Dreamtime at Gwinganna

wandermelon explores a sacred place of deep relaxation, healing, restoration and rejuvenation on the east coast of Australia.

Gwinganna is perched on a beautiful plateau in Queensland’s lush hinterlands with stunning valley and ocean views, Gwinganna (meaning “lookout”) was the name given to the land by the Kombumberri clan of Aborigines. Originally owned by a wealthy publisher for the private enjoyment of his friends and family, the property was bought in 2004 by Tony de Leede, a veteran fitness industry entrepreneur with a passion for health and well-being. Tony fell in love with the property and saw its potential as a sanctuary. Together, he and General Manager, Sharon Kolkka set about developing an innovative new spa and health retreat that would gain international acclaim.

Gwinganna Tai Chi

Today, Gwinganna has achieved just that and is regarded as one of the world’s ultimate lifestyle retreats. Seemingly, as soon as you pass through the pearly gates and begin the journey up the steep hill, you can sense a shift in the energy and feel the power of this hallowed ground as it draws you in and upwards. Set on 500 acres of rainforest and indigenous bush land, Gwinganna offers something invaluable–time and space to breathe, relax, nourish and revive. Managed by a group of highly specialized health practitioners, there are some seriously bewitching women (and a few men) at Gwinganna. In another lifetime they might have been burned at the stake. Thankfully, times have changed and we are fortunate enough to be able to draw on their incredible knowledge, gifts, skills, healing powers, and wisdom for our own benefit, inspiration and enlightenment. Here, you will find solutions on how to live a healthier, happier, more balanced life.

The Program

Gwinganna offers comprehensive, all-inclusive 2-7 night programs covering a wide range of issues from detox to nutrition, sleep and health. Packages such as Women’s Discovery, Optimum Well-being, Gwinganna Detox, Organic Living, and Sleep Discovery are all popular, and keep many guests coming back every year for a well-deserved break or simply a chance to make a new start. Whether recovering from an illness, exhaustion or personal loss, people come to Gwinganna for a myriad reasons. The focus is on effectively managing stress, finding balance in your life, and ways to enhance aging with energy and vitality. Guests learn about organic living, enjoy fresh healthy cuisine, participate in invigorating daily activities, as well as relax via spa and wellness therapies. Resident and guest experts give you tools and techniques to take home, giving you the means to make long-term, lasting changes in your life.

Gwinganna Life Style Retreat

Nothing is compulsory, but guests are encouraged to participate and get involved. After an initial day of assessment, welcome and orientation, the program begins in earnest. Each morning guests are awoken at 5:30am and can choose from a diverse range of indoor and outdoor activities, including daily Tai Chi or Qi Gong at sunrise, followed by a healthy breakfast, a stretch class, then either Pilates, yoga, water activities, meditation, or a selection of 16 different bushwalks and hikes. By morning tea guests will have enjoyed an invigorating start to the day and are ready for “school.” Classes and lectures are held in the airy seminar venue from 11am–1pm. This is an essential part of the Gwinganna experience in which guests are taught the rudiments of optimal health and well-being through diet, nutrition, exercise, naturopathy, and stress management techniques. Prevention is the new paradigm in a well-managed healthcare plan, so a lot of time is spent educating guests on how to manage their own mind and bodies. On site healthcare practitioners will help you to understand your current cellular health and advise you how to achieve and maintain optimum health through live blood analysis, nutritional consultations and traditional Chinese medicine.

While mornings tend to be more structured, the afternoons are wide open and all about relaxation. “Dreamtime” is an important part of the Gwinganna day. In a world filled with deadlines, appointments, responsibilities and daily commitments, this is an opportunity for pure indulgence either spent at the spa, lazing by the pool, reading a book or simply napping in the sun on the veranda.

Gwinganna Orchard


There are four different room types at Gwinganna: the Heritage rooms are traditional Queenslander-style cottages, the Orchard suites are contemporary reclaimed timber loft-style dorm rooms with open verandas overlooking fruit orchards where wallabies and kangaroos come to graze at dusk, while the Villas are more spacious and remote, scenically positioned atop a ridge with sweeping valley views. The villas feature en suite living rooms and bathrooms, as well as their own private deck and plunge pool, plus use of a personal buggy. The recently completed Signature Villas, the most luxurious of the rooms, are located on a secluded and peaceful billabong close to the spa.

