A ferryboat with a eucalyptus-infused steam room, a garden oasis a stone’s throw away from busy city roads… these sound a little like contradictions, but in the dynamic city of Montréal, they don’t have to be. Bota Bota is a floating Nordic spa on the St. Lawrence River that opened in 2011, but the boat on which it’s located first set sail in 1951. Between then and now, it’s also served as an art gallery and performance space.
The onboard decks and surrounding grounds contain literally everything you might want or need to enjoy a day of de-stressing: hot tubs and cold plunge pools, saunas and steam rooms, even massages set to the sound of a live harpist. Tempting as it may be to wax poetic over all these amenities, a rule of near-silence is maintained throughout and phones are discouraged, generating a welcome respite from the noise of the bustling world outside.
Call me crazy, but I often don’t really feel that I’m on vacation until I’m sat by the water doing absolutely nothing. On my last visit to Montréal, Bota Bota offered just that feeling. Watching the sun set over the river and skyline beyond was the perfect finale to a weekend spent traipsing down the streets, through museums, and up to the summit of Mont-Royal. Bota Bota’s design is impeccable with every detail remarkably executed; whether dry in a hammock chair or submerged in the waterfall garden pool, picturesque views of the city are unobstructed and notes of ambient music are never too faint—nor too loud. By the time I disembarked after a three-hour stay, the moon was in the sky (and I was pretty much on cloud nine).