I was very fortunate recently to be able to spend a weekend up in Gwinganna which is a heaven-sent health and lifestyle retreat nestled in Queensland’s Tallebudgera Valley.
If you haven’t heard of it or been there before, you’re in for a really special sublime experience. It’s set on 500 acres of extremely beautiful bush land and as soon as you arrive on the bus which has been zig-zagging its way up the elevated mountain road, you’ll feel like you have stepped into your own private shangri-la, well that is exactly how I felt when I arrived! Ahhh the serenity!
When you climb down from the coach onto the crunchy earth underfoot you’ll look around you’ll see a quaint bunch of heritage buildings in a village like setting which makes you feel instantly happy. What caught my immediate attention was a beautiful weatherboard church which I found out was the former Tweed Head's Methodist Church that had been painstakingly transported up to find its resting place amongst the gum trees and crisp air of the valley. The church is where nightly meditation classes are held.
The classes are based upon a guided body scan mediation which coaxes and cajoles you gently into a blissful state of complete relaxation. I did two meditation classes during the weekend each night before dinner and they were calming and a great way to unwind.
Gwinganna in its entirety is an eco-friendly retreat, with an extensive environmental impact program in place that is noticeable in different areas throughout the grounds and buildings; from the recycling and energy efficiency measures that have been put in place to the wonderful organic and botanical gardens including four active bee hives. The gardens even come with their very own engaging and knowledgeable botanist. Once I had settled in, I took a wander around the grounds and veggie gardens which were thriving with veggies and herbs and an abundance of anti-inflammatory spices. Some of my favourites from the veggie gardens were kale, turmeric and ginger which are used in many of the Gwinganna recipes so I instantly felt excitement about what was to come for dinner!.
Speaking of food… it was absolutely one of my favourite aspects of the weekend, because the menu at Gwinganna followed many of my own eating principles. All of the produce was fresh, in season, organic and delicious and what I loved more than anything about it was that it was simple. Gwinganna’s food philosophy is based around the belief that Mother Nature knows best. Low human intervention food where the food has undergone no or minimal changes from its place in nature to your plate is one of the founding principles in the Gwinganna kitchen.
Because winter is a prime time for root and green vegetables I indulged in hearty warming soups like this delicious broccoli soup served with a yummy fresh green salad. I loved the dressing as well, it was made with tahini, lemon, lime a bit of garlic and a touch of water to make it easy to pour over the crispy, fresh salad.
Hermann Schafellner who originates from Austria and has worked across the globe in top hotels, is the man responsible for the delectable food that flows from the kitchens. One evening he came out from behind his massive stock pot to say hi and we shared a giggle over Austrian cuisine and the size of a Salzburg Nockerl which is a gourmet fluffy dessert reminiscent of Salzburg’s snow-capped mountains (and about the size of them!).
After a restful night’s sleep in one of the eco rooms with gorgeous high ceilings and fluffy pillows, I awoke to a hearty breakfast which consisted of gluten free cereals and almond milk and topped off with sheep’s milk yoghurt. There was also an option to order a hot breakfast from the kitchen with sautéed spinach, some activated nuts and seeds, poached eggs and fresh mushrooms.
Gwinganna chefs cater for anyone with food intolerances or allergies and the good news for people with a discerning palate is that they create simple dishes that taste absolutely out of this world and are presented so beautifully. At dinner time I had a really amazing slow cooked beef dish on cauli mash.
The weekend involved meeting a great bunch of interesting and varied people, indulging in fun activities such as water running in the heated pool, boxing (which was super fun) and some stretch and relaxation classes. It also involved a lot of time lounging around on this wonderful circular chair watching the birds gathering twigs and items for their winter nests.
It is a wonderful place to practice mindfulness. One of the other highlights of my stay was a deep tissue massage from Lina who was an intuitive masseuse with healing hands. There are a number of different spa treatments that are available in the circular spa sanctuary which is built around a tree so as to preserve it.
The spa treatments range from massages to facials and even equine therapy for anyone wishing to be soothed, nurtured, healed and balanced from within.
For more information about Gwinganna visit their website here