No coffee? No wine? No sugar? No way!
If this sounds like you then you probably haven’t been to Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat — a haven of healthiness tucked away in the Gold Coast hinterland. Dining on delicious cuisine, sipping signature herbal teas, and indulging in daily spa treatments is hardly doing it tough.
Gwinganna means ‘lookout’ in the local Indigenous dialect, and for the stressed-out and sleep-deprived it equates to pure heaven. This lifestyle retreat even comes with ‘pearly gates’, which only those booked on a program are permitted to pass through.
What to expect
Despite the fact everyone comes here to relax, it felt a little stressful arriving at Gwinganna for the first time. Will we be asked to eat nothing but tofu and told some hippie nonsense about discovering our inner child?
It turns out there was nothing to fear — except maybe the early starts if you’re not a morning person.
Gwinganna’s programs range from spa weekends which include ‘mandatory’ pampering to a seven-night Gwinganna Detox program which promises (and delivers) a glowing transformation. If you’re unsure whether a stay here is for you, the less intensive Weekend Wellness program is a good introduction as it’s only two nights long and includes coffee in the morning and a glass of wine with dinner.
The gluten and dairy free meals here were so delicious that it was shocking they were also healthy, so you don’t need to worry about ‘rabbit food’.
On arrival, everyone makes their way to the Wellness Centre to fill out a questionnaire covering key areas of your health and fitness. Don’t be tempted to cheat when you fill out this survey as you’ll get the most out of your stay if you’re honest with the staff (and yourself).
I wasn’t kidding about early mornings. The 5.30am wake-up for Qi Gong wasn’t always easy, but we were rewarded with an unearthly sunrise views over the Tallebudgera Valley and running commentary provided by a rowdy gang of kookaburras.
Along with the daily Qi Gong class, there was a full program of other activities available each morning including aqua aerobics, garden walks, interval training, stretch classes, and more unusual options like Nia — which combines dancing with yoga, martial arts and pilates.
The key to getting the most from your stay is pushing any scepticism and leaving yourself open to new experiences. No one was more surprised than I was when tribal dancing ended up being my favourite activity. We left our inhibitions at the door and created rousing rhythms with our hands and feet, moving as one to create a tide of sound that ebbed and flowed like waves on a shore. It was pure, unadulterated fun and completely liberating.
All of the staff members were refreshingly down to earth though, and there was no pressure to do anything we didn’t want to. In fact, several guests skipped some activities entirely in favour of relaxing by the pool.
Lectures on topics such as stress management take place at 11.30am every day and were delivered with a light and often humorous touch. There was no need for staff to preach about what each of us should focus on to improve our overall wellbeing as this was revealed during the program.
Some people discovered the mental and physical benefits of healthy eating. Personally, I struggled without the constant distraction of social media and realised I needed to learn how to take time out. The retreat’s poor mobile coverage helped me disconnect more easily than I expected — this fact caused me panic on arrival, it was a blessing in disguise as I had no choice but to relax.
Speaking of relaxing, each afternoon at Gwinganna was devoted to rest and rejuvenation. Choices ranged from reading a book or sitting by the pool, to an onsite spa treatment. Given that Gwinganna’s spa was named the World’s Best Eco Spa at the most recent World Spa Awards, this was always a good choice. At least one spa treatment is included in every program, but you can add on more to really bliss out.
Finally being able to truly relax and detox from hectic and often unhealthy lifestyles was the true gift of Gwinganna. Even the slightly sceptical will discover that learning how to be good to yourself is not bad at all.
The writer stayed as a guest of Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.
(All Images: Provided / Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat)