Here’s why one weekend tucked away in the Gold Coast’s backcountry can kick-start a new way of living.
Barely three hours after leaving the Big Smoke (Sydney), I arrive at Gwinganna, a tranquil 200-hectare parcel of hinterland surrounded by valley and ocean views. Let me tell you, the Zen of this place will have you relaxing faster than you can say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.
The Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat is a safe haven for any detoxing and rejuvenation. It’ll provide you with a complete renewal of your physical and mental health.
If you’re sick and tired of the concrete jungle and pushy-people in peak hour, Gwinganna has got a spot for you. Most of their guests are solo travellers, to ensure they fully immerse themselves for the week/weekend.
I’ve compiled a list of reasons as to why a trip to the Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat will be beneficial for you.
1. You only need three days
Resident chickens cluck around the organic garden (photo: Jaharn Giles).
The shortest package only lasts for three days, so you can enjoy a three-day weekend. The Wellness Weekend runs from Friday to Sunday and, like all Gwinganna programs, includes a mix of activities for the body and mind, wellness seminars, relaxation time, a nutritious and balanced diet and the chance for you to disconnect from the outside world (figuratively and literally).
Staying in the Orchard Suite, I am surrounded by beautiful reclaimed Australian timbers with a natural stone bathroom; on its verandah, there’s a large, cushy chair calling out for me to sink into it with a book and tea.
2. You’ll feel restored
The schedule – albeit jam-packed – is a restorative highlight to the stay. Each day starts with qi gong at 6:15 AM, followed by a one-hour bushwalk, which happens all before breakfast.
You can request a sleep-in, but practising qi gong at first light while looking out over the sweeping Tallebudgera Valley to the sparkling ocean in the distance is a lovely way to start the day; the hustle and bustle of life on the Gold Coast (and in general) merely a speck on the horizon.
Perhaps it’s the evening relaxation classes, or the peacefulness of the location and the people (including the softly spoken staff), or the lack of digital distractions before bedtime (mobile phone use is restricted to your room and internet access is limited), I slept so soundly that I woke early feeling refreshed.
One of Gwinganna’s stunning infinity pools, surrounded by tranquil hinterland (photo: Jaharn Giles).
Normally, I don’t meditate. Meditation is, of course, included in the program, as are tai chi, yoga, pilates and stretching. But there is a balanced combination of high intensity and gentle activities to benefit the body and mind.
For those who aren’t attuned to gentle exercise you can raise your heart rate with boxing, aqua aerobics, cycling, fitball and so on, so bring your activewear. Or don’t – everything on the schedule (except for the orientation) is optional.
3. The diet is delicious
Picking produce for the kitchen (photo: Jaharn Giles).
This is the most delicious ‘diet’ I’ve ever been on: we devour tasty dishes such as homemade baked beans and poached eggs, steak, seafood paella, and the lip-smackingly good signature tahini balls – all made with produce harvested from the gardens and orchard.
Surprisingly, dessert and a glass of organic wine are offered at dinner on the weekend retreats, but there’s no sugar or caffeine. Trust me – this can be tough.
One guest on a seven-day detox tells me that she struggled without her caffeine, cigarettes and sugar – “I felt tired, irritable, and had a raging headache, so I stayed in my room on day three. But it passes,” she assures me. Gwinganna recommends that the week before you arrive, to cut back on all the nasties to make your stay more pleasant.
Poached eggs with creamed corn and asparagus (photo: Jaharn Giles).
4. You won’t be bored
“You never really know how busy you are until you stop,” a guest, who is on her final day of a five-day retreat tells me. “You think – wow, we are all crazy!”
Truth be told, I wasn’t quite aware of how wound up I had become. Dreamtime (spa time) is scheduled into the program every afternoon to unwind after a morning of activity.
My first appointment is shortly after my arrival, and as soon as my therapist lays eyes on me, she calmly tells me to take a moment to breathe.
Cosy up by the fire in the dining room (photo: Jaharn Giles).
After my Rockupuncture treatment, which is an incredibly relaxing combination of Japanese-style acupuncture and hot stone massage, I sit with a cup of Gwinganna’s soothing Calming Tea and chat to the guest next to me about her experience.
She described the Spirit of the Sound treatment she had as “out of this world” – it includes the fusion of massage and live percussion. Boring? I think not.
5. It makes a difference
Wake early for qi gong on the lawn, looking out to the coast
There are more extensive five – and seven-night packages available, which can be combined to create a longer stay. Though I still find the Wellness Weekend challenging; it makes a difference to my outlook, if not immediately to my waistline.
I realise how uptight I can be, question my ‘healthy’ diet, realise that I am – cringe – a little addicted to my iPhone, and how fast life is zooming by.
But, most importantly I realise, when it comes to my health and wellbeing, it’s time to stop making excuses.
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Address: 192 Syndicate Rd, Tallebudgera Valley
The retreat is less than 30 minutes’ drive from Gold Coast Airport (with courtesy transfers available at set times) and 60 minutes from Brisbane.
If you’re short on time, check yourself in with the Wellness Weekend package (starting at $1045 per person). It includes 2 nights stay, a massage, organic meals educational walks with the resident botanist.
But if you’re in need for a complete week-long detox the Gwinganna Detox package (from $3485 per person) will allow your body to rest and renew. Along with 7 nights stay, indulge in massages and a facial, the organic meals, labyrinth walk and evening meditation sessions.