Written by Natalie Delos
I’m one of those always-on kinds of people. The kind that lies awake in bed at night, analysing the day just gone before planning out the next. The kind that finds it difficult to shut off and never really sits still.
So, when the opportunity to take a few days out to rest at Gwinganna arose, I must admit I found it a little daunting. Absolutely exciting, but daunting. I’m so restless all the time and wondered how I’d manage a full weekend without ticking boxes on my to-do list or planning out every single detail about the day ahead. This alone was reason enough for me to recognise that I actually needed this.
Anyways, excitement and curiosity triumphed over my hesitations and how truly grateful I am that they did.
Day 1: Arrival Day
On the first day of the retreat, I left work early (to the envy of my co-workers) to make my way there. The drive itself was beautiful and I found myself in awe of the way the markers of suburban life just melted away as I drove further into the valley.
As I approached the driveway, the first thing I noticed was the stark incline ahead of me; oh how glad I was to be driving - and not walking - up such a steep slope!
After a few minutes of negotiating the winding driveway, I reached the plateau where I was warmly welcomed by staff. During check-in, I was given a card for my first treatment at the spa and asked my preference for dinner that evening. One of their team then showed me where I could park my car before loading my suitcase into her buggy and driving me up to my room, passing an incredible array of wildlife and beautiful views along the way.
Knowing I would soon make my way to the spa, my driver offered to wait outside while I popped my things away before escorting me over to my very first treatment - the Yang Wellness Experience.
Upon my arrival at the spa, the team showed me to my locker, provided me with some spa thongs and a lush spa robe before offering me some herbal tea. I was then guided down to my treatment room. Along the way, I marvelled at the magical maze of doors we were passing through, behind each one a secret escape to relaxation.
As a self-guided experience, the treatment was a lovely way to begin my weekend of relaxation. The room I was in contained an infra-red sauna and recovery massage chair, along with beautifully dim lighting and two jugs - one containing tea and one water. One of the walls was made entirely of glass, allowing the rainforest beyond to envelop the space. Over the next hour, I alternated between the sauna and the massage chair, both of which were incredibly calming. Being someone who is quite sensitive to heat, I started with only 5-10 minutes in the sauna before sinking into the massage chair - and then repeating the process. The chair itself was pretty amazing, offering a variety of full-body massage options and the ability to scale the intensity as per my preferences.
Feeling deeply relaxed, I wandered back up to my room where, for the first time, I was able to truly take in the beauty of my home for the next 2 days - one of the Orchard Suites. From the beautifully made beds to the glimmering lights adorned across the sloping ceilings, everything was perfect. But my absolute favourite part of my little sanctuary was the balcony - or more specifically, the wonderfully deep bathtub perched upon it.
After taking a moment to absorb it all, I got dressed and headed over to the Wellness Education Complex for the welcome orientation. Our Program Manager, Kay, then offered a warm welcome to all arriving guests and provided a loose overview of the activities that awaited us over the weekend.
At the conclusion of the talk, it was time to head down to the dining room for some dinner - something I’d been looking forward to with great anticipation. A few friends of mine had the pleasure of experiencing Gwinganna before I did and the food was a highlight for everyone I had spoken to - and for good reason.
After collecting my small glass of wine to enjoy with my meal, the waitstaff brought over an entree comprising a shot of leek soup with a side of cooked oysters and a delicious sauce. Next was a baked salmon with potato, fresh herbs and a silky puree, along with a side of the freshest vegetables I’d ever tasted. I couldn’t believe how much food we were given, and more importantly, how incredibly tasty it was.
During our meal, rain began pouring and we were entertained with a wonderful display of lighting across the valley. Not thinking to bring my umbrella down with me, I waited for the right moment and strolled back up to my room, hood pulled but still enjoying the raindrops that misted my face.
Feeling completely satisfied, and now wonderfully warm and rugged up in my robe, I hopped into bed and opened a book for the first time in a long time. And after not long at all, I found myself peacefully drifting off to sleep.
Day 2: Exercise, relaxation & beautiful treatments
Having been invited to experience Qi Gong at sunrise I woke the next morning the earliest I had in quite some time to ensure I was fully awake before heading down the dining room for some tea.
After everyone had found their way down, we wandered over to the hill where, way off in the distance, the sun was emerging from behind the Gold Coast skyline. Kay spoke beautifully about the origins of Qi Gong before taking us through some of the movements and breathing techniques. Being a usually late riser, this was a really wonderful experience and an incredibly calming way to start the day.
By the end of the session, the sun was in full view and we were then invited to take one of two guided walks - a fairly undemanding one or a more challenging one. For me, getting my blood pumping really helps to energise for the day so I chose the latter - and it did not disappoint. A bit sludgy from the night before, we made our way deep into the bushland that surrounded the main property before looping around and heading back up. By the time we arrived back (and to my pleasure), it was breakfast time.
