Whether it’s a detox coming out of the festive period or a weekend getaway with the girls minus the extra holiday kilos, there’s no denying that health and fitness retreats are in high demand. But are they really worth your hard-earned coin?
We sent WH&F editor Katelyn Swallow to world-renowned Golden Door Elysia Health Retreat & Spa in the Hunter Valley, NSW, to find out what all the fuss is about.
I’ve been to a fair few health retreats in my time, but nothing could have prepared me for the rolling hills and glimpses of grapevines my friend Tiffany and I experienced as we drove up to the iconic gates of the Golden Door Health Retreat. Perched on a hill overlooking the valley’s wineries and Brokenback mountain range – about two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Sydney and just 45 minutes from Newcastle – we were welcomed by Golden Door staff in their luxe marbled foyer. Almost instantly, I felt the stresses of the week’s work begin to melt away thanks to the steady trickle of their indoor water feature.
As a self-confessed gym junkie, I was a bit wary of bringing a friend with differing interests along for the ride. But on closer inspection of Golden Door’s program, I realised there was something for everyone – no ‘go hard or go home’ bootcamps here. Whether you’re wanting a week-long wellness reset with the girls or just a romantic two-night getaway with your significant other, Golden Door’s all inclusive packages have you covered.
Designed as an oasis for the mind, body and spirit, you can opt in or out of any activity on the retreat timetable, accommodating meditative yogi to squat enthusiast – and everyone in between:
For the lover of creature comforts
Both Tiffany and I are unapologetically fans of a good night’s rest and Golden Door’s voguish accommodation did not disappoint. A leisurely two-minute stroll from the front desk found us outside one of their 74 on-site villas (there are one, two or three bedroom options available), which we would call home for the next two nights. Stunning views from the balcony, huge ensuite bathrooms, a spacious king bed and even a self-contained kitchen, it was the perfect place to curl up with a book and recoup after a ‘busy’ day exercising, eating and relaxing.
For the foodie
If there isn’t food, don’t invite me – particularly if I need to step a toe into the kitchen. And it seems Golden Door knew I was coming. All main meals plus two snacks are delivered daily by the in-house chef, including a buffet-style breakfast, so all you have to do is eat.
Meals are mostly plant based and dairy free, aside from small portions of chicken and fish, and coffee was banned to give your hard-working adrenals a rest. But who knew healthy cooking could taste that good? And that’s coming from a self-confessed carnivore!
“Our Golden Door menu is not completely vegetarian and we do provide options for a caffeine non-detox [if requested] to guests wanting a soft landing into health and wellness cuisine. However, limiting animal proteins to poultry and seafood keeps the menu nice and lean,” says executive chef James Knight.
“Our menu has been crafted to nourish guests as well as inspire them, so we limit things that tend to be consumed in excess and show them how it’s possible to use this variety of produce at home. With plenty of colourful fruits, salads and vegetables (many straight from our organic kitchen garden), our guests experience a cleaner way of eating that is still incredibly satisfying.”
By the end of the first day, once the detox headaches subsided, my digestion had improved, the bloat was gone and I slept through the night for the first time in a long time. And if, like me, you hate beetroot on your salad – no fret. Kitchen hand Lita (who knew all 30 guests’ names by the end of day one, just FYI) will accommodate all your dietary preferences.