The first time I went to a wellness retreat, I was sixteen. My mum had just landed a job at one and the stay was part of her induction. She took me along. Since it was the 90s and everyone was still obsessed with fat, you didn’t go ‘on retreat’, you went to ‘fat camp’. They weighed, measured, and categorised you based on your fitness level. You literally wore a lanyard that dictated the intensity of the activities you could do.
It wasn’t until years later, when I ended up working in a retreat myself, that I truly understood how powerfully restorative they can be. Week after week, exhausted guests would come in and leave feeling brighter, calmer and more resilient. There’s truly nothing quite like it – it’s the ultimate circuit breaker. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need to cut out the noise of everyday living and refocus on what truly matters – our own health and wellbeing.
When it comes to wellness retreats here in Australia, we’re spoilt for choice. Why not kick off your 2024 with these top Wellness Retreats, all within a few hours from the heart of Sydney.
"Billabong Retreat is nestled amidst gorgeous bushland teeming with native wildlife."
About 45 minutes northwest of Sydney, this leafy retreat is nestled amidst gorgeous bushland teeming with native wildlife. Aptly named for the billabong that sits in the middle of the property, here you can choose from a range of 2-3 night midweek or weekend retreat programs from their scheduled calendar. If you want to stay longer, simply combine two or more programs together. Your package includes your accommodation, all buffet-style vegetarian meals and snacks, daily yoga, meditation (the space is stunning!) as well as themed workshops covering everything from mindfulness to self-care and stress. You can also add spa treatments, infrared sauna sessions or private yoga classes should you wish to. If you’re short on time or looking for a taste of wellness, Billabong Retreat also offers lovely one day retreats.
With its hilly backdrop and sprawling views of the valley beyond, Elysia is a beacon of health within the Hunter Valley which is more traditionally known for its wine cultivation. Here you can opt for the ‘all-inclusive package’ or customise a stay based on your own personal goals. Either way, all meals are included, and you have access to all the retreat facilities and daily group classes (which run regularly through the day). You can expect to enjoy nutritious whole foods fresh cooked by their expert chefs, though you’ll have to say goodbye to caffeine, alcohol, red meat, sugar, and saturated fats for the duration of your stay. If you want to take advantage of the wellness seminars and have included spa treatments, go for the all-inclusive package.
Vipassana meditation retreats are available Australia wide, though none in quite a spectacular location as Dhamma Bhūmi. Set on 40 acres of sloping bushland, this property is ensconced in a pocket of bushland with striking views of the Megalong and Kanimbla Valleys beyond – the perfect place to sit in silent meditation for ten days. If you’re not familiar with Vipassana, it’s a technique developed by SN Goenka designed to help those who practice it to reduce suffering and achieve peace of mind. Profoundly powerful though far from easy, this retreat is ideal for those keen to deeply explore their inner landscape and learn how to observe and detach from constant mind chatter. The program, funded solely by donations, is free for participants and includes accommodation and vegetarian meals.
"Heart and Soul is a heart-centred yoga and wellness retreat and a beautiful place to unwind from daily life."
Heart and Soul Retreat
On the outskirts of the Royal National Park, just south of the city, this heart-centred yoga and wellness retreat is a beautiful place to unwind from daily life. With an all-inclusive retreat program, managed entirely by volunteers, you’ll spend your days enjoying authentic yoga classes, wholesome vegan cuisine, meditation, sound therapy, informative workshops on yogic living and so much more. Rates are charged on a per night basis, and you can choose from a range of different accommodation options. During your stay, you can also revitalise your being with a therapeutic massage or energy treatment at the wellness centre and immerse yourself in the tranquil embrace of nature at the nearby national park.
Two hours’ drive from Sydney in the Shoalhaven region is Bay and Bush, a charming and tranquil escape set amidst natural beauty and a diverse array of wildlife. Choose from their unique three-day all-inclusive retreat programs (various activities, all food, spa treatments and accommodation are covered in the rate) that pop up throughout the year. For example, their upcoming Revive and Balance retreat in 2024 is designed to help you rediscover your inner peace and wellbeing. Previous programs have focused on freediving with whales and seals, detoxification, and reconnecting with nature – so no doubt there will be more exciting upcoming offerings available soon. The good news is, all of their retreat programs include ample time to explore the magical property and beauty of Jervis Bay, something you will most definitely want to make the most of.
Looking for a wellness retreat somewhere else around our beautiful country? Check out our favourite places for your next wellness retreat and the top luxury wellness retreats in Australia from our Journal.