Need a break? Here are 5 fab Aussie wellness retreats that are sure to sort you out.

Given the rate of everyday stresses that the fast-paced modern world presents, it's no surprise stacks of women are seeking relaxed havens in which to unwind – myself included.

I’d never been to a retreat-style property until recently (unless you count camping out bush as a kid) and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect when I decided to explore the wellness holiday trend. I knew I didn’t want strict routines and/or to be coerced into a bunch of activities that didn’t suit me. Nor was I prepared to hand over my phone (good gosh no) and forgo my daily tipple. I wanted to relax – not go on a digital detox!

Oddly enough, the further I embarked on my quest to find unique wellness retreats, the more wound up I got. Who would watch the kids while I was away? How would I find time to manage workflow? How could I justify the cost? Would my airline points still be valid, did I even bloody have any after years spent stationary at home? What if there wasn’t mobile reception where I went and the world as I knew it imploded? 

These (both relevant and far-fetched) questions hung over my head I began dreading arranging anything.

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And then it struck me, in a somewhat embarrassing manner, that this wasn’t just a story to research. 

Oh, no – it went much deeper than that. 

It seemed a wellness retreat was precisely and obviously what I needed to experience – and soon. 

Here are what I found to be the best spots in Australia to turn up, tune in and chill out.

Crystalbrook Byron, Byron Bay, NSW

Byron Bay is regarded as one of Australia's premier wellness destinations for good reason. The entire region promotes the benefits of positive living, from nutritious meals to healing treatments and more. 

I checked into the Crystalbrook Byron and immediately exhaled when I stepped into my rainforest suite, which was was exactly that – a beautiful room in a natural forest setting complete with birdsong echoing through a canopy of dense native trees. 

Yep, this place sounded like a relaxation app in real life.

I planned to unpack and step out for poolside canapes but when I laid down to test the bed, it turns out I slept until sunset, inadvertently indulging in 'forest bathing'. I woke from my slumber, not recharged but certainly relaxed. Dinner under the stars was a delight – a farm-to-plate style dish followed by cheese and a little wine. 


The next morning, I slept in and missed the yoga session but was right on time for my spa appointment at Eleme. Their high-tech infrared sauna balanced my chakras with a colour-coding mechanism and then my Japanese spa therapist's expert hands transported me to a magical place of surrender and rest.

100 per cent would recommend. 

Tip: Crystalbrook Byron Bay is ideal for solo travel and for a group of friends. I noted a few cool crews of women in luxury-retreat mode (complete with cocktails) by the pool. Book in for a transformative mini two-night sustainable wellness retreat and tailor the inclusions to match your needs.


Elysian Luxury Eco Island Retreat, Whitsundays, QLD

I almost didn't make it to this one (and by the time I did, I really needed it). First, there were major weather travel delays from my home in regional NSW. Then a conflict in the kid’s sporting schedules; next a colleague took sick. Finally, the dog needed an emergency trip to the vet.

Fortunately, the team at Elysian Luxury Eco Island Retreat understood my predicaments and serenely set about accommodating me on a suitable date. And it was worth the wait! Elysian has a dreamy, secluded location on Long Island in the Whitsundays, where the rainforest quite literally meets the reef. There are only 16 rooms here, all absolute beachfront, a legit toes-in-the-sand-and-fringing-coral-reefs-on-the-horizon scene.

I admit, I was semi-fretting when I arrived to discover the limited reception, but in hindsight, this turned out to be a blessing.


Elysian is an all-inclusive retreat, which means you can expect three gourmet meals expertly prepared by their executive chef. Ingredients are sourced from the island’s surroundings, and by the time I took my first bite of lunch (a fillet of fresh pan-seared Red Emperor – a local reef fish – and a zesty salad, chased by a refreshing glass of bubbles), I’d accepted my lack of digital connection and embraced a getting-back-to-nature ethos. 

Okay, I exaggerate – I actually curled up in a hammock by the pool with a book and watched the other guests trek off on a rainforest adventure. More rest was definitely what I needed.

Ultimately, a stay at Elysian is a do-as-little-or-as-much-as-you-like vibe and though I mostly took it easy, on some days I was inclined to go for a 'yoga, kayak, spa treatment, feast and repeat' itinerary. 


Side note: I took a shine to the effervescent energy of Mr. Rick J Peterson during my stay, who I thought was just the property maintenance bloke but is in actual fact a guru bush survival guide, raised on a wildly remote lighthouse outpost in Bruny Island, Tasmania, and now here at Elysian sharing his valuable knowledge with retreat guests.