Our first meal of the day consisted of a beautiful array of fruit and a granola bar, followed by perfectly poached eggs with a delightfully crunchy potato rosti and spinach cream. Despite having eaten much more than I’m accustomed to at this time, I wasn’t too full - just perfectly satisfied.
After brekkie, we were then given the option to enjoy one of two physical activities - a yin (meaning more gentle) class or a yang class (a little more intense). Remembering back to the day before when we were told to listen to our bodies for guidance when choosing our activities, I realised that what I really wanted to do was to slip into that big beautiful bath on my deck and get back into my book - so that’s exactly what I did.
The juxtaposition of the steaming water against the cool winter air was stark at first, but I quickly became accustomed to the warmth and slid into a moment of bliss - book in hand and not a care in the world.
Finally emerging from my cocoon, it was time for some morning tea. Luckily for me, the Wellness Education Centre (where morning tea would be held) was right outside my room, so I lazily toddled over and helped myself to one of the Bliss Balls (similar to a protein ball but made from all organic ingredients) and a hot mug of tea.
With an hour and a half until lunch, I decided to join in the guided relaxation in the Mind Body Pavilion, led by Kay. Laying down under a blanket with heat emanating from the ceiling and listening to Kay guide us through a meditation was incredibly relaxing.
Following a wonderful lunch of lentil soup, chicken and veggies, it was the time I had been most eagerly anticipating - my second and third treatments at the spa, including the Rasayana Detox Body Scrub and Essentials Naturaceuticals™ Facial.
After changing into my robe and thongs, I was welcomed by my therapist, Rhiannon, who guided me through the spa sanctuary to my treatment room. To ensure a seamless flow, we started with an aromatic journey where I closed my eyes and sampled four beautiful natural perfumes before choosing one for my facial.
The room was lovely and the soft music very conducive to a relaxing experience. The Rasayana Detox Body Scrub (made by a wonderful Australian company, Subtle Energies) was so calming and it felt amazing to have my skin buffed in this way - something I’d neglected for so long. After completing the scrub on all areas, I hopped into a warm shower and returned to the bed where my body was then nourished with a beautiful Rasayana Detox lotion. I was completely impressed with not only the experience and products, but with how intuitive Rhiannon was and how she just seemed to know how to make me feel completely comfortable and relaxed.
The facial was just as incredible; I’ve struggled for the past few years with severely dehydrated skin and no products I’ve tried ever seem to work. With this in mind, I couldn’t believe just how soft and hydrated it felt once the treatment was finished. Rhiannon then spoke with me about my skin and offered some advice about how to best care for my skin type. By the end of the weekend, I was so impressed with how well my face retained that post-facial glow that I went down and stocked up on some of the Vanessa Megan™ products for when I returned home.
Feeling completely blissful, I stopped by the afternoon tea gathering, treated myself to some of the best orange cake I’ve ever had in my life and headed back to my room to enjoy a couple of hours of reading. By dinner time, I was starting to feel a bit hungry and decided to make my way down to the dining room. Dinner tonight was the most magnificent, juicy lamb shank resting atop a colourful bed of Gwinganna biryani. We were then treated to an apple, rhubarb and berry crumble with coconut custard - something I will most definitely be trying to replicate at home.
Feeling full, tired and relaxed deep into my bones, it wasn’t long after leaving dinner that I found myself once again drifting off into the most restful sleep.
Day 3: Departure Day
Having just had such a wondrous rest, the chilly morning air was difficult to welcome at first. But after regaining complete consciousness and growing accustomed to the cool air, I headed off for a walk down to the ancient fig tree which is tucked away amongst the forest. The sheer size and magnificence of the tree is truly awe inspiring, yet my camera failed to do it any kind of justice from where I stood.
After another flavoursome brekkie (consisting of fresh fruit, a sweet, quinoa porridge and big, fluffy buckwheat pancakes covered in berries), I enrolled myself in a gentle stretch class to help work out the tightness in my legs from the previous mornings’ walk.
Knowing there was only hours until departure, I then decided to treat myself to another sumptuous bath back in my suite. I could absolutely get used to this! After soaking for another good hour, I decided to go and check out the Sunset Track - the gentler walk we were given the option to explore the day before. Having heard recounts of the views, I just had to see it for myself before I left.
Feeling wholeheartedly glad I’d taken the time to traverse the Sunset Track, I then headed down to the pool to soak up a final bit of sun before making my way to the farewell lunch.
At the end of yet another magnificent meal with a few of the ladies I’d gotten to know over the past 2 days, it was time to head home.
Words cannot explain how magical the entire weekend was, and I have nowhere near covered all the incredible details about each part of it. But if the thought has ever crossed your mind, I sincerely recommend making the time to do this one thing for yourself.
For me personally, having the opportunity to simply focus on my wellbeing without the distractions or temptations of my busy schedule was an opportunity I’m so deeply grateful for. And one that I can’t wait to seize again.