In today’s hectic pace there is something precious about hitting the pause button, fast tracking wellness to the top of the agenda and taking time to reset the clock. Enter the award-winning lifestyle retreat Gwinganna which has won the World’s Top Eco Spa spot twice. By Anita Quade.
This stunning Australian owned and operated retreat opened its doors in 2006 and has proceeded to become one of the most well-known luxury escapes both in Australia and overseas. It’s stunning location is just a short 60 minute drive from Brisbane and is perched on a plateau of 200 hectares of stunning hinterland.
Gwinganna means ‘lookout’ and as guests arrive at the lush green haven following a long winding driveway surrounded by rainforest and wildlife it offers the utmost in privacy – with the entrance accessed by security gates. You can almost feel a sigh of relief as guests hover near reception at the 2pm check in time – ready to check out of the real world for one of the retreat’s lifestyle programs that extends over weekends and up to longer stays.
Guests have the option to choose from program themes ranging from detox to other specialities such as women’s health. It’s a testimony to the glowing regulars who are spotted at the haven – some declaring they have extended their wellness journey here as they have never felt so good. It’s a little wonder given the comprehensive offering of delicious seasonal organic food, daily workshops, spa treatments and the sheer bliss of nature and fresh mountain air that begins to soothe the souls of weary guests burnt out by the nine to five grind.
You get the impression you are in safe and healing hands with many of the staff spending decades or more at the retreat. The program offers guests the chance to do as little or a much as they like – there are plenty of activites ranging from yoga and meditation to guided walks – the one compulsory activity on the day of the arrival following afternoon tea is the Welcome Orientation at the Wellness Education Complex run by the weekend host to provide a general overview of what to expect and how to get the most out of the stay and rejuvenate both mind and body – with an onus on the most important person – you!
After a guided tour of the facilities guests are left to enjoy their late afternoon. Exploring the vast property is like a step back in time with a historic stunning tiny church perched near the restaurant and a welcoming homestead feel with painted cream- coloured roofs juxtaposed with new accommodation offerings in the perfect blend of old meets new accommodation all surrounded by towering gum trees that are home to the koalas in residence.
The sprawling farm like feel is enhanced by a colourful Organic Garden that produces seasonable vegetables, herbs and delicious fruit that all ends up on the guests plate as part of the stunning organic food offering. Even edible flowers are grown in the garden in a rainbow of colours and are used to add a pretty touch to meals.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the main dining room – with guests having the chance to mingle over shared tables during the two courses with inventive dishes featuring fresh produce lovingly prepared on site. Some are here for a work retreat, others just to rebalance their mental health and wellbeing – every whim is catered for and for those who would like to try their hand at whipping up some of their most loved dishes there is a cookbook on offer filled with healthy recipes ranging from great juices, health balls to more comprehensive dinner dishes that feature fish, chicken and beef – its refreshing to note the food is generous in portions (so much so some guests have been known to ask for half serves) and meat and poultry are also on the menu – which quells the fear of those attending that they will be left hungry eating just leaf greens! The menu is designed in conjunction with a nutritionist and is gluten and dairy free, with the aim of reducing inflammation and to balance blood sugar levels. You will even find organic coffee, tea and organic wine at dinner for those on selected retreats.
There is a range of accommodation options from The Villas that offer sumptuous deep baths and special features such as a plunge pool or steam room – for the ultimate in relaxation. The stunning Orchard Suites offer magical views of the orchard and are built from reclaimed timbers with spacious verandahs and day beds that are perfect for reading and soaking up the sunshine in a state of bliss. The accommodation is spacious with the twin share featuring double beds, ensuite bathroom and an adjoining loungeroom – perfect for those travelling with a friend but who also love their own privacy. Another option is the Heritage accommodation which have been bought to Gwinganna from various locations or built onsite in the original Queenslander style. Lovingly restored with large lounge areas and baths.
A typical day at the retreat starts with the option of getting up early to see the glorious sunrise at 6.15 for a session of Qi Gong – possibly one of the most peaceful ways to start the day with gentle movements all in unison perched on a clifftop with views of the valley as the sun slowly peeps over the horizon. Breakfast is served in the dining room and then guests scatter to do as much or little as they please – with options for long bush walks and Yin and Yang activities. In the late afternoon the perfect ending to the day is a Guided Relaxation class in the pavilion that is the perfect pre-dinner relaxation.
The best part is that mobile phones are banned from use throughout the retreat with only an option to use these for guests in their room or at the historical old cricket stand on the oval. Likewise reception is limited so it’s a great escape from computers and the modern gadgets that take up precious time.
For those wanting to work up a sweat there is the two level gymnasium and training centre offering plenty of the latest hi-tech equipment and the chance to swim in the heated infinity edge swimming pool filled with pure rain water.
The World Renowned Spa
The dreamy spa is a 33-room sanctuary and is the largest spa in the Southern Hemisphere offering a smorgasbord of experiences from organic facials featuring products including the organic brand by Vanessa Megan to add on therapies and Ayurveda Aromatherapy.
General Manager Deborah Munster says: “Afternoons at Gwinganna are designed for the body to slow down and balance, and it’s the ideal time to experience our restorative spa treatments and facilities.” The massages here are world class and the Gwinganna Classic Massage is 50 minutes of bliss or for those who would like to extend the treatment there is an option of 80 minutes. Guests can also choose to relax in the Wellness Lounge which offers state of the art wellness pods – opt for LED light therapy, Infrared Sauna or the innovative Somadome Meditation Pod.
In testimony to its success that draws wellness travellers from all over the globe – it was awarded the world’s best eco spa in the world twice most recently in 2022.
Anita Quade spoke to Gwinganna Lifestyle Manager, Katlyn Martin, and Vanessa Megan founder, Vanessa Megan Gray Lyndon on what makes Gwinganna so special. Read the full story in the September-October 2023 print issue of Professional Beauty.
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