Destination therapist: what it’s like to work in tropical paradise

We talk to Sonya Dains, head spa therapist and remedial massage therapist at Stephanies Ocean Spa about what it’s like to work in Noosa, one of Queensland’s most beautiful holiday destinations. 


Sonya Dains, head spa therapist at Stephanies Ocean Spa says you need passion and love for the industry to be successful in a 5-star spa in tropical paradise.
Sonya Dains, head spa therapist at Stephanies Ocean Spa says you need passion and love for the industry to be successful in a 5-star spa in tropical paradise.


What is your role at Stephanies Ocean Spa?

My Role at Stephanies Ocean Spa is Head Spa Therapist. It’s both my role and my passion, which is inspired by Stephanies dream to take spa guests on a journey, to help and encourage them to let go of stress and tension, to nurture them, listen to them, look after their needs and exceed their expectations whilst in my care. I have full knowledge, experience and expertise in my field and also have a provider number for guests to claim their remedial massage treatments.

How long have you been working there?

It will be five years this October 2016.

Have you always lived in Noosa? What is it like?

I moved to Noosa in 1987 when I was 20 years old. I came to Noosa for a short holiday with my mum and I remember saying “When I finish my study this is where I’m going to live” it was and still is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The beauty of the Noosa coastline [was so] ambient, warm and relaxing; there were only a handful of restaurants on Hastings Street and in those days, families had the added advantage of staying in the camping ground at the woods at the end of Hastings Street. It’s quite different now. So cosmopolitan, with European visitors and Noosa has done it so well that it still feels small and special and very relaxing for families and travelers.


Stephanies Ocean Spa encourages European and overseas visitors to its indulgent and relaxing surrounds.
Stephanies Ocean Spa encourages European and overseas visitors to its indulgent and relaxing surrounds.

What is your background?

I grew up in Hobart in Tasmania, my parents owned a popular restaurant in Battery Point and I enjoyed working there and engaging in hospitality from the age of ten. I loved looking after the guests, talking about the history of the town and creating daily cocktails for the patrons. I have my mum to thank for encouraging and insisting on first class service with a smile. I went on to study hospitality management and then discovered I wanted to look after people on a more nurturing and caring level so I did a diploma course in beauty therapy at Papillion in Hobart when I was 19. It was during that time I first visited Noosa and moved there 6 months later.

I worked in the hospitality industry doing a wide variety of jobs ranging from cooking to front of house. Also housekeeping as these were family friendly hours when the children were young; I had my qualification in beauty therapy but had decided when I moved here that regular beauty work wasn’t exactly the nurturing personal service I was seeking. I didn’t realise it at the time but in the 80’s my vocation hadn’t been invented yet as “spas” hadn’t really made their mark in Australia.

It was in 2011, when my children were at a capable age, I decided to pursue my passion for caring for people at a more tactile level. I [started] a two year diploma in remedial massage; I had the foresight to realize this would enable me to get back into the industry.

It was during my first year of study, in 2012, that I started working at Stephanies. I will always remember the first day; from the atmosphere, to the genuine greeting of the Spa Manager, I walked through the door for my interview and literally felt like I had walked through the gates of heaven.

What treatments do you offer at Stephanies?

We offer a wide variety of treatments at Stephanies, ranging from our Nature Retreat packages to Vichy Shower experiences, waxing, manicures and opulent pedicures in our decadent pedicure lounge. We also offer immersion therapies, which can be enjoyed before a spa treatment to relax, warm and soothe the muscles. We have promotional offers every season to suit our QLD climate.


This spa is found within the luxurious Peppers Noosa Resort and Villas on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.


How have you tailored your offering to suit the warm Noosa climate?

Our spring offers at the moment incorporate a cool beauty globe facial massage to invigorate and cool the skin. We also serve refreshing sorbet and Stephanies’ Signature organic flower teas after any spa treatment to cool and awaken the senses.

What is unique about Stephanies?

Stephanies is not just about treatments, it’s about creating a beautiful journey for the guest. This happens as soon as guests enter and have our refreshing rose tonic and warm welcome. All of our treatments have been carefully thought through and every step is there for a reason; from the nurturing rose petal foot immersions during consultation, through to the peppermint awakening ritual to awaken on completion. We are more than just a day spa; we offer a place to get away from the pressures and stresses of day-to-day life. Stephanies is a haven and sanctuary on the fringe of Noosa’s famous National Park within Peppers Noosa Resort and Villas.

What skincare brand do you use?

At Stephanies Ocean Spa the skincare range we use is Payot – Stephanie herself has loved this brand from when she first used it at the beginning of her beauty therapy career in 1986. Payot products are beautiful in textures, aroma and are also packed full of results-driven active and native ingredients. There is also a fantastic array of professional skincare options for all skin types and age groups.

For our professional body rituals and signature retail products we also have Stephanies’ own range, la Vie elixir. Stephanie has been developing la Vie elixir for a number of years with amazing results. Our la Vie elixir currently consists of beautiful body products and flower tea infusions.

What are the most popular treatments in a beach-side spa like Stephanies?

I would say one of our most popular treatments is our Vichy Rain Therapy Ritual. We have created a rain therapy ritual called the “Spirit of Wailele” which is Hawaiian for “Waterfall”. It’s an experience not be missed, it truly is an indulgent and pampering destination treatment. We start with a dry body brush and salt exfoliation to soften skin and increase circulation, this is followed by the Vichy jet water massage and hot stone back massage to wash away and soothe your stresses. We then do a petite skin refresher and hair and scalp conditioning treatment and massage. This is followed by a full body re-hydration. Complete body pampering!



At Stephanies Ocean Spa it is all about complete body pampering.


Are there any special passions or skills a therapist needs to work in a beachside holiday destination?

You definitely have to have exceptional customer service and a passion for making people feel good. You also have to be calm, patient and nurturing in your approach. Especially in high season, we can indulge up to eight guests per day so it’s very important to care for each guest exactly the same and manage your time effectively. Being a resort destination spa we do a lot of massage so a passion for body rituals and body massage is definitely a must.

What do clients want most from their time at Stephanies?

Guests mostly want to escape from reality and have valuable time for themselves. With the business of life we find that guests really want to unwind where they can fully relax and feel nurtured and cared for. Guests’ expectations are to feel pampered and know that they have received professional and exceptional service from start to finish.

What are some of the benefits of working in a holiday destination?

I would say one of the benefits is meeting guests from all over Australia and the world. We love our Stephanies guests and it’s a pleasure to meet so many different and beautiful people every single day. It’s also very rewarding to think that you have had played a small part in making a guest’s holiday special.

Are there any challenges?

It’s hard to find challenges in such a beautiful environment such as Stephanies Ocean Spa, but I feel that we all challenge ourselves every single day to make sure we strive towards excellence and make sure that every guest gets the same level of care and attention; from the very first guests in the morning to the last guest at night.

How is working in a holiday destination different to working in a regular salon?

We have the benefits of offering salon services but we do it in a serene spa environment. Also, working in a holiday destination means the range of treatments we perform are vast compared to a normal salon. We also offer longer retreat spa packages, so we spend more time with the guest.

For other therapists who would love to get a role in a salon like Stephanies, what are your three top tips to getting this great gig?

I would say the first is to have a true passion and love for the industry and for making people feel special; a nurturing and caring nature is important. Be willing and open to working long days and to continue your personal development with ongoing training. And do your research on Stephanies Luxury Spas; be confident and competent in all areas of beauty therapy and spa therapy, especially massage therapy and skin treatments – and make sure you have plenty of practice with friends and family!






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