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Spa Retreats: Two Days In The Life of Gwinganna, Part 1

By: Joanna Hall
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It’s barely 9pm and dinner is already long over. I am wrapped up in a luxury robe with a bath running, while contemplating another cup of herbal tea - not my usual behaviour on a Friday night. Through the expansive balcony doors the lights of the Gold Coast shimmer in the distance, the lofty skyline dominated by the Q1 Building rising up from the golden sand in Surfer’s Paradise, one of Australia's great holiday destinations. There’s no television on, as per usual; instead, the sole entertainment is music gently playing on my iPod, and a growing anticipation of the next day’s events, set to begin at the ungodly hour of 5.30am with a knock on the front door of my villa.


It’s the end of day one of a three day, two night, spa weekend getaway at the famous Queensland health retreat and spa resort, Gwinganna, and so far I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath. After flying up to the the Gold Coast from Sydney that morning, I transferred with a small group of women from the airport to the hinterland hillside sanctuary arriving just before 2pm. Then, after a welcome light lunch, a quick tour of the facilities, and rundown of the rest of the day’s events, I headed to the Wellness Centre to complete a health questionnaire and set up some spa appointments. 


Surprise number one was a treatment that afternoon at the spa resort, called rockupuncture, with a gifted therapist I’d encountered once before in Thailand. Then came surprise number two; my accommodation had been upgraded to a lavish studio villa tucked away at the back of the retreat, which I would access using an electric buggy. Boasting privacy, a commanding view of the local countryside and distant coastline, and a large deck with a day bed and private plunge pool, I asked the staff member escorting me there why anyone would want to leave. “You’ll see,” was her response, with a knowing smile.


With only 10 minutes to turn myself around, I quickly changed into less formal gear, and jumped into my buggy to head back down the hill to the Gwinganna Village for my spa appointment. It would only take about eight or 10 minutes to walk, but there wasn’t quite enough time this time. Besides, I was almost quivering with excitement at the prospect of what lay ahead.


My first visit to the spa sanctuary didn’t fail to produce a wow factor. Nestled amidst pristine bush without the loss of any trees, the spa is essentially a cluster of buildings arranged in a circle and looking inward. I was greeted, given a locker key for the duration of my stay, selected a pair of massage thongs, and shown to the locker room to change. After a quick shower to wash away the travel day grime, I then met my therapist in the reception area. 


I'd first met Keri at another fabulous spa, Chiva Som, in Thailand three years earlier. The two spas had exchanged several key therapists for a special event, and introduce their clients to some different kinds of treatments, and that’s where I first tried rockupuncture. A unique therapy developed by Keri, it’s a combination of acupuncture using extremely fine needles, and massage using hot oils and heated basalt stones. 


Looking even younger than ever, Keri remembered me on the spot with little prompting. It’s not so much that I am a memorable individual; she’s just that way, making a connection with the people she treats. The session began with a general chat about my health, while Keri checked my pulse on both wrists. Then she encouraged me to relax and leave my stresses behind, slipped some needles into my wrists, feet and forehead, and covered me in a warm towel.


The 80-minute treatment was as relaxing and therapeutic as I remembered, but as I jumped back into my buggy and headed back up the hill to my private haven, I realised that again I didn’t have much time to spare. A quick call to my husband - your room is the one of only two places on the site where use of a mobile phone is allowed - and a quick unpack of my things, and it was time to get on the move again, this time to attend an orientation briefing ahead of dinner.


During this informative and social session, I discovered that people come to Gwinganna for many reasons; the need to detox, to lose weight, to revive good health, and to de-stress. The three-day spa weekend combines a little of each, with an overall focus on wellbeing and relaxation. Our group that weekend was largely women travelling alone, with two men for good measure; one on his own, the other part of a couple, parents needing some time out.




Dinner is a communal affair, as all meals are, but on the first night seating was pre arranged, and you sit in the spacious dining room overlooking one of the property's two pools with either six or eight guests. And when it comes to cuisine, forget any notions of a super-strict diet of raw veggies and no meat. Much of what they serve in terms of fruits, vegetable and herbs is grown on the property - there are several gardens and orchards providing this harvest. The rest is purchased locally with a focus on free range or organic, and of course optimum health.


The first course that night was a collection of three hors d’oeuvres; an artichoke heart, ceviche, and a cold soup of beetroot with herbs. There was also a crispy skinned bread, home baked of course, and olive oil, and a 100 ml glass of organic white or red wine is also offered, but it’s the only one you’ll get. The next course, which they ran past us earlier in the day, was a choice of a vegetarian Mexican style bean mole with brown rice and crisp bread, or hot and sour white fish with brown rice and a vegetable garnish. There's no dessert, just a tahini ball and the option of a cup of home made herbal tea.


I was back in my buggy by 8.30pm and on my way back up the hill to my villa for the third time that day, this time to relax some and enjoy it. By 9.45pm I'm ready for sleep. It's the first day of my spa vacation, and time to switch off the light, sink into that king sized bed and be ready for another day of activity, education and spa treatments, and that knock on the door at 5.15am.


To read the next instalment, click here.




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For more information on Gwinganna, visit www.gwinganna.com.


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Special introductory offer on Four Weeks of Wellness just AU$8.95 (normally AU$12.95).



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