Billabong Retreat: Maraylya, NSW

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Where Is It: Just 45 minutes west of the Sydney CBD.

Why Go: It’s ideal for lovers of yoga, meditation, healthy eating and healthy retreats.

Best For: Couples or best friends looking to get away for a healthful escape.

Three Things We Loved: The bush location, the yoga studio, the outdoor bath.

The Ultimate Factor: It’s close to Sydney, so convenient, yet feels remote.


When you feel the need to escape, not everyone will necessarily have romance, or going as a couple for a romantic getaway, in mind. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for friends or family members to catch up or hang out; for men it might be on a surf, fishing trip, or watching professional sports, while for women it may involve shopping, spa treatments, or healthful pursuits. Yoga is another one, and when it comes to retreats there are plenty of options including resort destinations such as Byron Bay, or further still, Bali or Thailand. Sydneysiders don’t have to venture far to get away from the city, however, and that’s just one thing which makes Billabong Retreat that little a bit special. It has a convenient location just west of the Sydney CBD, heading towards the Blue Mountains, as well as activities including yoga and meditation, coupled with healthy cusine, spa treatments, and accommodations to suit a range of budgets. This lovely boutique 30-bed retreat is in Maraylya, nestled in a quiet and pristine natural bushland setting, with a range of treetop cabins overlooking water, and plenty on offer for both relaxation and to improve your wellbeing.

The Accommodation:

There are a variety of accommodation options, whether you’re travelling as a couple or friends or group of friends. Some have shared bathroom facilities, such as those in the Poolside Cottage and the Treehouse Quad, while others have en-suite facilities but require you to bring your own linen, such as standard Treehouse Doubles and Twins. For those who want it all, and a little more luxury, there are comfy and spacious Deluxe Queen cabins for couples, which has a queen sized bed and a sofa bed, and Deluxe King Twin cabins ideal for friends, which have twin beds and a sofa bed. All cabins are close to the main building but enjoy water views, and they have a lovely rustic style and amenities including complimentary biodegradable bathroom products. 

Where We Stayed:

I enjoyed my two-day Billabong experience with a girlfriend, staying in a freestanding Deluxe Twin perched on top of the escarpment with views across the billabong. The spacious cabin had polished wooden floors dressed with rugs, off white walls with plenty of wood accents, a palette of neutral colours to fit the rustic setting, and two large single beds with linen provided. There was also a lounge area with a cloth double sofa bed complete with linen for a third person, a coffee table with magazines, a small fridge with tea making facilities including an abundance of herbal teas, and an iPod touch on a listening station preprogrammed with music and meditations. 

Sliding doors lead to a spacious private wooden deck with seating for two, with the highlight being a gorgeous outdoor freestanding pedestal bathtub. Unfortunately it was winter when we visited, chilly by day and freezing at night, but I could imagine wallowing in the bath in milder weather at sunset, first thing in the morning, or before bed, listening to the sounds of the forest. Back inside, the tiled bathroom was extremely spacious with a full sized deep bathtub and an open shower; the hot water is limited to 50 litres per guest per day, and fired by propane gas, but there is enough water allocated for one bath per guest per two days. Complete with realistic faux candles and relaxing salts, and given it was winter, making good use of the bath was definitely on the "to do" list.

What Else Is There:

Billabong Retreat is largely all-inclusive, with all meals included in the daily rate along with yoga and meditation sessions, and depending on which days you are staying, a lineup of activities including live music, movie nights, nutrition workshops, drawing meditation, and more. If you have specifics in mind for your stay, check the daily schedule on the website before booking. There’s also a library of wellness books, magazines and podcasts, bicycles for guest use, and an outdoor aqua therapy magnesium swimming pool which is great in warmer weather.  Spa treatments, including facials and massages, can be booked in advance before you arrive, and are enjoyed in the Wellness Centre, and there is a huge yoga studio, an indoor lounge, and an outdoor relaxation area with a fire.

All meals are served at a specific time each day and enjoyed communally in the dining room, the cuisine freshly cooked by head chef Tory von Bergen and her staff, with a focus on seasonal organic produce sourced locally. It’s also vegetarian, and there is no alcohol, but unlimited herbal tea and filtered water is provided, and guests can also choose to be dairy, grain, gluten and sugar free for a more intense retreat experience. Examples of meals include quinoa porridge and an omelette for breakfast, miso broth with shitake mushrooms, Asian greens and brown rice for lunch, and dinner might be a sweet vegetable curry with dahl, rice, Chinese eggplant and tofu. There’s always a healthy dessert, and afternoon tea on offer daily in the dining room, and there's plenty of food; and you are welcome to have seconds if everyone else has had their fair share .

What We Enjoyed:

Our two-night stay began on a Monday afternoon at 2pm, and ended after lunch on the Wednesday. After checking in and unpacking, we enjoyed an orientation session to brief us on the program, what we’d be doing, and what was where on the property, followed by a gentle yoga class with a meditation focus. After some free time to enjoy the surroundings, we had dinner at 6.15pm meeting our fellow yogis properly; they were quite a mixed bunch of varying ages, some travelling, some Sydneysiders looking to get into yoga and meditation, and two couples. Later we went to a meditation workshop which explored three different types of ways to meditate, and before bed my friend and I listened to some uplifting music from our iPod Touch for a while before a final mediation was in order to help us drift off to sleep in our comfortable beds.

On Tuesday, after breakfast at 8am, we had some free time before another 90-minute yoga class which had a focus on stretching. Then the scheduled spa treatments got underway for all guests. After yoga my friend and I took a walk and explored the tranquil setting of the billabong, and relaxed for a while in hammocks in the treehouse on the water’s edge, a place which catches the sun beautifully, and where you can meditate, or in warmer weather, enjoy a massage. After lunch it was time for our spa treatments - a massage. The Wellness Centre was nicely laid out with a welcoming reception and a number of treatment rooms, with pampering options on offer including basic, hot stone, or remedial massage, an organic Li’Tya facial, and on certain days other services are available including kinesiology and hypnotherapy. Our 50 minute massages were top notch with therapists who worked intuitively, and thoroughly.

The afternoon was a busy one, with another 90-minute yoga session which this time combined stretching and pose holding, with a little light vinyasa flow - my favourite. Next came an interesting nutrition workshop and dinner, after which most guests headed to the yoga studio to watch an inspirational movie. Our final morning began with an early breakfast, then our last 90-minute yoga class, this time demonstrating a short routine including some light meditation which everyone can do at home in just seven minutes. This program was later sent out to us by email. After a final lunch with the other yogis, and a debrief on the events of the past few days, we all went our separate ways.

The Verdict:

If you’re seeking a no-fuss retreat away from the hubbub of the city as a couple or friends, Billabong retreat is one to consider. Besides plenty of informative yoga and relaxing mediation, the property enjoys a quiet, surreal location, offers comfortable accommodations, with top notch organic vegetarian cuisine thrown in.

Billabong Retreat is located at 41 McClymonts Road, Maraylya, NSW 2765, 02 4573 6080,

Joanna Hall