Wellness retreats on Australian coast
Everyone loves a beach getaway, but sometimes bunking down in a timber shack on the sand simply doesn’t cut it.
Some need to be pampered and want that extra special attention.
Sometimes it's nice to have everything private: spa, sauna, swimming pool. Then facials and a massage would ensure you're relaxed when you sit down to your degustation.
Such is the luxurious life of beach retreats. They cuddle protected bays and rain forests.
These six Australian beach retreats offer guests a little more tender lovin' care -- like yoga and organic eats.
It’s where relaxation is unavoidable and snooze buttons not welcome.
Qualia was already the sort of place raved about by Conde Nast editors, but ever since Oprah Winfrey and her entourage filmed there, it’s become the hottest beach retreat in Australia.
Set on the secluded, northeast part of Hamilton Island, there are 60 individual pavilions, all boasting floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize that view -- the transparent water of the Whitsundays.
Splash out a bit extra for a north-facing Windward pavilion, which has a sundeck with private infinity pool.
There’s no shortage of things to do, like master classes focusing on sashimi and sake pairing, yacht charters to Whitehaven beach or scuba diving.
Throughout, the attention to detail, understated luxury and style is parochially Australian. Aussie designer Collette Dinnigan came up with a range of limited edition beach towels for the resort, while bathrooms are stocked with Aesop products.
Even spa treatments honor native Australian botanicals, which are used in "ceremonies" along with massages and facials. The "Bularri Yarrul" is probably the best-known treatment, a hot stone massage using 300-million-year-old stones.
Qualia, Hamilton Island, Queensland, from $950 a night, +61 (0)2 9433 3349; www.qualia.com.au
Rae’s on Watego’s, New South Wales
The healing power of Byron Bay has long lured lovers of yoga and organic living. It's little wonder Rae’s counts bohemian celebrities like Elle Macpherson and Kate Hudson among its guests.
The vibe at this stylish beach retreat is quintessentially Byron -- an exotic blend of Bali and Los Angeles.
There are only seven secluded villas, all within footsteps of the gentle waves of Watego’s Beach -- voted by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s best. The walks and views of the Cape Byron Headland Nature Reserve are also on the doorstep.
Splash out and stay in one of the penthouse suites so you can drink herbal tea and make your positive affirmations on the balcony with ocean views.
For all guests, a pool and courtyard has chic decor and is scattered with Buddha statues.
A luxury spa -- presided over by celebrity facialist Marionne De Candia -- offers massages and spa treatments, assuring that rest and relaxation.
Rae's, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Garden suites from $600, +61 (0)2 6685 5366, www.raes.com.au
Eco Beach, Western Australia
Facing Roebuck Bay, Eco Beach’s remote, peaceful location is around 90 minutes' drive along the west coast from Broome -- or a 15-minute helicopter ride.
Once guests arrive, the main theme is soaking up the raw wilderness of the Kimberley region. Kangaroos and wallabies hop around the grounds, while female flatback turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
The waters are abundant with a pick of fishing and snorkeling trips and a two-hour boat cruise that gets close to migrating humpback whales and dolphins.
Eco Beach has accommodation styles to suit different budgets. A raised boardwalk links the eco villas, while beach houses offer families a bit more room. The safari style "glamping" tents are set among sand dunes and fitted with timber decks and king sized beds, and appeal to couples.
Guests want for nothing in the food stakes with organic, seasonal cuisine and regular barbecues.
And it just wouldn’t be a retreat if you couldn’t find a quiet spot to murmur "ohhmmm". Work on your "downward dog" with an Indian Ocean view in the purpose-built yoga studio.
Eco Beach, 130 kilometers south of Broome, Western Australia; eco tents from $165 a night, +61 (0)8 9193 8015, www.ecobeach.com.au
Bannisters, New South Wales
Bannisters hugs the cliff tops above Mollymook Beach on the south coast of New South Wales and while it’s been welcoming beachcombers since the 1970s as a rather kitsch seaside hotel, it’s since had a refurb.
These days, it’s a boutique beach retreat adored by stressed-out Sydneysiders, particularly since celebrity chef Rick Stein opened a restaurant on site in 2009.
There are 32 rooms -- the best are rather swanky suites with double spa baths and jarrah decks overlooking the Pacific Ocean. All are tastefully decorated with plenty of rattan lounges for curling up with a wine and a book.
Mollymook Beach is one of the south coast’s best, with surf breaks and casual beachside eateries. But most Bannister guests may have to surgically remove themselves from the sun lounges surrounding the infinity pool, which faces the ocean.
Even the spa has an ocean view, though you probably won’t care when you’re being scrubbed, oiled and rubbed with hibiscus and frangipani oils.
Bannisters, Mollymook, New South Wales; peak season ocean deluxe suite from $395; + 61 (0)2 4455 3044, www.bannisters.com.au
Sanctuary Retreat, Queensland
If heading north to a tropical paradise for a yoga retreat is on your bucket list, Sanctuary Retreat is probably the place you’ve conjured up in your imagination. This eco lodge sits among 20 hectares of protected, ancient rainforest.
Brooks Beach -- the sort of beach where seeing other people is scarce -- is only a few minutes’ stroll through the canopy. The 25-kilometer Mission Beach is a walk away, along a palm-fringed shore.
At night, lie in bed listening to the forest come alive or join a guided "Dare the Dark" walk.
Aside from idle beachcombing and exploring, there’s precious little to do here except practice your yoga asanas or meditation in the purpose-built yoga room. Or perhaps have a dip in Sanctuary’s pool or swing in hammocks at the retreat’s timber decked restaurant, The Longhouse.
Accommodation is in either simple cabins but guests get closer to nature in affordable cubby house style huts, which sit high among the canopy.
If you’re lucky, you could come face to face with a cassowary. Between 50 and 60 cassowaries call Mission Beach home -- in fact, more than 95 percent of Sanctuary Retreat is protected as a cassowary habitat.
Sanctuary Retreat, Mission Beach, Queensland; rainforest huts from $70; +61 (0)7 4088 6064, www.sanctuaryatmission.com
Kim's Beach Hideaway, New South Wales
For worn-out Sydneysiders, Kim’s is like a deep-tissue massage for the soul. It’s only a little more than a hour’s drive north from the city’s peak hour traffic, but once there, it’s rancho relaxo.
Guests stay in 34 timber villas spread along the beachfront, among a tall forest of ancient Norfolk pines.
With vaulted natural timber ceilings, many have direct beach frontage and some even have their own pool, sauna and whirlpool bath for idle steaming and soaking.
All villas are kitted out with the complete answer to a harried nine-to-fiver's dreams: Pillow Top mattresses, magazines and books and Japanese-style yukata robes to throw on after a day at the beach.
The focus here is on relaxation, but being well fed at the same time never hurt anyone. Kim’s bolsters its thrice-daily gastronomic buffet with homemade smoked salmon, fresh seafood and cheeses.
Kim's, Toowoon Bay, New South Wales, Garden bungalows from $270, +61 (0)2 4332 1566, www.kims.com.au