I was lucky enough to spend four blissful days at Gaia Retreat and Spa in the Byron Bay hinterland in Northern NSW last week. What a treat! I really felt spoilt and pampered, and had a good dose of much-needed TLC. Plus it's a great place to reflect on life, change bad habits or start new ones.
I was lucky enough to meet an old, great friend there whom I don't get to see very often, but many people were there on their own for some down-time or a detox, and there were a few couples too.
From the minute you walk through the door, the place feels calm and serene, yet super-friendly and welcoming. The staff are lovely, the food amazing (and healthy!), and the decor and natural surroundings are beautiful.
You can do as much or as little as you like, either relaxing in one of the many indoor or outdoor daybeds and sofas around the property, or choosing something more adventurous. There's yoga every morning at 7.30am ( a respectable hour!), a swimming pool, tennis court, bush walking, cycling, and exercise classes if you feel inclined. Every day the timetable changes, with classes ranging from cooking to meditation to Tai Chi.
There's also the wonderful day spa, with treatments such as massage, body scrub, pedicure, but also some more unusual ones like esoteric healing.
The overall decor and ambience is very much relaxed Balinese, but furnishings are kept updated, and feel fresh and new.
The grounds are stunning, with lots of resident lizards, birds and frogs, and the views around the 25-acre property are really to-die-for.
The rooms are well-furnished and equipped, with comfortable beds and a great selection of teas. We had the Layana suite (entry point) but there are more deluxe and expensive options, even one room with it's own plunge pool. We didn't feel the need since we were only in our room to sleep anyway.
Now, the food.....some of it comes from their own vegetable and herb garden, resplendent with papayas and mangoes, but a lot comes from the local area, mostly organic of course. The food is prepared with such love and care - all those nutrients and vitamins look and taste absolutely wonderful! Breakfast consisted of platters of smoked salmon, avocado, tomatoes, fruit, plus a gluten-free porridge made with millet, amaranth, quinoa and brown rice, each day with a different flavour added such as coconut and fig. There was also a cooked option, such as frittata or poached eggs.
There is a lovely little tea station for all-day tea-drinking, and freshly made gluten free muffins.
Lunch was usually a salad - one example was roast pumpkin, beetroot, avocado, green beans, pecans, dill, sheep's feta, rocket and cranberries - what a combination!
Dinner was always three courses, with the starter being something like scallops or soup, the main fish or chicken with beautifully prepared vegetables, and dessert being a gluten-free cake with yoghurt or chocolate mousse. Speaking of which, they have the most amazing recipe for chocolate mousse with avocado, see this recipe here http://www.kareninge.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127:mousse&catid=9:snacks-a-deserts&Itemid=30
Most of the food is gluten, diary and red meat free, and they cater to any special dietary requirements.
I highly recommend Gaia to anyone and everyone - whether it be for R&R, a detox, de-stress, get fit, or just to treat yourself and feel spoilt. Even if you're not a lie-around-reading-your-book type of person, you'll never feel bored, I guarantee!
Yellow Front Door