The steep, seemingly endless driveway mentally prepares you to escape into another world. In fact, you are advised to leave your baggage (emotional, that is) at the large sliding gate at its summit.

I’ve only driven 40 minutes from home, yet I feel hours away. As I mingle at the welcome afternoon tea, I notice that apart from a couple of other Gold Coasters, guests seem to be mostly from Sydney, Melbourne, and New Zealand. Many singles, a few couples, and refreshingly, some family groups.

Some come for health and fitness, others for healing, and some to strengthen relationship bonds; the reasons are as many as there are people and this weekend is a full house at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.

This is not my first visit. I confess: I am a recidivist. I don’t intentionally go out and reoffend, it is just the craziness of the highly competitive, tech-saturated, fast-paced outside world that causes me to stray.

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The food menu offered is largely sourced from fresh, local produce or from their on-site garden

Gwinganna gets me straightened out — from the exquisite, picked-fresh, organic food to the multitude of health and wellness activities packed into each stay. I love the fact that technology, smuggled-in chocolate and alcohol, and newspapers are contraband except in emergencies (and I don’t mean an alcohol emergency). It’s one less decision I have to make: I can’t check on home, or answer a family or friend’s request — this time is for me.

Each return visit has come with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I want it to be as life-changing as it was the first time. I anxiously look for consistency, that breathtaking surprise when I enter my room to find luxury rather than adequate accomodation. I secretly hope for something inspiring, something new that will widen my world, and in turn, who I am. That has always been my experience and this time did not disappoint.

I have been assigned the Lychee Orchard Suite and as I have zero sense of navigation, I follow the cobbled bush path, carefully focussing on landmarks. The silence of Tallebudgera Valley is deafening at first, before the sounds of the Australian bush work their way into my consciousness.

Four or five wallabies flank my path and stop foraging to ascertain my threat level. They are so close I could touch them. Two magpies stop squabbling over a plump seed to do the same, but as I move slowly towards my villa, they soon ignore me and get on with their business. The native Australian birds clearly claim Gwinganna as their own and they constantly add a narrative to your journey there.

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A short wellness retreat could be the perfect way to de-stress

Later that day in the spa, my therapist whispers Ayurvedic chants as she performs her aromatic ritual but it is the eastern whipbird outside — calling to me for the entire 80 minutes of my treatment — that soothes my soul. In my deep water running class, small brilliantly-coloured birds mischievously dive-bomb between us, mocking our efforts with their skill and excitement.

Gwinganna is not a place of “halves” or “nearly theres”.

Every meal is laden with exotic herbs and greens that are now on my grocery list for life, every mouthful a delight to everyone at the table. Meals are a sensual time of enthusiastic groans and murmurs, the men amongst us especially delighted at some alternate dishes they may not have willingly ordered had they the choice.

The mornings are filled with Bosu and boxing, yoga, drumming, and bush walks — you create your own journey. In the spa — which is the “Dreamtime” prescribed each afternoon — massage oils are warmed, pink desert sands softly sprinkled, and silky clays applied with long strokes that finish at the tips of the fingers and toes.

Each treatment is skillfully executed and we all willingly succumb before debriefing at the evening meal. “They really have it mastered here, don’t they?” someone offers enthusiastically. We all agree as we sip 100 ml of organic wine and anticipate the first tantalising dish.

So, what was my intent for this weekend? Let’s just say, I left feeling slimmer, lighter, cleansed inside, buffed outside, muscles and nerves soothed. My mind is clear and relaxed, I’m yet again inspired to live a better life and be a better me. Thank you Gwinganna, you never disappoint.

Where is your favourite place to go on a retreat?

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