A yoga retreat and exploring New South Wales is heaven for Donna McIntyre.

My husband laughs when I ring and tell him it's just 6am in Kingscliff, northern New South Wales, and I'm about to jog on the beach and then do the first of three yoga sessions for the day. "You call that a holiday?" he asks.

Well, yes I do, because when else would a mum get to indulge in "me time" for that many hours?

Of course, a yoga retreat isn't only for women; this weekend the class of 25 includes two husbands striving to get a bit more flexibility. Most of us are 30, 40 and 50-plus ... and there aren't that many on the orange and blue mats wrapping legs behind heads or bending forwards like pretzels.

Kris McIntyre, who runs the High Summer Yoga Retreat classes, says she wanted to create an escape that is approachable, financially and in intensity, sitting somewhere between expensive health retreats and hippie yoga camps. Her retreats are now in their third year.


It's not boot-camp yoga (caffeine and wine are discouraged but not banned), but the sessions aren't a walk in the park. McIntyre gently encourages her students to try their best to move into the poses.

We're told to eat like a king at breakfast, lunch like a nobleman and dinner as a pauper.

"Night time is for resting not digesting," quips McIntyre.

New Zealanders with Sky TV may know McIntyre's face and cheerful instructions from the Living Channel's Yoga TV.

When I mention this, McIntyre laughs and says those programmes were filmed nine or 10 years ago, pointing out the laughter lines as evidence of a decade passed.

Her yoga style has evolved too in those 10 years as she has studied the Ryoho form, developed by Australian Andzrej Gospodarczyk. It's a combination of his studies of Iyengar, Japanese Oki-do, Shiatsu and the Macrobiotic movement.

The weekend begins with an evening session on the Friday and a meal of pumpkin soup and chickpea, sweet potato and tomato ragout with vegetable quinoa.

On Saturday, after "joggling" (walking/jogging with breathing technique) at sunrise, there's yoga, another session before lunch and then evening yoga. As well as meditation and downward dog yoga, there's some downtime.

You can nap before the next yoga session, walk or swim at the patrolled beach, rent a bike, or swim or laze at one of the hotel's two pools. And did I mention the massage at the Golden Door spa next to the hotel? Or the spa bath in my room?

It was just what was needed after pushing my body to the extreme on the yoga mat.

The theme of my retreat focuses on the stomach and spleen meridians with yoga routines chosen to open up the chest and shoulder areas. The food matches the season with sweet vegetables to cater to our heightened cravings for sweet foods, and which is in keeping with macrobiotic thinking.

All too soon, the yoga weekend is over. But there's much more to do in this area. I head into the hinterland of the Tweed Valley, lush from high rainfall.

Leaving Kingscliff, I travel to Murwillumbah via the Madura Tea Estate in Clothiers Creek, Australia's only subtropical tea plantation.

At Murwillumbah is the World Heritage Rainforest Information Centre, with displays about the area's ancient volcanic caldera, Mt Warning, and the rainforests.

I then head to Tyalgum, a revitalised old logging village. It is like stepping back in time to a more relaxed and serene era, but with the modern luxuries of good coffee, great food and boutique shops and cafes such as Flutterbies, where the neighbours' chooks fossick in the garden.

Next is Mavis's Kitchen and Cabins near Uki where I'm spending the night. After a dip at a waterhole at Korrumbyn Creek Picnic Area, cabin owner Peter Clarke and I walk around his organic biodynamic gardens, while being entertained by the free-range chooks and sampling herbs and veges used in their restaurant, housed in a magnificent Queenslander, with Mt Warning as its backdrop.

The next morning, the mountain, or Wollumbin as Aborigines call it, beckons. Early mist creates a fitting atmosphere for my walk - the return climb to the summit takes about five hours but you can walk part-way or there's the 150m-long Lyrebird track, a pleasant stroll under the rainforest canopy.

Later, I drive to Uki village, which has a hippie-ish atmosphere with Happy High Herbs and the Organic Supermarket.

Chillingham has The Old Butcher Shop Gallery with ceramics by John Gillson, and Bush Tucker, where farmer Buck Buchanan grows exotic fruit such as Buddha's hands, Japanese yuzu fruit and kaffir limes.

All too soon it's time to drive to the Gold Coast to fly home.

Getting there: Air New Zealand and partner airline Virgin Australia offer 26 return flights per week to the Gold Coast from Auckland and Christchurch, with connections from other domestic ports. Fares start at $189 one way.

Where to stay
Peppers Salt Resort and Spa: Kingscliff, NSW, ph 00 612 6674 7777.

Mavis's Cabins and Kitchen: 64 Mt Warning Rd, Uki, ph 00 612 6679 5664.

Where to eat
Mavis's Kitchen
Flutterbies Cottage Cafe: 23-25 Coolman St, Tyalgum

Luffley Cafe: 2 Wharf St, Murwillumbah

What to do: Pose Yoga retreats at Peppers Salt Resort and Spa run on May 18-20, July 20-22 and October 12-14. Email jolene.napper@conferencesandeventsatsalt.com.au or ph 0061 2 6670 502 or go to krismcintyre.com for more information.

Donna McIntyre flew courtesy of Air New Zealand and Virgin and was a guest of Peppers and Destination New South Wales.