Bromage was one of those locals left heartbroken when the facility closed in the mid-1990s, and for over a decade has been hatching a plan with her husband Adrian to somehow bring them back. “It seems surreal,” she says. “But it’s finally happening.”

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