Dreamtime retreat at Gwinganna

Dreamtime retreat at Gwinganna

Founder Tony de Leede shares how Gwinganna lifestyle retreat came to be one of Australia’s best-loved health and wellness sanctuaries.

When did Gwinganna lifestyle retreat first begin?

We spent two years developing the concept before we opened the doors in 2006.

Where is Gwinganna?

Gwinganna is located in the Tallebudgera Valley region of Queensland’s hinterland, a 30-minute drive from the Gold Coast Airport.

What inspired you to create Gwinganna?

The inspiration to develop a health retreat began when I was quite young, largely due to observing my parents’ unhealthy lifestyle: they both smoked and were overweight. My father passed away from heart disease at an early age and his death inspired my mum to change the way she lived. She embraced healthy eating, began daily ocean swims and practised tai chi, yoga and meditation. She truly transformed her life. This inspired me look into the retreat industry and create a place where I could live healthily and help others do the same.

What was your initial vision for Gwinganna and has this changed over the years?

I wanted to have the best health retreat in Australia — to work with wonderful people, provide outstanding facilities and to be recognised all over the world. I am proud to say we have achieved this. We are now probably the most-awarded retreat in Australia.

It was the local Indigenous people who gave Gwinganna its name, meaning “lookout”. How does your philosophy acknowledge the land and the original custodians?

Our philosophy is to be an organic retreat growing our own produce, reduce our environmental impact and have a constant eye on sustainability. We used recycled timbers for all the new buildings and carefully restored the heritage buildings already on the property. These buildings have wonderful stories about where they came from and have been on the property for many years, so keeping these and making them a part of the retreat was important. We are 100 per cent reliant on rain water and manage all our own waste.

Describe a typical day at Gwinganna retreat.

Each day follows a similar structure although activities across our 15 health programs can vary. Mornings begin watching the sunrise over the ocean while practising the ancient art of Qi Gong, a restorative, moving meditation. Then before breakfast we offer a choice of hikes or walks that explore the diverse bushland and rainforest. After breakfast, the guests can choose from a variety of relaxing or dynamic activities such as yoga, Pilates or dance. Next they attend a wellness seminar, enjoy a delicious organic lunch and Dreamtime. Dinner and an early night end the day.

Explain Gwinganna’s unique concept of Dreamtime.

Dreamtime was created by our general manager Sharon Kolkka who knows from experience how important strategic rest is for improving health and healing. A busy world can lead to adrenal overload, digestive disorders and many other stresses. Sharon created Dreamtime, from 2pm until 7pm, to help provide adrenal restoration each day. Guests can relax by the pool, read a book, take a nap, lie on the grass or chat with other guests. Dreamtime is also when private appointments are scheduled for the spa sanctuary, the wellness clinic, equine therapy and private emotional wellbeing sessions.

Where do you think the spa and retreat industry is headed, both in Australia and abroad?

As our population ages and the economic reality of this hits, more health focus will be placed on prevention. Crucial to the success of a healthy ageing population is the ability for the medical and natural healthcare industries to open minds and work together, essentially having the best of both worlds.

How do you care for your own wellbeing?

I built Gwinganna to help me take better care of my health and I visit as often as possible. I enjoy the early morning qi gong and the meditation aspects. I eat healthily and use quality supplements and natural therapies, as I find this a great way to balance the needs of my ageing body.

What’s next for Gwinganna?

Gwinganna will continue to provide a safe sanctuary with a balance between restoration and inspiration. We will advance to evolve with the needs of the population and ongoing health research. We have lots of exciting plans in place regarding sharing our expertise outside of the retreat centre and are looking forward to unravelling those.

Kate Duncan

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.

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