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Travel tips and destination insights from the luxury accommodation specialists -

Gwinganna or Gaia?


Hands up if you've been dreaming of staying at a health & wellness retreat but not sure which one would suit you best? In our busy lives, everyone can benefit from some down time to relax and recharge, and a health & wellness retreat goes beyond what a standard holiday can deliver.

We've recently stayed at two of Australia's best health & wellness retreats and upon our return (refreshed & revived) have been inundated with questions from curious readers, keen to hear what they're like and which one is best. So here's the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How much does a stay at Gaia Retreat and Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat cost?
Both retreats are in a similar price range, price varies depending on which room type and level or luxury your budget allows. While they initially sound pricey, the rates are all inclusive and really represent great value. We stayed at each for retreat for two nights in their lead in room type for comparison purposes.

Gaia Retreat
Two Night Revive Package includes two night's accommodation, all gourmet meals and snacks, daily morning yoga, 1 hour massage (valued at $145 per person), Spa gift pack on arrival, daily retreat activities and full use of all facilities for $957.50 total or $478.75 per person per night (twin share in Layana Room). Note: Layana Room does not have a TV or bath, but other room types do.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Wellness Weekend includes two night's accommodation, all meals and snacks, all activities & full use of facilities, Classic Massage in Day Spa, Essential wellness seminar and educational walk with resident botanist for $1,095 total or $547.50 per person per night in Heritage room (twin rooms were unavailable at time of booking). Heritage rooms had been recently refurbished and were open plan with deep soaking bath and no TV's.


Above: Gaia Retreat IG @alluxia

What is the food like at Gaia and Gwinganna?
Recognised by both retreats as key component of your health and wellbeing, both provide delicious, organic fare and all meals are included in your package including breakfast, snacks/morning/afternoon tea, lunch and dinner. However, here is where things get a little different.

Gaia Retreat
The cuisine at Gaia Retreats is truly first class. The food was definitely a highlight of our stay. All meals are served in Kukura House at set times by attentive and friendly staff. The day begins with an incredible buffet breakfast and hot breakfast. Organic Byron Bay plunger coffee is available on request and is good and strong. Lunch is plentiful and often served casually on the verandah. Dinner unfolds with a three-course fine dining experience by attentive waiters. We could not stop raving about the ah-mazing food! Cookbooks are available to recreate the cuisine at home.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Resort
Meals are served in the Dining Room pavilion overlooking the pool and are far more functional. During our stay, dinner was an assortment of shared canapés and main meal on the first night. Breakfast included a buffet of one item followed by a hot breakfast. Morning tea may include bliss balls and your last chance to have coffee for the day. Lunch is also served in the main house at communal tables, however you're welcome to choose your seating arrangements. Portion size was tightly controlled and was good quality and well presented. Cookbooks are available from the gift store to recreate the cuisine at home.

Can you drink wine at Gaia or Gwinganna?
In short yes you can, but it's handled quite differently at both retreats. Ideally, you'd refrain from wine and focus on detoxing and health, however wine is fine in moderation and Gaia in particular realise this is still a holiday for some.

Gaia Retreat
During our two-day retreat, a wine list of organic wine is available on request and is an additional cost. Gaia is a "pamper choice" retreat and our group chose to relax and enjoy wine with our three-course dinner.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
During our two day Wellness Weekend we were permitted one glass of 100mls of organic wine with dinner each night. No water is consumed with meals as they believe it dilutes the digestion process, but wine is ok in moderation. No wine is permitted on all other programs.


Above: Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat IG @alluxia

How strict is Gaia and Gwinganna?
Here is where each retreat differs dramatically...

