Inspired living

A Q&A with Brigid Walsh, general manager of Golden Door Elysia Health Retreat and Spa

A Q&A with Brigid Walsh, general manager of Golden Door Elysia Health Retreat and Spa

Credit: Golden Door

We speak with Brigid Walsh, general manager of Golden Door Elysia Health Retreat and Spa. Located in the beautiful Hunter Valley, Golden Door celebrates its 25th birthday this year.

When did you become involved with Golden Door and what drew you to the health retreat and spa?

I started at Golden Door in 2004, which would equate to 15 years service, however I took two years out to work for the government. I saw the light and came back!

I was originally drawn to Golden Door because of my love for sport and fitness. Fortunately, my six-and-a-half years as guest experience manager afforded me great insight into more esoteric health and wellbeing approaches and I developed a love for holistic wellbeing.

My two years in government provided a huge awakening for me in terms of what was really important and how I could best utilise my passion for making a positive difference to peoples’ health and wellbeing. I returned to Golden Door in 2012 as general manager with a deeper connection and understanding of the business and its philosophy. I knew it was my place to be.

What is the Golden Door philosophy?

At Golden Door we believe in a holistic approach to health and wellbeing — body, mind and spirit. Our six core practices of movement, education, nutrition, environment, restoration and exploration are the foundation of our offering. Our guests can choose as much or as little as they like from our extensive activity program.

Our traditional retreat offering is based on taking a break from life’s excesses including alcohol, caffeine, processed foods and technology. We help facilitate this in a supportive environment with a highly professional team. What we have become known for is our passionate team and amazing culture of care.

Another important part of our philosophy is fostering connections. Our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. We hear a lot of laughter at Golden Door and see life-long friendships develop. It’s a beautiful part of the experience.

What we love to share are very simple messages about healthy living. It’s about getting back to the basics of eating well, being physically active and having adequate rest and relaxation.

What are your three must-dos for achieving optimal health and wellbeing?

  • Having a ritual of self-care practices. For me this is meditation, yoga, golf, rest and reading. I don’t always achieve these, but I do my best.
  • Being self-aware. Thanks to my type “A” personality, I like to push myself, however I have learnt to acknowledge when my body is telling me to rest or seek support, especially when I’m under pressure or going through stressful situations.
  • Once a year I have a retreat experience for myself. Sometimes I do this with my husband or just get away on my own.

Tell me about your corporate wellness program

Our immersive corporate program provides individuals and small teams the opportunity to remove themselves from typical daily distractions and challenges to focus on their health and wellbeing goals. We find our corporate guests are then better equipped, energised, focused and less stressed to optimise their performance at work and thrive in all aspects of their lives. The corporate wellness program can be likened to a “circuit breaker”, “intervention” or a “sabbatical” to ensure individuals can perform at their best.

What facilities are available for guests?

Golden Door’s world-class retreat facilities include a gymnasium, indoor and outdoor pools, indoor activity centre, tennis courts, three yoga and fitness studios, male and female steam rooms and spas, meditation hill, wellness centre, relaxation lounges, theatrette, library and more. The day spa has more than 24 treatment rooms including a purpose-built Watsu pool, where you can indulge in Golden Door’s signature treatment.

What activities are available for guests?

A full program of activities takes place each day including empowering workshops, low-, medium- and high-intensity fitness activities, cooking demonstrations and mindfulness classes that guests can choose to participate in.

Guests also have the option to book one-on-one wellness sessions with some of Australia’s most skilled practitioners in the fields of naturopathy, physiotherapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and more.

If your stay is more about relaxation and winding down, you can choose to restore in the day spa for some much-needed you time. Here you can indulge in massages, facial and body treatments.

What sustainable practices do you follow at Golden Door?

We’re continuously looking for strategies to improve our environmental footprint and already have several initiatives in progress. We partner with OzHarvest to donate excess food, which is then distributed to charities which help feed the homeless. Soap Aid is another charity we partner with. They reprocess discarded portions of soap into new soap bars and then donate them to communities in need.

In our accommodation villas, we promote environmental consciousness to our guests by way of linen changes, re-using of towels and limiting air-conditioning use where possible. In addition to this, last year in an effort to reduce the use of plastics, we replaced our amenities range from small disposable plastic bottles to large refillable bottles in all villas and public areas.

What’s next for Golden Door?

Onwards and upwards! Having recently won Best Australasian Wellness Retreat in the World Spa Awards, we want to stay on top of our industry and continue delivering extraordinary health and wellbeing experiences.

We want to expand our mind/body and clinical health offerings for greater diversity and to reach populations who need specialised support in an holistic health and wellbeing setting.

We also want to be recognised as the “go to” place in corporate Australia for really effective, immersive, offsite wellbeing experiences for individuals and small teams.

While we are really excited to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, we will not rest on our laurels. We look forward to continuing the hard work that has helped us achieve longevity, a very loyal following, and thousands of success stories.


Kate Duncan

Kate Duncan is the Editor of WellBeing and WILD. She loves surfing, creating raw desserts, flowing through nourishing yoga sequences and spending time with her new pooch, Maribou.