Immersive oasis Billabong Retreat offers eco-minded luxury in a stunning bushland setting. Just outside Sydney, it’s the perfect escape to reset and revitalise.
I drive north, away from the mad dash of a Sydney Monday morning. As the cars thin to a drizzle and my route becomes one winding, single-lane road through paddocks of hay-chewing cows and trotting horses, the weekday hubbub fades away. I’m on my way to a secluded wellness retreat designed to immerse guests in nature.
Not long after the road plunges into unperturbed bushland, I spot a humble wooden sign that reads ‘Billabong’. Turning into the driveway, I see welcoming log cabin-like buildings with smoke rising from the chimneys. A woman in chef’s garments smiles at me as she carries a carton of vegetables across the yard. At reception, I’m greeted by the lovely Jess. Full of energy, she takes me on a tour around the grounds. We begin at the treetop yoga room, wander past the cosy dining hall and down to my deluxe cabin lodgings. All the while, Jess explains a little history of the retreat and just how everything works.
Surrounded by trees, shrubs and ferns, the eco-cabins are set upon stilts on a rocky outcrop. They blend almost seamlessly into the bushy landscape. Owners Pauls and Tory von Bergen took much care in building a retreat that fit in with the natural environment. Evident in the rainwater tanks and gas cylinders fitted to each individual cabin, they successfully realised their vision of establishing a fully certified eco-friendly wellness retreat.
Luxury lodgings at Billabong wellness retreat
Stepping into my cabin, I draw breath. Key still in hand, I skip across the timber-floored room straight to glass double-doors. They are wide open, showing off views of twisting and towering gum trees. Down below the tree line stretches the gorgeous rippling billabong – certainly the largest and most full of life that I’ve ever seen. The sounds of whipbirds, bellbirds, rosellas and other natives fill the trees, only to be briefly interrupted as a flock of noisy geese cut across the water. A freestanding bathtub stands to one side of the covered balcony. A set of table and chairs – a perfect reading nook – rest in the other. Hold that thought.
I unpack my belongings into a beautiful mahogany-coloured wooden chest and throw on an extra layer. I head down the ‘tough’ rocky track to the billabong (there’s also the option of a more level round track). Keeping an eye out for wallabies, monitor lizards, blue-tongues, possums and other resident locals, I listen to the leaves above hum with birdsong. Reaching the water’s edge, shrouded by waterlilies, I make my way along the path that wraps around the billabong. A few ducks glide across the water, while I spot the geese making nests on the far side.
Yoga in the treetops
Returning to my cabin, I relax on the balcony with a cup of tea, simply taking in the serenity. Next up is yoga at sunset. Stepping into the yoga room with mats and blankets awaiting, I make my way over to a vacant spot and take in the expansive studio, facing a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows. Now, in the very treetops, the upper branches of the giant gums sway gently behind the glass. Our yoga teacher, Kirsty, quietly speaks with each of us to understand our experience and comfort level. We practice Yin yoga, a slower-paced style of yoga. In this practice, poses are held for longer periods and deep relaxation is the aim of the game. My favourite part; we finish off with a full 20 minutes of guided meditation as an orange sky melts away behind the trees. Naturally. There’s no need to rush here.
Wholesome and hearty meals
Later that night we each slowly drift towards the dining room from our scattered cabins. I now can’t help but find myself surprised there’s even a dozen people here. From the undisturbed silence, one could be forgiven for assuming they’re the only person for miles. We sit down together along homely long wooden tables. The room warmed by a welcome gas heater, we chat while enticing smells drift in from the adjoining kitchen. Just before we eat, our chef Tash joins us to say a few words about tonight’s healthy wholefood dinner. I head to bed full and satisfied, listening to the sound of an easy silence, dissolved only by the occasional hoot of a nearby owl.
I wake well-rested and head straight up to the yoga studio for the early morning practice as the sun rises. Then, unable to resist, spend the rest of my stay soaking up the view over my beautiful balcony. As I head back to the carpark, well-wished by sunny receptionist Jess, I hear the sounds of bright chatter drifting from the nearby kitchen window. Through the bushland and back onto the road, I drive away feeling elated, reset and revitalised.
You can find out more about this wellness retreat on the website, billabongretreat.com.au
The writer was hosted by Billabong Retreat.