Most people don't go to the Gold Coast to detox. To gamble, visit fun parks and get a suntan, yes. But to lose weight, cleanse the body of toxins and reset their health and lifestyle thermostat? Pull the other one.

Yet half an hour from Surfers Paradise is a place where the bustle and vice of Kiwis' favourite holiday destination is siphoned off.

Gwinganna is a luxury health retreat set on 200ha high above the Tallebudgera Valley, where you go to recharge, be pampered and - in my case - find those abdominal muscles that have long been missing in action. With a view that stretches from Moreton Bay all the way to Coolangatta, it's no wonder the original Aboriginal settlers named this place "the lookout".

My package includes three massages, a facial, organic meals, health seminars and any number of opportunities to burn calories. What it doesn't allow is alcohol, coffee, sugar, chocolate or salt. Unlike other retreats, meat, fish and bread aren't considered evil.

But cigarettes, newspapers and sneaking in your own food are definitely frowned on and can get you escorted off the premises.

Fortunately the location and facilities of the three-year-old property - which includes two pools, a gym and yoga pavilion, steam room, sauna and an A$6.5 million ($8.34 million) spa - mean we barely notice the deprivation.

Temperatures hover around the 30C mark all week, which isn't pleasant when you're in the middle of a boxing class, but it makes loafing by the pool an absolute joy.

Kangaroo and koala sightings are common, and although snakes also share this postcode, apparently they're harmless.

Fifty-two of us have signed up for the week, including four Kiwis. We're a mixed bunch: there are fitness fanatics and people for whom tying their shoelaces counts as exercise, as well as those who are overcoming trauma, wanting to salvage their health and sanity, or who are at a crossroads in life.

But where else could a criminal lawyer from Melbourne, a coffee guru from Auckland, a beauty therapist from Canberra and a full-time mother from Brisbane sit around a communal table discussing their detox headaches and aching limbs?

What everyone seems to have in common is over-stuffed diaries and a desire to live a better life.

I learn what 5.30am looks like when we're woken each morning for Qi Gong. The fact that we practise this moving meditation in the beautiful rainforest alongside kookaburra who mock us helps to take the sting out of the early hour.

Then it's off to do a thigh-curdling walk up the surrounding hills.

Other options include deep-water running, weight training, or spin classes.

By 8am, I've expended more energy than I would in a whole week at home, but there's a chance to refuel with platters of tropical fruit and home-made muesli, as well as such delights as poached eggs and gluten-free pancakes.

It feels odd not to begin the day with caffeine, and the various herbal teas don't quite fill the void. Nor do I make peace with the no-liquid rule before, during and after meals (apparently it plays havoc with the digestive process).

But the menu, heavy on organic vegetables culled daily from the property's gardens, is so sumptuous and artistically presented that we soon forget our petty grumbles.

Because Gwinganna has been built on the philosophy that it's fine to do absolutely nothing, guests can opt out of any of the activities, which two young Aussie brothers choose to do, showing up only at meal times.

But as most of us are here to move our butts, the morning stretch and yoga classes are usually packed, as are the daily seminars that cover everything from nutrition and stress management to exercise and a cooking demonstration from the executive chef.

What sets Gwinganna apart from similar establishments is its emphasis on functional movement, as opposed to bone-crunching cardio.

This means that at the initial health assessment, there's none of the usual fat measurements or puffing away on an exercise bike.

Instead, a series of simple stretches reveal how weak my core muscles really are. But it doesn't mean I get an easy ride: the workouts are hard and I sweat buckets.

Fortunately, I get to balance that with any number of sessions that would probably cause my GP to raise his eyebrows.

The "Chi" assessment, for example, determines my overall health by reading my energy levels and is conducted by a practitioner who used to treat Princess Diana.

The transformational therapy, water healing and myotherapy are aimed at reducing tension and inflammation, and the fascinating emotional iridology session involves a specialist looking deep into my eyes and telling me I have a dodgy digestive system - and a tendency towards high cholesterol.

Thankfully the herbal tonic I'm prescribed goes a long way to combating the insomnia I've spent a lifetime cultivating. There's also ample time to worship at the altar of self-indulgence and I spend hours engaged in the pursuit of flawless skin and perfect eyebrows.

I get a glimpse at the future of massage and it involves spatial sound, a vibrating bed and percussion instruments that honour ancient Tibetan and Indian spiritual ceremonies. It might sound new-age weird, but I almost levitate off the table and am sent into a deep, coma-like slumber for the rest of the afternoon.

So did Gwinganna work? Definitely. I said goodbye to a few kilos, learned to breathe through my nose and discovered that organic does taste better. All this goodness doesn't come cheap, though - you'll open your chakras and your wallet, but there is a range of programmes and options to suit various budgets. And besides, with all the money you'll save on Gold Coast casinos, shopping and dining out, you'll be able to afford to do something good for yourself.

Sharon Stephenson was a guest of Gwinganna and Pacific Blue.

Pacific Blue has daily flights to Queensland from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.