Gaia Retreat
Gaia is a "pamper choice" retreat and therefore you can do as little or as much as you like. Personally, I prefer to do as much as possible and experience everything the retreat has to offer. Each evening you're provided with gorgeous handwritten card which outline your bespoke activities for the following day. The day starts with an invigorating morning yoga class (which my friend opted out of both mornings in favour of a much needed sleep in). Then there is an activity in the morning and the afternoon such as fitness and boxing, to mediation and clay sculpture. During our stay, activities were light on and one activity was even cancelled, so we were left with plenty of free time to spend poolside or pampering in the Day Spa. You can read our full Gaia Retreat review here.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
On check in we were presented with name badges, yep the clear plastic daggy conference kind that we were expected to wear during our entire stay...ah no thanks. From the beginning with the nametags, the retreat felt very regimented and institutional, which some people will actually enjoy and thrive in that environment. The 'Essential Wellness Seminar' was somewhat interesting and informative. Each morning at 5.30am you're greeted by a volunteer knocking cheerily on your door, indicating to start the day and be ready for Qi Gong – a type of Tai Chi which is held daily on the lawn at sunrise. Gwinganna believe in yin and yang and so all your activities – and there are a lot of them, are done in the morning, making way for relaxation in the afternoon.

What level of service can I expect at Gaia & Gwinganna?
Both retreats bill themselves as being bespoke and tailored to your needs, however the booking process was clunky and old fashioned for both. Both would benefit from online booking & any additional discussions such as special needs and extras could be arranged after the initial booking.

Gaia Retreat
Bookings made via a series of emails and phone calls and completing a pre-arrival form. Despite completing the form, the details didn't appear to be passed on to other departments such as the Day Spa as we had to repeat our preferences continually during our stay. One of our travelling party wasn't contacted to make Day Spa bookings. Service wise, you're greeted by zen like beauties who look the picture of health and wellbeing. Co-owner Gregg Cave is often about to provide a warm welcome and air-kisses to ensure you have a fabulous stay. You may even spot co-owner Olivia Newton-John if you're lucky!

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Bookings made via a series of emails and phone calls. I sent an email clearly stating our booking details with a call back request to obtain our credit card details. Warning, Gwinganna wont' hold a booking without payment and by the time they contacted us back for our credit card details our preferred room type was gone. Gwinganna is a much larger retreat and with about 60 guests during our stay, which allows for a less intimate service experience. I was surprised there were a large proportion of volunteers assisting the handful of full time employees. Given the high price tag, the use of volunteers seemed odd? Our host for the weekend, Kay was committed, ever cheery and enthusiastic. It was helpful to have a host to take you through the full agenda of the weekend.


Above: New Komala Villas at Gaia Retreat

How does the accommodation compare between Gaia & Gwinganna?
Both retreats provide luxurious accommodation in a hinterland setting. Gaia Retreat is located in the Byron Bay hinterland and has a Balinese style. Gwinganna feels more contemporary/Australian bush setting located in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Gaia Retreat
Our Layana Room was beautifully decorated for the discerning traveller and included bathrobes, slippers and all modern luxuries. Our stylish bathroom with shower only had candles and oil burners, however the higher room categories offer baths and private plunge pools. No TV in the Layana Room, however you can borrow a device to watch movies. Higher room types do have TVs, recognising some people enjoy winding down and relaxing with a TV or movie. Higher room categories are more luxurious, such as the newest addition – Komala Villas. These one-bedroom split-level villas offer indoor/outdoor living areas, private deck, daybed cabana, saltwater heated infinity plunge pool, private treatment area and luxurious bath.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Our refurbished Heritage room was fresh and new and close to the main dining room, with common verandah in front. The open plan room was light and breezy and featured a deep soaking bath. The room could have benefited from and had the space for a chair and when I suggested this, was informed that was available in the higher room types (I didn't realise a chair was a luxury?). The new Boorabee Villas are tucked away in the mountain-scape with contemporary style, open plan with large deck and private plunge pool.

Can I check in any day at Gaia and Gwinganna?
Here's where the two retreats differ...

Gaia Retreat
Yes, Gaia Retreat is one of the few retreats where you can check in any day of the week that suits you (subject to availability).

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
No, you need to choose from the set retreat date schedule to plan your stay.

Overally, both were fantastic experiences and choosing the right health & wellness retreat will depend on your needs and motivation for going. Personally, we're all about luxury holiday with a hint of health and wellbeing, so Gaia Retreat wins out for us!

Have any questions about Gaia Retreat or Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat? Leave a comment below and we'd be happy to answer your question, we'd love to hear from you. To book, email us at To book, email us at or email us to register your interest for our Gaia Retreat Wellness Weekend in February 2017.

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