Nov 04, 2016
From the hinterland to the coast, where better to recharge than in the natural surroundings of Australia’s best wellness retreats? By Alison Boleyn.
Best for… beginners
Billabong Retreat, Maraylya, NSW
This vegetarian retreat is a 45-minute drive from Sydney’s CBD yet offers a true sense of remoteness. Treetop rooms look straight into bushland and some have a bathtub on the verandah – all glory in a soundtrack of birds and cicadas – while the yoga space, built from recycled timber, overlooks the entire property. Billabong is known for the quality of its teachers, who are gentle on new practitioners. Yoga and meditation are taught twice daily but guests can choose to do as many or as few of the classes and activities as they like. As owner Paul von Bergen says, “We’re really chilled here.”
Best for… treatments
Gaia Retreat & Spa, Byron Bay, NSW
At this recently refurbished spa, perhaps the chief intention is not to pamper – it offers cupping, after all – but with 15 types of massage on its menu of polishes, facials and healing treatments, you’ll feel like royalty. Set in the Byron Bay Hinterland, Gaia is impeccable and has 10 treatment rooms, world-class yoga and locally sourced organic food. It’s also no-pressure – you can have organic wine with dinner or curl up in your room with a movie. Workshops are instructive and fairytale-free. This is the place to bring your mother or to build your strength and enthusiasm for life’s next chapter.
SEE ALSO: 10 Luxe Wellness Retreats in Australia
Best for… luxury
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Gold Coast, Queensland
Its structured program would suit those seeking a supervised overhaul above a little respite but this much-awarded venue also gets top marks for its exquisite suites and villas. Occupying the largest area of any Australian spa retreat, Gwinganna is stunning, set high on 200 hectares of hinterland with rainforest and ocean views. It’s free from caffeine, dairy and mobile devices (outside your room) and internet access is limited. With spa treatments that combine emotional wellbeing sessions and bodywork, this is a luxurious, nurturing environment, particularly if you have something serious to work through.
Best for… meditation
Golden Door Health Retreat & Spa Elysia, Hunter Valley, NSW
Serious yogis will love the meditation sessions with international teachers and while Golden Door runs a number of broad retreat activities year-round that cover breathwork and yoga, it also holds specialised retreats that delve more deeply into, say, mindful living or healing the gut through nutrition and meditation. The food is life-changing – forsaking red meat, caffeine, sugar and saturated fat but never joy – and the retreat makes exercise fun with unexpected delights such as deep-water running and bocce. Even the proximity of the Hunter Valley’s tempting wineries can’t distract from this slice of healthfulness in the Brokenback Mountain Range.
Best for… detoxing
Kangaroo Island Health Retreat, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
This is the destination if your goal is to pack off an unwelcome addiction to nicotine, caffeine or eating like a five-year-old with unlimited funds. The Dynamic Detox package at Kangaroo Island Health Retreat is demanding – only six participants at a time combine yoga, saunas and swimming with 50- to 100-kilometre walks through bushland and beach over five days, studiously recording their water intake and ingesting a spicy mélange known as “tonic paste”. However, combined with massage, meditation, organic food and the unparalleled beauty and pure air of this rugged island wilderness, it’s a joyous experience that produces real results.
Best for…the unexpected
Shizuka Ryokan, Hepburn Springs, Victoria
In a unique take on the retreat experience, Shizuka Ryokan has been designed, furnished and landscaped as a traditional Japanese guesthouse among the gumtrees of the Victorian countryside. Everything is conceived for tranquillity: the Zen stone garden, lattice-screened rooms with tatami mats, shiatsu massage and even breakfast – an aesthetic spread that includes teriyaki salmon, pickled daikon and Japanese omelettes. Lake Daylesford is close by and it’s a five-minute drive to the mineral spa region’s largest bathhouse, Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa.
Best for… stargazing
Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Although this is not strictly a wellness retreat, all the elements you’d expect come together in an extraordinary part of the world. Guests are guided on a four-day walk along the pristine beaches and coves at the edge of Mount William National Park, sleeping in beach tents and at the award-winning Bay of Fires Lodge. Spa treatments are offered for three days and there’s the opportunity to fish, spot wildlife (whale watching from September to November), go kayaking on the Ansons River or simply explore. There are no lectures – just lots of healthy local food, Tasmanian beers and wines, and one to seven hours each day of walking in paradise. ￼