Gaia Retreat and Spa, Byron Bay

I love Olivia Newton-John. It’s as simple as that. I even named my first bicycle after her. So when Mr Romance and I had the opportunity to stay at her wellness retreat – Gaia – in the Byron Bay hinterland, I couldn’t be more excited.

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Arriving at Gaia Retreat and Spa feels like time stands still. This small resort sits on the highest hill in the area with 270 degree views across the hills all the way down to the ocean.

We drive up the long driveway just as the sun is setting and I manage to grab my camera to record the final moment of it setting across the hills. Every shade of gold is magic and we can’t believe how beautiful this spot is.

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Our Gaia experience begins

Heading under a carved archway through the rain forest-like trees, we discover the main pavilion of Gaia Resort. We open the huge carved doors and step inside, and it just feels different.

There are high vaulted ceilings and low furniture, and it feels incredibly calm in this space. We’re offered water and herbal tea before even discussing our check-in, and we instantly start to feel calm. Perhaps it’s because it smells so amazing inside this pavilion, or perhaps it’s because all the staff speak in slightly hush tones, which makes you lean in to hear them better.

We’ve also arrived just in time for the free meditation class as well. Jim isn’t that keen so I leave him to check in to our room while I quickly change and walk up to find the meditation space.

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It’s pretty much the perfect start to a health retreat: within an hour of arriving, I felt completely calm. It’s like all the busy-ness of life is left behind and time stands still at Gaia Resort.

The Grounds and the setting

Gaia is set on 24 acres in some of the most beautiful land in the hinterland of Byron Bay. The pavilion is at the heart of the resort, where we meet for events and workshops, and where all the main meals are served.

The rooms are dotted between trees with a sort of rainforest feel, and the spa is settled in a glen at the bottom of where the buildings are.

The rest of the property is full of well-tended gardens, forest and orchards. And going all the way round it all is a small walking track that takes you right up to the highest point. As you walk along it you find lots of day beds and seats to stop and relax along the way.

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As it’s only a small resort with about 30 rooms it never feels crowded and there’s always space to get away and be on your own. We didn’t meet a soul as we explored the track, and only really saw other guests in the main hall.

The rooms

Gaia offers several room types and we were lucky to stay in one of the newer Komala villas. These new three villas are set up on a high vantage point, each with its own private plunge pool. With a beautiful split level interior and a free standing bath, this is the ultimate retreat at this resort.

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The restaurant

Gaia is an all-inclusive resort with all meals being served the main pavilion. Normally we don’t really go for all-inclusive resorts but the food here at Gaia is amazing. It’s a set menu, but for dinner every evening is a three-course meal that changes from night to night. For breakfast and lunch, there’s a small buffet offering and you get a hot meal served as well.

A great care has been taken with designing the menu to make each dish nutritious, ethically and locally sourced, and – most importantly – absolutely delicious. And unlike other health retreats you can order a wine or two if you like, which we really appreciated.

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Many guests come to the resort on their own, and there’s a choice to sit at solo tables or to join a larger communal table if you’re feeling more like the company of other guests.

The staff at Gaia are amazing and get to know you by name from the start. They really make it a really special experience here every time.

The spa

Tucked away in a small valley in the middle of the resort, the spa is a very unassuming spot. But heading through the gate, you discover a beautiful pool, jacuzzi, sauna and an incredible spa experience inside.

I had one of the best massages I’ve ever had. Then to head straight out of the spa and sit in the hot tub was just ridiculously amazing.

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Many of the packages at Gaia include a free 90-minute massage. There are also tailored programs depending on what your needs are at the resort.

As well as the spa there’s also a naturopath, a Chinese medicine practitioner and a dietician here to help you plan the best for your health.

Who is Gaia for?

Gaia is the perfect retreat from all the busy-ness of your everyday life. We noticed a few other couples staying here but many guests were women on their own or with a friend.

There is this strong feminine energy at Gaia, but it’s not overtly girly. Rather it’s an earthy, calm space that allows you to reconnect with nature and with yourself.

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I feel like Jim and I had different reactions to Gaia. I pretty much fell in love with it straight away, and I think it could have been because I hit meditation the minute we arrived. It set me completely into the right pace for making the most of two days at Gaia.

The villa we stayed in was perfectly romantic and a beautiful space for couples to enjoy. However, I really think that there’s something that you get out of Gaia by coming on your own or perhaps with a close girlfriend. Two days wasn’t long enough for me and I’m already planning a way to go back for a five-day retreat.

The programme

Gaia offers a relaxed program of events for guests to do every day, all of which are free. Each day starts with yoga, then a mid-morning activity and a course or event in the afternoon. I highly recommend setting your alarm to make the daily yoga. I love that they have a fitness class called “Let’s get physical” – a nod to one of Olivia Newton-John’s greatest hits.

Beyond this program, most guests have their own itinerary created for the duration of their stay. You can focus on wellness, diet, health concerns or complete yoga practice workshops while you’re here.

As and when you book something up, you’re given your own personalised card with what your schedule is when you’re dining. It’s touches like this that make Gaia special.

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The yoga studio

The yoga studio has a beautiful outlook all the way across the hills to the ocean; a perfect place for sun salutations in the morning. We were lucky to have a private yoga session with Gaia’s Yoga Master Danielle Davies, who’s been one of the resident yoga teachers at Gaia, almost since it started.

Danielle proudly told us she was 59, but had only started yoga in her 40s. Her flexibility would put most 20 year olds to shame, but her gentle manner made us feel very comfortable in her yoga class. And since then has inspired an almost daily practice for me.

When she’s not teaching yoga at Gaia, you’ll find her helping animals around the world. She’s just set off for a month in Borneo to help with the orangutan sanctuaries.

Now, Gaia at first glance does seem expensive compared to some other health retreats. However, the quality of the food, the service and the location is really outstanding. There’s a special energy in this place, perhaps slightly feminine, but a way to completely recharge and reset yourself for your everyday life. I’d love to go back for a five-day yoga retreat.

Gaia Retreat and Spa

933 Fernleigh Rd
Brooklet
NSW 2479

W: gaiaretreat.com.au
Fb: @gaiaretreatandspa
Ig: @gaiaretreat

We were here for only a two-day stay, so I feel like you really need to maximise your time here to get in to that zone as quickly as possible. Most guests stay at this health resort for five nights on a variety of different packages.

It’s an all-inclusive space that caters to many different health needs but mostly it’s just an escape from life, and a chance to reconnect with nature and to recharge.

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Have you been to a health retreat? What do you look for when you’re going somewhere to recharge? Tell us in the comments!

Images by Mrs Romance using an OM-D E-M5 mark II Olympus camera. We stayed at Gaia as guests of Destination NSW.

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