Blue Mountains, NSW: The Fairmont Resort Leura's new Ubika Spa, a two-storey pamper palace

When it comes to back stories, few hotels in NSW can rival the colourful past and fluctuating fortunes of The Fairmont Hotel Leura.

From rack and ruin in 2009 to rescue in 2012 by one of Australia's most curious squillionaires, to hosting the Dalai Lama in 2015, if the walls of the hotel's Sublime Lounge could talk you'd be glued to your fireside chair till dawn.

You'd hear tales of an unswimmable green pool, no sheets on beds and plates stacked in hallways, with nary a staff member in sight after immigration officials were rumoured to be prowling the place. You'd hear how it was abandoned by its owner, going first into spectacular decline, and then receivership.

The story would then move on to Dr Jerry Schwartz, the long-haired cosmetic surgeon turned hotel mogul who paid a reported $26 million for it and has been pouring millions into it ever since. (He has also this year picked up the Hilton Surfers Paradise in January for $70 million).

He has spent up on everything from new rooms (12 suites were built for His Holiness and his entourage in 2015), to a children's amusement arcade complete with karaoke room, a full-size basketball court and an outdoor adventure park with a high ropes course across the treetops of the Blue Mountains National Park. And in one for the wow-factor files, one of the resort's lakes is currently being drained and turned into a full-sized ice rink.

Fast forward to a weekend in February and, on your writer's third visit over the years, this latest chapter of the Fairmont chronicles looks to be its happiest since it opened 30 years ago.

The main thing the 224-room resort has always had going for it is its location, set on a plateau overlooking the dramatic and genuinely breathtaking Jamison Valley, a magnet for bushwalkers and campers. The foyer with its soaring windows capturing the valley views is still its best feature while the tropical fish in a huge glass tank set into one reception wall seem a long way from home.

We are here to experience the new Ubika Spa, a 16-suite, two-storey pamper palace which opened at the end of 2018. Elegant new sandstone pathways lead us to a minimalist, modern complex opposite the main resort, where fashionable loungers, magazines and herbal tea beckon in a Zen-like space.

One of Dr Schwartz's remarkable purchases adds a touch a glamour overhead – we are told the giant vintage chandelier above us hung for decades in the ballroom of the old Sydney Menzies hotel, which closed in 2017.

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Ubika offers the usual list of blissful ways to get your Zen on, a hot-stone heaven of chi-aligning, skin-rejuvenating, deep tissue me-time. I can recommend the Rainforest Revival Ritual and De-stress Organic Facial.

The spa has four couples' rooms, one with a private spa bath plus a Vichy Shower room, should the idea of lying down on a wet bed while large quantities of warm water pour over you from five faucets appeal. It will soon also have cosmetic enhancements including injectables and peels, performed, they tell me, by a nurse with 15 years' experience delivering anti-ageing treatments.

Undoubtedly Ubika will be a huge drawcard for groups of friends on getaways to the Mountains, pre-wedding parties and for couples and Sydneysiders looking for a top quality destination spa not too far from home.

It's a new chapter for this Blue Mountains landmark hotel, certainly, and when you pair the good doctor's imagination with his deep pockets, there's every chance the end of the Fairmont story is a long way off yet.

TRIP NOTES

Angie Kelly was a guest of Destination NSW and Accor hotels.

MORE

traveller.com.au/blue-mountains

visitnsw.com

STAY

Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains, Leura. Ubika Day Spa is located on the grounds of Fairmont Resort. Rooms from $249 a night. See fairmontresort.com.au

DRIVE

Leura is a 90-minute drive west of Sydney.

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