I turned 25 last week. I'm officially a quarter century old. With that shiny new milestone under my belt, I celebrated with a stay at Gwinganna Health and Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast, on their 4-day retreat themed "Triple S: sleep, sugar, stress". Gwinganna has been on the bucket list for the longest time, and while I hadn't experienced a health retreat before I still had a feeling it'd be my kind of holiday. Delicious healthy food, lots of downtime, wellness seminars, beautiful hikes, spa-time and not a drop of coffee in sight (sadly). The whole idea is to leave feeling inspired and even better then you arrived, which I truly did.
Gwinganna is a short drive from the Gold Coast airport in Australia, but once you arrive you feel like you're a million miles away. Located in the Tallebudgera Valley, Gwinganna is set high on a plateau surrounded by dense native bush and rolling views of the valley. The trees are tall and strong, and the air is refreshing to breathe - the place is immediately calming to be in. It's the kind of place where you look up into the sky and see a zillion stars at night. It's also the kind of place where wallabies relax on the outskirts of the bush, eyeing your every movement and then bouncing away when you get too close. At points on the property you can look out far and see the glimmering golden coast of Surfers Paradise, dotted with high-rise hotels, a stark contrast to your surroundings. It's like you're in a little bubble. Gwinganna is a low-tech environment, so be prepared to leave your phone in your room and not pick it up much during your stay. I'm on social media a lot with my blog, and was so ready for a detox (tech-tox?).
A typical day at Gwinganna
5:30am: Wake-up call. Early I know, but what follows is worth it...
6am: Qigong while watching the sun come up. Qigong, similar to Tai Chi, is a Chinese practise comprised of gentle movements paired to the breath. It's very calming, especially when you have a spectacular sunrise to do it to. During our first morning the sunrise was breath-taking - a totally clear sky, with a gradient of midnight blue at the top through to baby blue, creamy white, soft yellow and ending with a deep orange across the oceans edge. The significance of waking up with the sun was to reset the body to the natural rhythm of day-night.
7am: Nature walk. One morning I did 8,000 steps all before breakfast. Walks vary in intensity, giving you the option to select a walk suitable to how you feel on the day.
8am: Breakfast time. You start with a shot of apple cider vinegar (to get the digestive juices fired up), followed by the option of porridge/muesli, fresh fruit, nuts and a cooked dish, typically eggs. All food was organic, unprocessed, unrefined and delicious. I adored the pumpkin brown rice porridge, poached eggs on sweetcorn puree and miso paste with greens, avocado and amaranth toast, and the strawberry and vanilla polenta porridge.
9:30am: Yin or yang activity class. Yin classes were more gentle and relaxing (yoga, dance or pilates), whereas yang classes got you sweating (boxing, spin or weight classes). Gwinganna is all about tuning into your body, and some mornings I really wanted to get my blood pumping, whereas others I was totally happy just to lie in savasana.
I tried Nia for the first time, which is a dance class and movement practise centred around self-expression. With Nia all ego is to be left at the door, ("YOU'RE A PIECE OF SEAWEED, ROLL AROUND"). It felt like one big crazy fun dance party.
11am: Morning tea - usually a bliss ball or a smoothie.
11:30 am: Wellness lectures! My favourite. Our talks were centred around sleep, sugar and stress. Although much of the information was familiar to me, the lectures were still inspiring and had plently of golden tidbits and gems to takeaway.
1pm: Lunch time. Care and consideration had been taken in the creation of these dishes - they were nutritionally balanced and most were portioned, aside from the free-flow of veggies (in which case, the more the merrier!). Each plate was beautifully presented and a joy to eat. I loved the reef fish with the romesco sauce, roasted sweet potatoes with sesame seeds, and leafy green salad with edible flowers. We ate so many greens!
As a side note: Gwinganna is super accommodating to dietary needs - whether you're vegan, vegetarian, fructose-free, have allergies/intolerances, or just want a larger meal, they'll sort you out.
2pm: Dreamtime! Your time to relax in your room, by the pool, at the spa, with a book, on a hike, wherever, whatever. I treated myself to a few super divine spa treatments and holistic therapies - their balancing facial and hair treatment left me glowing. I also selected to have a tour of their extensive organic garden, which provides the kitchens at Gwinganna with much of their fresh produce. They grow a diverse selection of herbs, fruits and veggies, and we got to nibble and smell all sorts of neat things during the tour - tulsi (holy) basil, curry leaves, lemonade fruit, jackfruit, buddha's hands and custard apples (the best). I love their approach to organic gardening - it was all about letting nature do its thing, and supporting it gently and with lots of love, because at the end of the day nature really knows best.
4pm: Afternoon tea - a tahini ball, hummus and veggie sticks or a raw slice.
6pm: Optional meditation/educational class.
7pm: Dinner time. I loved the walnut-crusted fish with roasted beetroot, carrot, broccoli and beans. Instead of dessert there was a pot of tea to end the meal. I always lifted off the lid to check out what was brewing beneath - my favoruite was the sliced strawberries and vanilla, and passionfruit and clove.
8:30pm: Bed with a book! With the time difference I usually just only got through one or two page before passing out.
I left Gwinganna feeling rested, recharged and inspired. Was the experience worth it? I felt so. I really took a lot out of it and came back to NZ full of ideas and inspiration. I'd love to go back one day or give another retreat a whirl - yes, there's an element of self-induglance, but it can also be angled as self-love. At these retreats it's all about putting back into you and refuelling your tank. My biggest takeaway of all from Gwinganna is that it's so important to take daily time out for you. Life is busy and it's very easy to over-work and deplete ourselves, and forget to just stop and enjoy the little things in life, whether a walk in the sun, a yummy dinner, a good book and cup of tea. It's often these little moments which offer a breathing space to refuel and refresh.