Lake House, Daylesford, VIC

Arriving at the iconic Lake House estate was akin to stepping into a real-life fairy tale. I was immediately enchanted by the architecture, whimsical garden setting and old-school grandeur, which invite rather than impose upon guests. 

My room was filled with eclectic art, first-edition classic reads, intricately patterned furnishings and a melting pot of sophisticated influence that I couldn't quite pin. How did such an opulent suite appear so casually chic?

Curled up by the fireplace with my handsome gent in tow (wellness isn’t just for women y’know), this really was living. 

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Retreat-themed escapes make an ideal segue for nutritious eating, and the six-course feast didn't disappoint. Alla Wolf-Tasker AM is the Culinary Director and proprietor of Australia's much-loved Lake House and there’s simply no way that the food here could be anything but amazing. The nearby gardens, plus some 40 acres of productive farmland, are regularly harvested for the kitchen team to alchemise into a memorable gastronomic journey. And yes, it’s all very healthy (and the fine wines flow plentifully).


I was finally getting the hang of how to operate on a wellness journey (when I was awake, that is), even if I’d developed a penchant for nutritious yet hedonistic displays of gluttony.

Important: The Spa at Lake House is heavenly, and I do not use that word lightly. It's just the best way to describe the harmonious energies here. The Sweet Dream Ritual (designed for ultimate relaxation and successful in its goal) seemed destined to help ease my busy brain and improve my quality of sleep, and the mineral soak (you are deep in Victorian hot-spring country here) and massage experience was also a winner.

If ever you have the opportunity to visit Lake House, seize it. Immediately. Je non-regrets, yes.

Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney, NSW

If you're always so damn busy that the idea of taking time out for a multi-day retreat isn’t always feasible, a luxury city hotel break is the solution – and the Four Seasons in Sydney does not disappoint when you want to focus on some well-deserved self-indulgence. 

It’s clear at this point that I prioritise a deep sleep, so the cloud-like bed and blockout blinds at Four Seasons were clearly a win in my books. 'Nourishing food' tops my needs list too, making kicking off the morning at Moda restaurant a must. Equally lush? Closing down the evening with a premium whiskey or a low-alcohol cocktail at Grain bar.


The on-site Endota Spa dishes out lush treatments, and the Royal Botanic Garden isn't far away, making a peaceful itinerary addition. A Sydney city break is also a good gateway to gaining the confidence for solo travel, placed in prime position for exploration – think: the Sydney Opera House, a lunch date for one at Luke Nguyen’s Botanic House, or some retail therapy to flick your stress-release switch.

Cabarita Beach Farm, Northern NSW

Farm stays, one-day wellness retreats, sound healing sessions, Yin yoga practice and guided meditation – it’s all here at Cabarita Beach Farm. 


I discovered something really special in northern New South Wales that I just had to share. First, because it’s an affordable option and secondly, because Jess and Jodie have created a relaxing nature-based sanctuary where it’s safe to be completely yourself, free from worry, and able to select which of their offerings you want to take part in. Meaning, if you’re not inclined to participate in a particular session, you can go float in their mineral pool instead, stretch out on a rug under a shady tree canopy, hang by the delish grazing platters (personally, I think cheese as therapy should start trending) or introduce yourself to the farm animals (I made friends with a Palomino horse but he hasn’t called me for a lunch date yet).

Image: Supplied.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before I got here, but I left with a newfound appreciation of how beneficial a tailored wellness women’s gathering is. 

Admittedly, I initially thought it would be too much 'woo-woo' for my liking. But it was the opposite – yeah, the spiritual element was there, but it wasn’t enforced. And as it turns out, I didn’t even realise I was capable of quieting my mind via sound healing, yoga, meditation or any of that jazz until mid-afternoon, when I roused from a silk cocoon hanging from the ceiling of the healing room, opened my eyes and immediately acknowledged that my entire being had been reduced to the consistency of smooth putty (physically and mentally).


Image: Supplied.

Subsequently, I was in no hurry to leave, and neither were the other ladies. But, alas it was a one-day retreat and reality was beckoning. As I pulled out of the driveway to follow the bush road back to the beach, I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed the others eagerly lining up to book into Jess and Jodie’s next offering.

Feature image: Instagram/@cabarita_beach_farm, @elysianretreat, @lakehousedaylesford




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