There is a sense of calm you’ll tune into at Gaia even before you sign up for one of its yoga classes. The 10-hectare property – with winding walkways, trickling fountains, well-tended gardens and manicured lawns – is located on the highest point in the Ballina shire, with sweeping views of the Byron Bay hinterland. Co-founded by British-Australian singer Olivia Newton-John in 2005, it is regarded as one of Australia’s best wellness retreats. But you can tailor your itinerary to make your stay here as indulgent or challenging as you like. Sign up for high-intensity personal-training sessions if you want to get back in shape in a jiffy or spend the whole week exploring the spa’s encyclopedic menu of massages.
The retreat is about 25 minutes’ drive north of Ballina Airport and about an hour south of the Gold Coast airport, but you’ll never have to worry about the logistics as complimentary return airport transfers – at set times – are part of the package. Having access to a hire car is a good idea if you want to explore the Byron Bay region and the iconic coastal town just 30 minutes’ away.
Accommodations at Gaia range from the entry-level Laguna Rooms (with private decks) to the Komala Luxe Villa with a private heated swimming pool, large outdoor deck, spacious living area with fireplace and two large bedrooms with their own ensuites. Our pick, however, is one of the Komala Villas (pictured above), with a well-appointed bedroom that opens onto a big living room, which further opens onto your private deck with an infinity-edge saltwater plunge pool. You could literally spend the whole day here – villa guests can have their meals delivered to their rooms – but it would be remiss to not visit the beautifully designed dining room at Kukura House (see below).
Food and drink
All meals are part of the package, including non-alcoholic beverages, and served in the atmospheric Kukura House, where – in addition to the dining room (pictured above) – you’ll also find the retreat’s reception area and a boutique gift shop. Nab a table inside (under soaring pitched ceilings and swathes of curtains) or settle down on the deck outside, with local birds providing the soundtrack. Balance is the key word when it comes to food. Chef Dan Trewartha sources organic produce from Gaia’s own gardens and local farms, orchards and plantations but doesn’t skimp on flavours, whipping up meals that are downright delicious. Enjoy a frittata of pea, kale and asparagus with goat’s cheese for breakfast; pumpkin and chickpea tagine with couscous and harissa for lunch; and cured kingfish with apple, cucumber and verjuice for dinner. There’s a wine list, too – with a firm focus on organic drops – if you wish to indulge post-workout.
For wellness travellers
Gaia is primarily set up for people looking for inner zen, with itineraries ranging from two-night Revive Package to seven-night Restore Package. All packages include wellness consultations, spa vouchers, full use of facilities (such as pool, gym and tennis court) and access to group classes – from yoga and meditation to pilates and high-intensity workouts. There are a few specialised packages, too – from Timeless Beauty Retreat to Pregnancy Package Retreat (both three nights long).
For business travellers
For a wellness retreat, Gaia is surprisingly corporate-friendly, with the resort well set up to host off-sites of up to 44 guests, while the dining room is capable of hosting seated events of up to 100 people.
The fab factor
The serene property is dotted with striking sculptures. Pick up a map from the reception and make sure you check out all of them, including our favourite – a statue of Buddha set within a spiral maze of pathways.
Best for: Singles and couples seeking a transformation
Number of rooms: 22 rooms and suites
Rates from: The two-night Revive Package for a couple costs $2695 in Layana Room
Wi-fi: Fast and free
Parking: Complimentary and plentiful
Address: 933 Fernleigh Road, Brooklet, NSW, Australia
Telephone: +61 2 6687 1216
SEE ALSO: The Best Things to Do in Byron Bay