Kate Webster steps into the gardens of Eden Health Retreat in Currumbin Valley and discovers why health retreats can be life-changing.
I had never been to a health retreat before. I thought they were more for the health cult fanatics who live in lycra and never indulge in tasty treats, so when I found myself driving up into the Gold Coast Hinterland to stay a week in Currumbin Valley at Eden Health Retreat, I was hesitant.
Frankly, the thought of no caffeine, no alcohol, no phone reception and no wifi for a week terrified me. I had never really been a fan of forced exercise and conscious health routines. What would I do with myself for a whole week? I was sure I would go insane, so I packed three books and my laptop to do some writing, just in case.
I can tell you that the laptop was never opened and those books remained unread. Little did I know that I was about to stumble across the Gold Coast’s well-kept secret. A place where I learnt how to disconnect from the pressures and stress of work. A place where I reconnected with myself and the self-care I didn’t realise I was missing. A place that was healing beyond my wildest imagination.
The name for Eden Health Retreat isn’t biblical, although guests described their stay ‘as if being re-born’. The valley and surrounding areas were originally home to the Yugambeh people, before the land was cleared in the 1860s by Henry Eden, who called his new dairy farm the ‘Garden of Eden’.
In 1985 Camp Eden was born, resembling more of a personal development bootcamp with strict rules of participation. Fast forward to now, and the camp has morphed into a more luxurious retreat with a more flexible approach.
The location alone at Eden Health Retreat was healing in itself. Surrounded by nature’s amphitheatre of mountains, this part of Currumbin Valley had a certain magic to it. Lush rainforest blankets the hills, and the chorus of songbirds filled the air. Even in the cooler months, the daylight peaking over the treetops filters through with a glowing warmth. In the morning, low lying clouds floated by wistfully before disintegrating in the sun’s rays.
The creek that runs through the property offered the constant white noise of flowing water. A large bamboo garden would chime in occasionally with her swooshes as the wind moved through and made her dance. It was peaceful yet energetic at the same time.
Exploring beyond the retreat will take you to waterfalls, into the rainforest, up to mountain peaks and lookouts with views to the ocean and coastline. There are many hiking tracks and walks ranging from easy to extreme for those who want to challenge themselves. These can be done as part of the Eden program or in your own time.
The retreat has two sections of accommodation. My stay was in the newer suites that sit on the hillside adjacent to the main section of the retreat with the pool and spa, treatment rooms, gymnasium and Eden Pavillion. The modern, stylish suites have dark timbers and neutral tones that blend in with the surrounding vegetation. Sliding glass doors open to a private balcony facing out over the valley. There is an enormous deep bath and a jar of Epsom salts, replenished daily. I later discovered this is much needed. There’s no TV, enhancing the feeling of disconnection. I was particularly a fan of the essential oils burner that I lit every time I was in the room.
The original retreat rooms are perched high on the hill overlooking the valley. Here is where the repeat guests like to call ‘the village’ as it was the hub for the original camp. Suites here face out to the rainforest and are set in a more communal area. Wherever you stay at Eden, the walk to your room is part of the daily exercise, so be prepared to get those steps up.
Days at Eden began with the chimes of a bell that echoed down the valley in the early hours of the morning. Each day had a different itinerary. There were yoga classes, fitness activities, information sessions and meditations, to name a few. While the schedule was set, you can participate in as much or as little as you please.
A spring water pool offered a refreshing cleanse after strenuous activities, or a soak in the heated spa soothed aching muscles. The sauna and steam room proved popular with guests, and I found myself a frequent visitor also. A trip to Club Mud is a must during the stay. A natural treatment, here you lather yourself in nutrient-rich clay, bask in the sun as it dries and wash off to reveal soft and silky skin.
In addition to the daily activities, you can select from an array of treatments to further assist in your healing journey. I indulged in an Eastern Therapies treatment and the signature Kahuna Massage. They were so profoundly healing, it left me walking on air for hours after I left the session.
It was not all blissful balance, as I learnt with the flying fox and balance pole. These challenges are designed to push you out of your comfort zone and overcome fears. The sense of accomplishment was evident on all the participant’s faces after launching off the platform of each challenge. Challenge overcome.
Fuelling the body and soul for all the activities at Eden is exquisite food. It is all organic, seasonal and unprocessed, with much of the produce sourced from Eden’s own garden. Even the water comes from their very own natural spring.
Never have I experienced healthy food to not only look good but taste amazing. It was a delight to sit down at every meal and wait in anticipation for what would be served up next. The first evening dinner was a bone broth chicken laksa, the most tantalising meal I had tasted in a long while. My breakfast, I would take out on the deck, accompanied by my daily selection of herbal tea.
Throughout the course of the week, I learnt that eating well did not mean losing taste in meals. One day I accidentally stumbled into a session I had not planned on attending, a nutrition talk. I was glad I had. I learnt more from that session about how to eat well and better look after my health than I had in my entire adult life. To say I found it life-changing would be accurate, and I furiously noted in my diary all the changes I planned on making to my eating habits.
On my last day at Eden, I found myself sitting down by the creek in my own little headspace, reflecting on the week. I had chatted with the other guests and enjoyed listening to the journeys that led them here. Some guests seemed part of the furniture, having visited many times, some even many times a year. Others were newbies like me.
I was surprised at the number of males that were staying at the retreat. When I asked why they chose a health retreat, the answer always came back to “they needed it”. One guest told me that a week in Eden felt like he had taken a month-long holiday. I saw the value in that. The value we need to put into our health and well-being is paramount. So if you can spend a week repairing, reversing the clock a bit and regenerating to be better in mind, body and soul – why wouldn’t you do it.
I, for one, walked away from the week feeling like a snake that had shed its skin. It was out with the old and in with the new. I was refreshed and feeling fabulous. I had found my Eden and I planned on returning yearly to refresh again.
The writer stayed as a guest of Eden Health Retreat.