Gwinganna - The Villas

Activities & Facilities

Movement is a big part of Gwinganna’s curriculum since most of us spend far too much time in our heads. Whether you are into boxing or belly dancing, there is something for everyone─hiking, yoga, spinning, aqua training, tennis, running, swimming, walking or sessions in the state-of-the-art gym. A large outdoor studio, known as the Mind Body Pavilion, is a beautiful place to practice yoga and meditation on warmer days, as is the original 19th century church with its pretty stained glass windows on cooler days. There are two heated infinity pools, as well as a cricket pitch and amphitheater. Guests can also hike up to the yoga deck to stretch under tall, swaying gum trees with views all the way from Moreton Bay to Coolongatta.

Hiking at Gwinganna

Gwinganna also employs a botanist/social ecologist who lives on site and teaches guests more about the diverse property, including an ancient fig tree that has withstood the test of time. It is not unusual for guests to spot koalas chewing quietly in swaying gums. John Palmer is an entertaining and credible source of information and he leads various walks and hikes most days, along with specialty sessions that explore the gardens and surrounds. In 2000, he received the Order of Australia medal for services to the environment. But if you are lucky, he may pull out his guitar and sing you a ditty or two.

Spa Treatments

The award-winning Gwinganna Spa Sanctuary is the largest in Southern hemisphere with 33 custom-designed treatment rooms. Sensitively constructed to organically fit into the natural environment, it unfurls around three tall gum trees that stand tall and proud like guardian sentinels in a healing and nurturing circle─a symbol of perfection and purity. Below the canopy of leaves, the spa incorporates elements of fire, earth, air and water using wood, copper and stone. The crystal steam room includes a star-studded ceiling that reflects the Southern Cross formation of the Australian sky. Throughout the space yin and yang aspects of the masculine and feminine are interwoven into the design.

Spa SanctuaryTo enter, one must pass through a water curtain, symbolizing a baptism or rebirth into another world. In this world, one happily surrenders the body to a team of nurturing therapists who offer a range of massage treatments, specialty treatments, such as Sound and Stone, Rockupuncture, Heavenessence and Soul Search, as well as physical treatments like CHEK (corrective, holistic, exercise, kinesiology), Re-alignment, inspired by the Japanese Osteopathic modality Soh Tai Ho and wellness therapies, such as Holistic Iridology. There are also emotional and stress management therapies like Wild Wise Woman that help women to embrace their sacred feminine energy, and the Human Design System, which gives you a perspective on how you were genetically designed before birth. Transformational and Gestalt Therapy are also on the menu, as well as other Eastern therapies. Perhaps the most extraordinary, however, is the new Equine Experience, which enables guests to experience and understand their emotional energy through interaction with a horse─a powerful lesson in non-verbal communication with a highly sensitive and intelligent animal that yields surprising results.


Much of the fresh organic produce served is harvested from orchard and gardens on site. Indoor and outdoor communal dining encourages conversation and discussion between the guests as they share their daily experiences, stories and revelations. Balanced meals are carefully designed by the chef and in-house nutritionist to give the body energy and vitality. Shelly Pryor is Gwinganna’s in-house organic gardener and responsible for the bountiful harvest that guests enjoy at every meal. Shelley is a mine of information and teaches guests how to set up their own organic gardens, including no-dig gardens, worm farms, as well as useful techniques for balcony gardens, and of course… the importance of sprouts! Don’t go home without the new “Gwinganna…from Garden to Gourmet” cookbook, which includes recipes for much of what is served during your stay.

“For the rest of your life”, Gwinganna truly does offer the ultimate break from a world gone mad and a chance to re-set the balance on a number of different levels by going walkabout in the Australian bush.

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Gwinganna is located in the Tallebudgera Valley, less than 30 minutes from the Gold Coast airport and an hour from Brisbane. Packages start at a 2-night package in a double Heritage room for AU$980 per person. Rates for a 4-night specialty retreat start at AU$1660 for a double Heritage room per person and include:

• 2 nights accommodation 
• All organic meals and snacks + evening glass of wine
• $250 spa credit 
• Key lifestyle seminars 
• Access to all facilities and scheduled activities such as yoga & bushwalking 
• Courtesy transfers from Gold Coast Airport at set times

Inclusions may vary depending on package. Day visits and overnight stays are not available. Guests must be 16 years and over. This is a smoke-free environment. Organic wine is available in moderation on weekend retreats.

For bookings contact: info@gwinganna.com or phone +61 7 5589 5000  (1 800 219 272)

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lorraine Allen. Lorraine Allen said: Dreamtime at Gwinganna | Wandermelon http://bit.ly/B4eeI […]

  2. miranda on November 3, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Kate – Gwinganna sounds like glorious escapism. Is it realistic to ask if a visit to a place like this will inspire you to make any real changes back at home to a healthier lifestyle ? or isn’t that the purpose ??

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