Last week we looked at dining on the Gold Coast, but what if you need nourishment of a different kind? Marie Barbieri finds out where to go to improve your wellbeing.
The Gold Coast has long been Australia's hedonistic playground. But visitors might be surprised to learn it hides a sophisticated health and wellness scene. And I'm in town to decompress, nourish and rebalance.
My week of wellbeing begins at Soak Bathhouse, a weatherboard and barn door-dressed day spa at Mermaid Beach that opened in January 2021. I sip my welcome drink in the 32.5C Himalayan salt pool, rich in 84 health-boosting minerals, before slipping into the magnesium, potassium and calcium-infused spa.
Heated to 37.5C, it further dilates my blood vessels, aiding my skin's absorption of the salts. Then I brave it - a plunge into the frigid 12.5C tub for some centuries-old contrast hydrotherapy. My face snap-freezes into a shocked emoji.
"When you heat your core temp to 38 degrees, then lower it by two degrees, you stimulate your lymphatic system," says owner, Niki Dean. I try to smile.
"You produce more thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which assists your thyroid," he adds, while I wonder if I am still breathing.
"And you release the pain-relieving hormone: beta-endorphin," he says, as my smile becomes a lid on a scream. Teeth jackhammering, I leap out and stagger towards the infrared sauna, hoping to survive.
I emerge from Soak re-energised and ravenous, I check into the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa for a luxurious stay in a high-in-the-sky ocean-view suite. A circular bathtub tucked into wraparound windows seduces me. During a spectacular storm, I wallow, neck-deep in suds, watching the city's skyscrapers become strobe-lit and jet-washed by mesmerising meteorological magic.
Rising at 4am to a twinkling skyline that never sleeps, I meet Ash of Go Ballooning. With torrential rain sweeping the streets, he drives our busload of hopefuls to the Scenic Rim's Kerry Valley. The clouds are frowning, but weather whisperer and balloon pilot Murray Blyth is already inflating the world's largest pink balloon.
After arranging us like market fruits in his four-part punnet (the only balloon basket in Australia with doors), we rise to a stop-motion gallery of orchards and paddocks, roving cattle and rustic farm buildings.
Beyond the panorama of Tamborine Mountain, Mount Barney and Mount Lindesay, squalls irrigate the distant McPherson Range while fluorescent rainbows spray-paint its bony shoulders. In-between the roar of the flames, we drift to the melody of nature, draping like hanging plants from our braided basket.
Come afternoon, a pause in the rain leads me to tranquil Tallebudgera Creek, where Sarnia Rose of Pure Aloha Yoga plants me on a SUP yoga board. Paddling upstream, we anchor by sheltering mangroves.
Swaying languidly on the ripples, Sarnia shares her Polynesian heritage by narrating a Hawaiian Oli (song) to Aina: the land that provides for us. The chant invites indigenous spirits to share with us their ancient wisdom in order to guide us on our paths.
We then challenge our balance through various asanas, turning the world upside down on the rippling water.
Leaving the coast, a half-hour drive delivers me to Tallebudgera Valley for a two-day hinterland getaway at highly revered Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.
At the Spa Sanctuary, where dispensers pour amethyst and rose quartz crystal-infused drinking water (yes, Gwinganna is that kind of place), I book in for the newest treatment offering.
From a palm-grove surrounded therapy room, Harlee's healing hands begin the Essential Naturaceuticals facial created by award-winning Australian organic skincare pioneer, Vanessa Megan.
Wild-harvested, bioavailable and organic, the hydrating ingredients include a petitgrain cream cleanser, a prebiotic-infused exfoliator, a clay mask, elixir oils and enzyme-rich serums.
Positively glowing on the outside, I now want to know what's happening on the inside. So I meet Duncan, who gives me a Body Composition Analysis. Standing on a radiation-free scanner for just one minute allows electrodes and impedance to assess me.
The scan calculates not just my weight and BMI, but my intra and extracellular hydration, body fat mass, lean mass, skeletal muscle mass, bone mineral content and visceral fat level. The personalised printout of my biomarkers tells me what I need to continue doing, and what to change in my lifestyle.
Dinner nourishes me with wholesome grilled snapper, organic sweet potato, orange slaw and wilted spinach, much of the produce harvested from the retreat's own orchards and vegetable gardens.
In the morning, I wake to the subtle song of warbling magpies. A meditative 6am qigong class on the retreat's sloping hillside, teaches me to calm my nervous system by breathing more mindfully. Inhaling the crisp air, I embrace the gentle warmth of the rising sun as it gilds the tips of the distant Gold Coast skyline.
It's then into the airy pavilion to meet instructor Ness, for a therapeutic Music and Mindfulness class. Ness invites us to shed our inhibitions by dancing like no one is watching, because… no one is watching. It's performed with our eyes closed, so there is no expectation and no judgement.
Ness plays a mixed soundtrack of energising tribal beats and calming melodic ballads as we bounce, sashay, shimmy and sway within the safe confines of our own mind and mat. It's powerfully liberating and surprisingly emotional when my body and soul eventually feels the release.
Gold Coast Checklist
For more things to see and do in the region, go to destinationgoldcoast.com