I’ve always thought of Queensland’s Gold Coast as the place where you’ll find tanned people walking the streets and plenty of glitz and glam. A place where skyscrapers line the waterfront and people wearing bikinis and shorts year round wander the streets – and of course it’s the home to Australia’s biggest collection of theme parks.
Little did I know that just 30 minutes away from Surfers Paradise I could be in the Hinterlands – mountainous country where cows grazed and life was a little slower. Somewhere in the mountains is a peaceful retreat, a place visited by people from all walks of life, a place called Gwinganna.
Gwinganna is the only eco-certified health retreat in Australia and New Zealand, working toward best practice in sustainability. There is an extensive environmental impact program in place, including energy efficiency, water treatment and recycling, and a commitment to only using organic produce and skin care.
Many of the buildings on site have been restored and preserved – the ovals grand stand-style seating which was once at the GABBA, the church, the apothecary, the reception and the church – and recycled timbers are sourced from wool stores and wharves for all new buildings.
It was the food that I was most impressed with.
I’m not a vegetarian, in fact I am enamoured with meat after discovering there were more options other than chicken, lamb and pork about two-years ago, and I’m still learning to love fruit and vegetables, going as far as hiding corn in my tacos to ensure I eat it; so as plates of interesting foods I’d never seen was placed on the table I was equal parts excited and nervous.
Fat frittata slices and cucumber soup topped with salsa; seared yellow fin tuna with a sauce of tamari, mirin, sesame and ginger, with daikon and snow peas.
Vegetarian sushi, a healthy version made from quinoa, with a variety of vegetables; and my favourite – a fresh avocado smoothie that went down creamy but with only a hint of avocado taste, instead my palette was filled with flavours of citrus fruits – tangelo, oranges, lemonade fruit, lime, avocado, and lime – and just a little bit of mint.
I have a sweet tooth so the tray of guilty-free desserts excited me, particularly the coconut encrusted tahini balls. A recipe I later discovered was in the Gwinganna’s cookbook I bought at the store and replicated at home.
Leave your worries behind as you pass through the water gate into the spa sanctuary, a place to be pampered with organic skin care or to relax with a host of spa treatments, including massages.
Changing into a fluffy robe and slippers I was greeted by my masseuse for the afternoon and shown to the private rooms.
I’d been chosen to have a hot stone massage, where stones are warmed and applied to the body to massage away knots and areas of tension. The warmth helps loosen muscles and of course keeps you warm, always a plus even when expertly draped with a towel.
It sounds cliché but it did feel like the stress from the months of travel and work was melting away as the smoothed stones massaged away the tension.
The gardens play a big role at Gwinganna. The grounds fertile soil provides many of the kitchens herbs and vegetables, with the hope that they will be able to plant more crops and become more reliant on their gardens for seriously fresh seasonal produce.
Shelley, one of the passionate gardeners, gave us a personal tour of just a small area of the gardens.
Picking then scrunching up leaves she asked us to guess what we were smelling – kaffir lime leaves, flat leaf parsley, even stevia, a sweet herb that is commonly used to replace sugar without the nasty side effects.
Within the garden there is also a host of healing herbs that I never knew about.
Should you ever have a leech bite, Shelley recommends scrunching up some yarrow and placing under a bandage.
Then there’s comfrey which is a cell rejuvenator. Turning it into a pulpous will help with inflammation and bruising!
I only had a few hours at Gwinganna, but even that was enough time to find some balance before the busy days ahead at ProBlogger (an Australian blogging conference) through the guided meditation and spa treatments, and I know that I’ll be trying to learn more and incorporate some of Gwinganna’s holistic approaches to food into my lifestyle… and hopefully come back for a week-long retreat!
Now it’s over to you:
Have you spent time at a lifestyle retreat?
What’s your favourite thing to do to pamper yourself?
Phone: 1800 219 272
International Phone: +617 5589 5000