The best spa getaways
Pause that refreshes … Gaia Retreat & Spa near Byron Bay, NSW.
What's more relaxing than a fabulous massage? A weekend of massages – and facials and yoga – all delivered in a tranquil natural setting, far from the hustle and bustle. Sound like what the doctor ordered? Then get yourself to one of these relaxing retreats.
Here's a sentence you rarely hear at a spa: "Would you like a glass of wine with dinner?" At many spas, detoxing is part of the package. At Gaia Retreat & Spa, they'll help you detox if that's what you're after, but if you want to relax and de-stress, that's fine, too. And if a glass of wine helps you get there, you're most welcome. Dessert's also on the menu. Fancy some fig and orange slices with labneh and halva, or a chocolate cake with berries? All fully organic, of course, and free of processed sugar.
That's the difference at Gaia: feeling good as well as being good. While the setting is divine – 19 bungalows set on 10 hectares of subtropical lushness inland from Byron Bay – it's the personal touches that make the difference: the warmth of the staff and your fellow guests, who will happily invite you to dine with them or leave you to eat alone, as you prefer. It's the unhurried activities: yoga, boxing workouts or clay sculpture classes. And it's the spa's fabulous therapists.
The massage table is unbelievably wide: no need to push your arms in close to your body. Also amazing is the hot-stone massage, during which a pair of hot stones is placed on your eyes (with an eye pillow in between protecting them).
Gaia Retreat & Spa, 933 Fernleigh Road, Brooklet, NSW. Contact: (02) 6687 1216; gaiaretreat.com.au. The Spa Retreat Special includes two nights' accommodation, all meals and snacks, morning yoga, all scheduled activities, $250 spa voucher and spa gift pack; rates start at $1915 for two.
RISE AND SHINE
One knock or two in the morning? At Gwinganna Retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland, they rise early, with the sun. If you like, they'll come and wake you with a knock on your door. If you're prone to falling back to sleep and don't want to miss the tai chi, they'll come and knock again.
Of course, if you want to sleep in, that's okay, too, but you'll be missing out. Days at Gwinganna are designed to reflect our circadian rhythms: energetic in the morning, calm in the evening. So the day starts with plenty of activity: dance classes, maybe, or boxing, or Pilates. Afternoons are about doing what you want to do - whether that's having a spa treatment, doing some more exercise or taking one of the 16 different walks on the 200-hectare property. And in the evening ... well, the winding down works so well, many people find they're ready for bed by 9pm.
With 55 guest rooms and 33 treatment rooms, there's rarely a log jam at the spa. And do try one of Gwinganna's more unusual offerings: get focused with martial arts training, be nurtured with crystal reiki healing or treat yourself to an equine experience. Based on the idea that horses read your body language and feel your energy, this offers you a chance to improve your emotional intelligence and non-verbal communication.
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, 192 Syndicate Road, Tallebudgera Valley, Qld. Contact: 1800 219 272; gwinganna.com. An all-inclusive two-night weekend stay, including airport transfers and $250 spa voucher, starts at $980 for two.
For instant unwinding, there's nothing like the sound of the sea. Easier than a yoga class and less painful than a Thai massage, just listening to the gentle lapping of the waves on the sand starts to help all those tense muscles relax. Which is why, theoretically, you don't even need to set foot inside Castaways Resort & Spa to start unwinding. Castaways is located shoreside on Mission Beach in north Queensland, so just letting the atmosphere work its magic will do the trick.
If you want to push things along, however, head for the resort's lovely beachfront Queenslander that houses the Asian-inspired spa. Treatments cover every part of the spectrum, from pedicures and leg waxes to a range of offerings designed for men. Given that guests are likely to be spending hours out on the reef, skin care is something of a specialty. There's also the option of enjoying a cheese platter served with a glass of wine: just the thing while you're enjoying a treatment on the spa's verandah.
For pure indulgence, however, you can't beat the Just Drift package: a three-hour treatment with a full body exfoliation, mud wrap, Vichy shower, head massage, Drift massage, pedicure and facial. If you like, your partner can join you in one of the dual treatment rooms.
Castaways Resort & Spa, 2 Pacific Parade, Mission Beach, Qld. Contact: (07) 4068 7444; castaways.com.au. The Couple's Ultimate Luxury & Relaxation package includes one night's accommodation, buffet breakfast, three-course dinner and $100 spa voucher. Rates start at $390 for two.
From Sunday Life