Rachel Grunwell discovers nirvana just an hour's drive from the Gold Coast.
The sun is rising and I'm on a hilltop at Gwinganna retreat on Queensland's Gold Coast. I can hear birds loudly. I'm surrounded by lush, green picturesque valleys for miles and views over the coast. The air is fresh and clean. The trademark high-rise buildings in the distance look like the size of toy lego pieces.
It feels like I'm a million miles away from those high-rise buildings full of busy, bustling people. But in reality, they are less than 60 minutes away by car.
It's 6.15am and, if you are at Gwinganna, then you will be here at this same spot and time every morning. You'll witness the blazing red sun rising slow, sparking light across the sky and clouds. It's a natural show of a kaleidoscope of changing colours. It's nature's free, natural theatre at its very best.
As the sun rises, you'll do Qi Gong for 30 minutes alongside other guests. Qi Gong is a blend of slow movement, breathing and meditation. It's about cultivating your life energy that flows through your body. It's a calming, relaxing and meditative practice that sets your body, mind and soul up for the day in an inspired way.
This is one of the calming and de-stress strategies you'll learn here. You'll eat organic, healthy, nourishing food that tastes delicious. There's coffee and wine at the weekends and meat at some meals. There's always plenty of food to eat. I may be the only retreat-goer who actually puts on weight here; I adore the food that much!
During the day, there are walks, yoga, dance and other fitness options on offer.
On one day, I actually did two yoga options. Or you can choose to unwind in the sunshine by one of the two pools if you prefer. There's a gym to sweat in. There are also wellness seminars to learn about healthy living. Options for retreat stays can vary from two nights to three weeks or longer.
You'll switch off — from non-stop buzzing phones, negative self-talk and whirring worries. You'll switch on your desire instead on how to live a more vibrant life. You'll prioritise sleep and rejuvenate too with spa and therapy treatments on offer. There's everything on offer here.
There are facials, massages, manicures, aromatherapy, Ayurveda and chakra balancing. Or there's tarot and neurology, equine assisted therapy, soul path reading to astrology. Anyone for a colonic hydrotherapy treatment?
There's also a big menu of therapy options. This includes chatting to a psychologist who can help you to transform. Or you can have a consultation with a naturopath. You can get blood screening, your body measured, weighed and analysed.
The accommodation options are top-class. An outside bath is heavenly. But it's the tiny kangaroos bouncing outside my room that delight me the most.
This place is a blissful place to escape to rejuvenate. It's so green everywhere. The staff are kind, helpful and inspiring. And it's an amazing place to connect with others. At every meal, you can sit next to a different person and engage in new conversations. I meet lots of people who are repeat clients. After spending a weekend here, there's no need to ask why. You can learn something new here every time. You'll feel an uplifting sense in your, body, mind and soul. And these new practices and healthy ways can then weave into your everyday life back at home.
As I write this, I'm dreaming again of being on that lush, green hillside. Watching the blazing sun being reborn again as I move my body, breath and mind slow which calms me.
• Focus on food choices to feed your gut microbiome.
• Balance your exercise programme with Yin and Yang.
• Reduce caffeine intake
• Live spiritually with purpose and meaning
— Katlyn Martin, activities manager/ naturopath at Gwinganna Retreat
Stress management tips
• Audit your thoughts
• Spend more time on your rest and digest system (parasympathetic)
• Find emotional harmony
• Be more self-aware
• Forgive and move on
— Sharon Kolkka, general manager and wellness director at Gwinganna Retreat