THE superlative views across a gently rolling landscape from the heights of Gaia Retreat and Spa are some of the most stunning in the Byron Bay region. My expectations are equally high, as the retreat has been honoured for the past two years as Australia's leading boutique hotel and Australia's leading spa resort in the World Travel Awards, known as the Oscars of the world travel industry.
From the moment I entered through the huge cast-iron gates a weight lifted from my shoulders. After a particularly gruelling week of deadlines I felt I truly deserved some down time and some pampering.
As this was not my first time at Gaia, one of the things that was most reassuring was that I recognised many of the warm and friendly staff, as they have been here since it opened almost 10 years ago.
Gregg Cave, the director and hands-on general manager, is a man of many talents and charms, not the least being the possessor of a biting sense of humour.
Feeling exhausted and not particularly keen to bushwalk, practise yoga or do anything strenuous on my first day, I asked if there was anything I had to do. His quick reply was "no" - as far as he knew I was not down for washing up that night.
Gaia retreats are ultimately bespoke experiences. Guests choose their own level of activity and set their own intentions. Gaia only asks their guests to do one thing on arrival, and that is to surrender to the beauty and healing culture of Byron Bay.
Guests set their own intentions, whether it is to lose weight, detox, de-stress or regain balance or peace of mind, and the Gaia team provides everything to help guests achieve their goals.
My intention was to do nothing more than relax and leave looking and feeling more refreshed than when I arrived. Once checked in, I was taken to my accommodation, one of the new Komala villas.
My home at Gaia was to be a stunning one-bedroom split-level villa on one of the highest points at Gaia. They offer seclusion and tranquil indoor-outdoor living with a large private deck, daybed cabana, saltwater infinity plunge pool and private treatment area.
Looking across the misty valley from my villa, I was truly in heaven, and finally, with no outside demands, I could take Gregg's advice and surrender.
The hardest choice I had to make was choosing some DVDs. With a luscious light rain falling, I could kick back guilt-free in my villa and surrender to the sofa.
But the lure of the huge tub in my room was strong, something I cannot enjoy at home. But as it turned out I could luxuriate in the bath while watching a film. I may never leave.
Dinnertime arrived and down to the main hall I went. A steaming broth of vegetables and noodles, served with fragrant fresh herbs from Gaia's kitchen garden, was followed by a light chicken dish and a dessert to go. It's a revelation that healthy food can be so delicious.
After a blissful night in my villa, I awoke to yet another misty valley view. Perfect: my day of indulgence - the Gaia Goddess signature package - would be that much more cosy with this unseasonably cool weather.
The spa is only a short stroll from the villas and the main house, surrounded by a stunning garden and set next to a pool. The overall ambience is of stylish serenity.
My first treatment as part of the Gaia Goddess package was the legendary body scrub. Layers of dead skin later I emerged, glowing with a baby-smooth texture. A full-body massage complete with nourishing oils and a head and foot massage left me utterly relaxed.
A light tofu salad lunch and I'm ready for part two of the Goddess treatment. This round is all about looking as good as you feel after the treatment. With Gaia's signature range of certified organic skincare, my skin is genuinely glowing. Perfectly groomed and painted nails complete the session.
As I check out, I can honestly say: mission accomplished. I am no longer the frazzled, stressed and tired-looking woman that arrived 24 hours earlier. I exit a much calmer, cleaner and clearer version of myself. Imagine what a few days or a week would reveal?
The writer was guest of Gaia Retreat and Spa
Take time out:
Gaia Retreat and Spa facilities:
- Gaia day spa
- Tennis court
- Fitness centre
For all booking and inquiries phone (02) 6687 1216 or visit http://www.gaiaretreat.com.au.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.