Anyone who has breathed in fresh, salty sea air or fallen asleep to the rhythmic sound of waves can tell you, there is something deeply relaxing about being near the ocean. Our ancestors knew it is healing, too—for both the mind and the body. “The notion of going to the sea for good health has been around for thousands of years,” says Diane Bernard, the “Seaweed Lady” of Vancouver Island, Canada, and founder of the organic Seaflora line of products and spa treatments. “As the earliest plants on the planet, seaweed is full of nutrients andboasts the highest levels of amino acids and healthy minerals.” Bernard explains that each type of seaweed also has its own unique benefits: Bull kelp, for example, is hydrating, boosts circulation and helps with insomnia, while sea lettuce is a natural astringent. When ingested, some types of seaweed can even help lower blood pressure and detoxify the body.
Rooted in the Greek word for “sea,” thalassotherapy—the therapeutic use of seawater—came of age in Brittany, France, in the 1800s. Though cultures all over the globe, from the ancient Romans to the Germans and Japanese, have incorporated hot springs and natural mineral baths into their health regimens, true thalassotherapy must use seawater directly from the ocean (as opposed to H20 bubbling up from underground.) As a result, most thalasso clinics are located along seaweedrich coasts like that of Brittany, where therapies run the gamut from soaks and sea-mud wraps to sinus-clearing seawater inhalations.
While the United States doesn’t have a long history of thalassotherapy (or many true thalasso clinics), we do have a tradition of heading to the coast for rest, relaxation and recuperation. Organic Spa Magazine checked out two classic East Coast retreats—one in Rhode Island, the other in Virginia—that have recently incorporated sea-based spa therapies into their aquatic offerings.
Ocean House, Rhode Island
Generations of East Coasters have spent lazy summer days at this iconic resort, which stands guard on the bluffs of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean just steps from a wide, private white sand beach. Built in 1868, the Victorian-style main building was, for decades, the epicenter of high society travel, attracting dinner and overnight guests from New York City and nearby Newport. Following a $140 million restoration and expansion, the hotel re-opened in 2010 to cater to a new era of discerning visitors, with a buzz-worthy farm-to-table fine dining restaurant, retro-chic touches like a croquet lawn, and the 12,000 square-foot OH! Spa.
Looking out over the ocean and flower-filled grounds, the seven-room spa has plenty of amenities, but still retains a New England charm. Treatments incorporate a variety of natural product lines, including organic, Rhode Island-based Farmaesthetics. The spa menu’s From the Harvest section is updated seasonally to address the skin’s changing needs and highlight of-the-moment ingredients. The From the Ocean menu, which also varies seasonally, features facials and body treatments with remineralizing marine extracts, sea mud and marine spring water, plus relaxing massages that take inspiration from the rhythmic motion of waves.
While Ocean House isn’t strictly a destination spa, it offers plenty for wellness-minded guests, from beach yoga and core circuit classes to a high-tech “Virtual Fitness” machine that lets clients choose from a variety of workouts. Introduced earlier this year, the hotel’s Wellness Weekends include fitness and spa time, along with activities like aromatherapy bath salt lessons and smoothie classes with the in-house Forager, who can also offer great tips on eating seasonally and locally. oceanhouseri.com
Tides Inn, Virginia
Perched on Carters Creek, near the Rappahannock River in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay area, this former 18th-century family farm was re-launched as the Tides Inn in 1947—and quickly became one of the favored small hotels along the Mid-Atlantic coast. Though the property has added many new facilities since then—from a fine dining restaurant to a sailing school— the familial atmosphere remains unchanged. Guests are still welcomed with warm chocolate chip cookies at the front door, treated to beach bonfires and s’more roastings at night, and always greeted with a hearty dose of Southern hospitality.
From the resort’s marina, guests can explore the creek via kayak, canoe or paddleboat, or board a cove cruise to learn about the area’s historic homes and native wildlife. Those up for more of a challenge can try their hand at catching Blue Crab, or sign up for lessons at the on-site Premier Sailing School; classes range from a two-hour intro to four-day intensives and even sailing certification programs. Classes for kids and teens are also available.
Tucked into a quiet corner of the property, the intimate Tides Inn Spa re-launched in 2011 with a commitment to using natural and organic products, and to offering treatments inspired by the Chesapeake Bay. Using sea mineral-infused OSEA products, the signature Tides of Change body treatment includes an organic body scrub followed by a full-body massage with algae oil, while the complementing facial is customized to your needs. Natural ingredients like rosemary, ginger, jasmine flower and black silt clay also appear on the menu. tidesinn.com
Bring the benefits of the sea to you with products from these mineral-rich lines
This family-owned Irish brand creates high-quality organic products (from skin care to teas) based on sustainably- harvested wild seaweed. Top sellers include the anti-aging My Little Hero facial serum and the Lazy Days seaweed soak. VOYA also operates their own seaweed bathhouse in Sligo, Ireland. voya.ie
Sustainably-harvested Gigartina seaweed from the remote Sea of Patagonia is the key ingredient in this California-based brand’s organic skin care. Try the Cleansing Mudd with tea tree and several types of seaweed to deep cleanse and curb oil production (it’s also great for shaving), and the White Algae Mask to hydrate skin and calm irritation. oseamalibu.com
Using a variety of organic wild seaweed and ocean muds handharvested from the Pacific coast of Canada, Seaflora products help to re-mineralize and strengthen the skin. The Sea Kelp Softening Moisturizer stimulates collagen production and cellular repair, while the Therapeutic Firming Seaweed Body Gel helps reduce lactic-acid build-up in muscles. sea-flora.com
Designed for anti-aging and healing (it’s been doctor-recommended for soothing eczema, psoriasis and post-procedure sensitivity,) this new line uses a high level of 99.7% pure Native Soluble Collagen Type 1 and Omega-3, both derived from natural marine sources. The Age-Fighting Pure Serum contains peptides and hyaluronic acid to protect and re-hydrate. oceanplus.com