On a cold, winter day, we wind our way along backroads through the beautiful forests of Chelsea, Quebec. It's lightly raining — that cold drizzle that isn't quite fluffy enough to be snow, but isn't heavy enough to be rain. I'm worried that the inclement weather will impact my spa day with a friend, but when we arrive at Nordik Spa-Nature, I realize it's a perfect day.
I'm visiting a friend in Ottawa and rather than heading to one of Ontario's many excellent spas, we cross the border for Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Quebec. It's billed as the largest spa in North America, and at first sight, I'm in complete awe. Crystallized ice adorns the trees surrounding the massive spa, nestled deep in the forest. It's so large, we get lost before we've even begun.
Nordik Spa-Nature - Chelsea, Quebec: The experience
After receiving our rubber wristbands — which act as the key to our lockers and our wallets for the day — we find our spots in the spacious change rooms. They're outfitted with lots of showers, nooks where you could get a bit of privacy and mirrored areas for pre or post spa zhuzhing.
When we get back outside, we're spoiled for choice on where to begin. Nine different saunas, 10 outdoor pools with varying temperatures and the infinity pool all beckon. Since my friend and I haven't seen each other in a while, we want to get our gossip on. We skip past Borëa, the area for hushed conversation, and Kaskad, the silent zone — both sound lovely for complete relaxation. Instead, we head to Panorama, the social area where groups and couples are chatting in the large and wonderfully warm infinity pool.
We spend the day meandering around Nordik Spa-Nature with a mimosa in one hand and a water bottle in the other, visiting as many pools and saunas as we can during our our hot-cold-rest rotation. With various essential oils infusing the air, different light levels and both wet and dry options, each sauna offers a unique experience.
The spacious yurt-style sauna ends up being my personal favourite. Admittedly, sometimes we skip the cold plunge in favour of standing in the frigid air — one benefit of visiting Nordik Spa-Nature in the winter. We rest cozied up by the outdoor fire pits for a while, then repeat the whole process over and over for as long as we like. There's no set end time to a visit at Nordik Spa-Nature.
As we roam the spa, we keep an eye on the counter for the Källa experience. The saltwater flotation pool contains 10 tons of carefully selected, balanced magnesium Epsom salt in 1,200 cubic feet of water — and can only accommodate 20 guests at any time. After checking back twice, the screen shows that we're able to enter.
We venture down into the dark, cavernous space to the pool dug five metres deep into the rock. Here, we float weightlessly, experiencing utter relaxation in the silence.
Nordik Spa-Nature - Chelsea, Quebec: The restaurants
Four restaurants onsite offer different atmospheres for nourishment during your visit to Nordik Spa-Nature. We start the day with lattes and light bites (and mimosas) at Mëzz | Café, a cozy and relaxed indoor space. My sesame bagel topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, pickled red onions and capers hits the spot without making me feel too full for the spa experience.
Next, we head to the Biërgarden & Shack, a lively terrace serving craft beer, cocktails and more substantial bites. We order more mimosas (natch) and my friend digs into a deliciously gooey grilled cheese made with smoked gouda and aged cheddar.
We pass by the Panorama Lounge, which looks like a great indoor restaurant to settle in by the fireplace for gourmet fare, and Restö a spot for more elevated dining.
Nordik Spa-Nature - Chelsea, Quebec: The verdict
After a full day at Nordik Spa-Nature (I think we must have been here for five hours), we both feel like butter. Stress and worries lost somewhere behind us, and two mimosas down, we feel incredibly relaxed. Anytime I'm in the Ottawa or Gatineau area, I'll be sure to stop at Nordik Spa-Nature. It's the kind of place where I could spend a whole day with friends, a partner, my mom or on my own and have a fabulous, and different experience each time.
Nordik Spa-Nature - Chelsea, Thermal Experience, $94 per person; Källa Treatment, $54