When one Instagram account leads to the next Instagram account and before you know it you’re ten tabs deep from where you started. I’m pretty sure that’s how I stumbled upon @floatingsauna_lakederby and made a point to visit the Instagram-friendly spot on a Tasmanian road trip.
The Challenge: Finding The Sauna
The Floating Sauna is positioned on a jetty on Lake Derby in the Apple isle’s northeast. The town is a popular mountain biking spot with day tours, bike shops and dirt paths in all directions.
The sauna must be booked online for an hour session. Five people are allowed in the sauna at once or you can book a private session. We were a party of three joined by two young women who had driven four hours north from the Huon Valley for the experience.
Finding the sauna is a little challenging. Google Maps sends you to a road with a chain link fence. There is a sign at the fence to say, turn around, head to the fire station, park there and walk across the suspension bridge.
We followed the instructions, parked and followed the path to the Floating Sauna. There are stickers in bubble writing on pylons that signal the way. I had left my coat in the car and while walking to the sauna I kept thinking, should I head back and get my parka? Will I be freezing on the return jaunt? (To be revealed.)
Checked In to Check It Out
On arrival at the sauna, an attendant in a perfectly Tasmanian wardrobe of a beanie, flannel, work boots and fingerless gloves checked us in on his phone. He directed us to the change rooms – that’s the white plastic structure to the right of the sauna. The attendant is on site the whole time, chopping firewood and checking in and directing new arrivals.
We stripped to our swimsuits and took a seat in the sauna. The sauna employee added a few extra sticks of wood to the stove and drizzled some water on top. He suggested at least four dips in the cool water and he’d let us know when we had 15 minutes left of our booked hour. He also said to finish on a dive, as it traps the warmth in your body.
Unlike health club saunas that are usually a pine box, this sauna has one transparent wall. As you sit in the sauna, you can see the sunlight on the dark lake, the eucalypt hills behind and the daytime crescent of the moon against a blue sky. It’s truly beautiful.
Dive Right In
Now for the dip. We waited until we were glistening in sweat. The jetty’s edge is just a step from the sauna door. The water temperature was just five degrees on the day we visited and it’s 20 metres deep. The feeling is like nothing else. After diving in, I swam to the metal ladder and exited as quickly as I could and sprinted back to the warmth of the sauna. Sitting in the sauna, I realised I liked the feeling: your whole body feels alive. I did it three more times – sauna, dip, sauna, dip, sauna, dip.
After the final jump, I didn’t even feel cold with wet hair and wet jeans (as I just pulled them over the top of my wet swimsuit). The walk to the carpark was a giddy, warm chat about how we were feeling post sauna (Great! Amazing! Alive!).
In the carpark, we said goodbye to our sauna co-habitants and drove to our Airbnb just up the road and changed into dry clothes.
Where to Stay
Derby has many cute Airbnb options. We stayed at the Pilgrim Blue Derby – a converted church hall built in 1891 with a loft bed, modern bathroom and local beers in the fridge. The cabin was warm and perfect.
Where to Eat
Every small town should have a wood fired pizza joint with a roaring fireplace, a large chesterfield sofa front and centre and vintage photos on the wall. They should just be like The Hub in Derby. I’m still thinking about The Hub’s True Blue pizza – house-made onion marmalade, mozzarella, blue cheese and walnuts. And I ate quite a few slices of my son’s Capricciosa too – pancetta, mushrooms, olives and anchovies. The Hub also has an impressive, almost exclusively Tasmanian beer, wine and cider list.