It started with a dream. After reviewing real estate on the sparkling NSW North Coast, Gregg Cave and Olivia Newton-John shared over the first tea of the day. “I had a dream and we called it Gaia Retreat”, ONJ told her old friend. Gregg said, “I had a dream and we called it Bellavista Retreat”. Fortuitously, they very quickly settled on Gaia.
Founded in 2005 by Gregg, Olivia and business partners Ruth Kalnin and Warwick Evans, Gaia Retreat and Spa is unique in its approach to wellness and wellbeing. Set high on a hill, Gaia sits at the centre of a small but spectacular universe, a universe of big blue skies and green until it meets the sea.
Gaia was designed as a retreat. For each person that retreat is different – a retreat from stress and pressures of the everyday via a little detox or e-tox or employing a wide range of natural therapies to get well again.
There are no set programs, no dos or don’ts, just a serene environment with caring staff to help you get the most out of your stay at Gaia. This place was designed by the heart, for the soul. This is not a boot camp, you can choose to do as little or as much to fully enjoy the retreat.
All dietary requirements are catered for including, coeliac, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free and fructose intolerance. Breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings are not only healthy, they are somehow simple and intricate with fish and chicken included for those who like a little added protein. If you want to relax with a glass of wine at dinner, you can do that too. All meals offer lots of options, that inspire most to make a commitment to eating better at home. The Gaia cookbook, Gratitude is popular as a guide to making healthy eating delicious.
Dinners might include an antipasto plate starter with asparagus, lightly pickled fennel and artichoke, Persian feta, olives and delicious crunch from buckwheat crackers.
Or a juicy watermelon and luscious spanner crab entree dotted with sesame seeds. Mains of warm poached chicken salad or Thai Red Emperor fish cakes with green mango salad, a timbale of jasmine rice and the most delicious chili jam ever. (The secret ingredient – Davidson plum). Desserts are off the charts for a spa menu that is shy on added sugar. The Pandanus jelly with black sticky rice is mind-blowing while a pear and raspberry crumble with ‘caramel ice cream’ and lemon macadamia, will make you wonder how they create something so delicious, that is good for you. (More about the amazing food, kitchen garden and locavore ethos in our video interview with chef, Dan Trewartha here).
As Gregg says, it is the spa that is at the heart of Gaia. Some of Australia’s most nurturing therapists and healers are on-hand to soothe and nourish both your body and mind. They are here to pamper or heal or both. There are 17 different massage treatments from Relaxation and Ayurvedic to the more specialized such as Lymphatic Drainage (highly recommended) and a wealth of beauty treatments. But, Gaia provides much more with alternative therapies including naturopathic, Reiki and expert guidance with meditation and hypnotherapists. Gaia also offers psychology and counselling. One on One sessions are also available including Yoga, Pilates, personal fitness and Tai Chi.There are treatments available in both the spa and secluded therapy pavilions set amongst the lush cool and delicious scents of Bangalow palms, gardenias and hibiscus.
Luxury accommodations include suites, rooms and the new Komala villas. TML enjoyed one of the two Acala Suites that is more like a large one bedroom apartment with deck and spa. The contemporary décor incorporates Eastern touches with the occasional Buddha, tactile soft furnishings and fresh flowers. The bathroom features a deep step down tub perfect for a long and lazy soak with a little intimate candlelight.
Optional daily activities include releasing your own inner Brancusi or Rodin in a group sculpture class (a lot of fun) or peaceful scenic walks with Gaia’s arborist to learn about both the region and the 25 hectares of lovingly landscaped environs. You can join an organic cooking class or just chill on a hammock overlooking the hills of Bangalow. Yoga before breakfast is offered every morning or swim a few leisurely laps in the heated saltwater pool.
After two years of research and development, Gaia’s certified organic skincare range Retreatment was recently launched, using both native ingredients and local extracts in nourishing doses. The lightly fragrant shampoo and conditioner available in the suites and rooms will make your hair softer than any other product you have ever used.
Interestingly, Gaia was recently honoured by the Oscars of the travel industry not only with Australia’s Leading Spa Resort but the hotly contested Australia’s Leading Boutique Hotel award for the second year in a row.
There is no typical Gaia guest. For some it is simply a luxurious getaway for others a chance to recharge and ‘right the ship’. Gaia is essentially all about the 3 R’s – relaxation, rejuvenation and restoration. After a couple of days of absolute indulgence, TML would wholeheartedly add recharge, revitalization, and renewal.