On top of the world at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Guests at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat usually arrive mid-afternoon, so once you’ve checked in, you have time to familiarise yourself with the stunning mountain-top setting. One of the first things you realise is there is no television or radio in your room. After the initial shock, you imagine how restorative a few days could be without the noise most of us surround ourselves with.
Several contemporary but environmentally sensitive buildings house the luxury cabin-style accommodation on the bush property. As well, there are a few character-filled older buildings, including a century-old church, a quaint timber grandstand and an old-fashioned store selling modern luxuries.
The latest addition to this expanding retreat is the multi-million-dollar 33-room spa complex, comprising a crystal steam room and custom-designed treatment rooms, an elevated outdoor deck and a lounge area that overlooks the native garden. This is truly a world-class spa with a uniquely Australian ambience.
After all the exploring and mountain fresh air, dinner can’t come soon enough. You quickly deduce the dining room is the heartbeat of Gwinganna, with its high timber ceiling and beckoning open fire. This particular night, there’s a celebrity buzz circulating that Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness are guests for the weekend. It transpires they are more than just guests: they liked Gwinganna so much, they are now major stakeholders.
I’d like to report that I rubbed shoulders with the famous couple, but I did not. Still, we all felt like we were in good company, even if only in spirit.
The first meal sets the benchmark for the rest of the weekend: the food is stunning. It’s a revelation that healthy food can be so delicious. It’s organic, supremely fresh and tasty. If this sounds like an oversell, it really is that good. Even the wine is organic and first-class. I also manage to overcome my fear of communal dining, finding my fellow guests to be uniformly friendly and by the end of the first night I know the weekend will pass with plenty of laughter.
The first full day of any retreat at Gwinganna starts with tai chi on the mountain top, with views stretching over the Pacific Ocean, as the sun rises. It’s a memorable moment and worth the early hour. It’s important to know that you have the choice of how much or how little you want to do at Gwinganna.
Not everyone wants to climb the mountain before breakfast, many opting for a gentler stroll around the property. But figuring I can do as much loafing as I like at home, why not choose the maximum involvement and make the most of the Gwinganna experience?
Descending the mountain after a vigorous hike, my appetite is well and truly whetted for breakfast — and it doesn’t disappoint. My second meal at Gwinganna is as healthy and delicious as the first. It’s obvious that food is clearly a focus here, but at least you feel like you’ve earned it thanks to the high level of activity.
The mid-morning activities following breakfast are energising to say the least. There’s a spin class (stationary bike), boxing, swimming and yoga followed by a cooking class and a tour of the organic kitchen garden. Who knew you could do so much before lunch?
After yet another great meal, the afternoon component of a typical Gwinganna day is aptly named Dreamtime. This time of the day is dedicated to relaxing and having treatments at the spa. My Gwinganna signature massage was beautiful with every aspect of the experience, exceptional. I’ve decided this is definitely the way to live: lots of fresh air, more healthy morning activity than you thought possible and afternoons of first class pampering, all interspersed with wonderful meals.
Most people come to Gwinganna with some sense of purpose, even if that is to simply recharge. Here you have the unique opportunity to glimpse the possibility of living a different life. You can pick up practical tips on how to include some of what you experience at Gwinganna into your life when you return home.
In other words, you can use your stay at Gwinganna as a kick-start into a healthier way to live. For me, it was an inspirational weekend. The setting, the food, the staff and the facilities are all superb. And still there’s another ingredient, there’s something else … perhaps there’s some magic on top of that mountain.