I've just turned 26! To celebrate twenty-six years around the sun I spent a few days at Split Apple Retreat. Since coming across the spot a few years ago, it has been on the bucket list. As a wellness retreat, Split Apple's principals are centred around celebrating all things good for us. By taking a step out of daily life, and into an environment that purely focuses on your health, inspiration bubbles and positive shifts quickly happen.
I've been to a few retreats, and while they often have similar themes (nourishment, movement, relaxation, mindfulness...), they're usually packaged a little different, but each leaving you feeling empowered, and with lots of new nuggets of wisdom to take back home. Split Apple was particularly intimate, but also very luxurious - I've never experienced a place like it. Every element was geared towards relaxing, in the most idyllic spot.
How to get there
Split Apple Retreat is located next to Abel Tasman National Park in the South Island of NZ. The spot is breathtaking - a totally pristine environment, with one-of-a-kind ocean views. From Auckland I flew into Nelson airport, hired a car and then drove an hour to Kaiteriteri where the retreat is located.The drive was beautiful, mostly along the coast, and being Autumn the orange, red and gold Autumnal colours were in full swing. Nelson usually has some of the sunniest weather in NZ, however the weather gods decided to play unkind and we touched down beneath a cloud as thick as a winters blanket.
The founders and hosts of Split Apple Retreat are retired doctor Lee Nelson and his culinary superstar wife Pen. Upon meeting them they immediately make you feel like you're an old friend. They're both incredibly warm people and a fountain of knowledge - together they integrate Lee's understanding for nutrition with Pen's culinary skills to create incredibly delicious, but nourishing food. More on this soon.
Split Apple is stunning. The decor theme is Japanese-style elegance, which feels immediately relaxing to be in. There's many pieces of antique Japanese artwork adorning the walls, which the building was designed around to accommodate - so each piece perfectly fits.
Having only three rooms available to book, Split Apple is very intimate and private. Suites are spacious and beautiful, the beds are plush, and each room has its own private deck with ocean views out to Abel Tasman - views so pretty you lose track of time looking out the window! I stayed in the Rainbow suite which had an amazing colour therapy shower that would change colour and made it look like it was raining diamonds.
There was also a heap of great amenities - saltwater pools, gym, FAR-infrared sauna, a meditation theatre and yoga pavilion. I loved the meditation theatre, and would spend some time there each morning before breakfast.
Food, glorious food
Split Apple is renowned for their cuisine. Their concept is about showcasing how delicious and appealing healthy eating can be, abolishing any pre-misconceptions that eating healthy is about as exciting as limp lettuce leaves. Ingredients are chosen with purpose (e.g. what do they contribute to our health?), and then dishes are mindfully put together to ensure maximum flavour. Think really, really yummy, but ultra nourishing, food.
Dinner time was a favourite time of the day. Pen cooked a 5-course feast of deliciously healthy food each night, that always looked as beautiful as it tasted. You'd be so satisfied afterwards, but as ingredients were complimentary to Split Apple's approach to nourishment they didn't leave you feeling like you needed a nap to sleep it off.
My first night I asked Lee the main health angle of Split Apple's cuisine, and he said it's all about reducing inflammation in the body - some foods contribute to inflammation, while others minimise it. If inflammation is fire within the body, inflammatory foods are like petrol to a flame and anti-inflammatory foods are like a fire hose. To minimise inflammation ingredients are carefully selected considering things like Glycemic Index (how quickly a food affects our blood sugar levels), portion size, and specific anti-inflammatory health properties - think foods like anti-oxidant rich blueberries, proper green tea, or turmeric.
At Split Apple the schedule of the day is largely up to you. Nothing is forced, and you're encouraged to simply do what feels good. You can book in extra excursions, whether sight-seeing or hiking at the National Park, boat-trips, massages and cooking classes, or you can completely switch off and do nothing but soak up the views.
I struck a balance between activities, and pure down time where I'd maybe go for a walk, read a book or just drink tea and stare out at the view! They had incredible walks - you could venture down to the famous Split Apple rock, which is the namesake of the retreat, head to their private beaches, or a wander through their Japanese inspired gardens.
I was really excited about Chef Pen's cooking class, as she's such a whiz in the kitchen. Her "thoughtful cooking classes" are all about teaching you to how to create deliciously nourishing meals, that not only tasted amazing, but are also brimming with health benefits. She is full of knowledge and a joy to watch in the kitchen - totally in her element. I left with many new cooking tips in my metaphorical toolkit to take back home. Lee and Pen created their own cookbook ("The Split Apple Thoughtful Food Cookbook"), full of dishes you'll find on the menu at Spit Apple, to inspire you further in your own kitchen.
In a nutshell...
Split Apple retreat was incredible - unlike any where I've ever experienced. Pure luxury, incredible hosts and the most delicious, but nourishing, food. It's beauty is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, but I hope to head back one day.
If you'd like to check out Split Apple's website click here.