At home among the gumtrees at Billabong Retreat

I rise with the sun at 6am and wander over to the timber treehouse-inspired room perched on the edge of the water. Rolling out my yoga mat, I salute the sun and begin my practice. Gazing at the lily pads bobbing in the water, and the fuchsia lotus flowers emerging to catch the first rays of light, I notice that others have the same idea as me. I spot guests strolling around the billabong, they too are looking for a peaceful spot to wake up and begin their day.

This is what my typical morning is like at Billabong Retreat, a secluded escape less than an hour’s drive from Sydney, but far enough away from city life. As much as I usually love to wake up by the ocean, it is refreshing and grounding to be surrounded by native bushland, with the billabong being the ideal alternative for that invigorating swim to begin the day.

There are no rules or set schedules here, just peace and quiet with the option to join any activity or class on offer, curl up in a comfy chair on the balcony or indulge in a spa treatment.

Guests dine together on the balcony overlooking the property, all in a very casual and easy manner. Meals are served buffet-style, with a delicious spread of curries, soups and hearty salads prepared by chef Angie Cowen. Every meal is gluten -free and vegetarian, using local and organic produce. There’s even a cookbook for sale written by Angie in which she shares her nourishing recipes and secrets.

Afternoon tea


The yoga and meditation classes are definitely to be experienced, with one or two classes scheduled in the morning, and one in the afternoon, followed by an evening meditation and breathing class. I join in for the mid-morning yoga that is suited for all levels. This class takes us back to the basics and even teaches some of the history of yoga. It is a smooth, flowing class that leaves me feeling stretched out and blissful.

After an afternoon swim in the billabong I feel ready to embark on a little journey outside the property on the complimentary bikes. There’s a quiet circuit that winds around the property passing horse farms and beautiful bushland. It’s mostly downhill, but there’s one steep incline towards the end that will get your heart pumping if you’re up for it.

During the day guests also have the option of lounging around the communal outdoor living space, complete with a wood-burning stove, an ample range of books and magazines to read, and cosy couches and lounge chairs. I find myself dozing off to sleep after swimming in the magnesium solar-heated pool. The live music is another way to relax; guests gather around the guitar, some reading, some resting, but all are entranced by the ambient sounds.

If you’re after something more than relaxation, there’s cooking classes with Angie, guest speakers answering your questions on nutrition and naturopathy, mandala drawing, and inspirational movies shown in the evening. For me, it was the tranquillity of the surrounds that made this the perfect escape. Billabong Retreat epitomises serenity. Everyone just seems to be enjoying their space, whether they’re bathing in the sun or reading their book on the balcony. My tip would be to book a room with an outdoor bathtub. The large clawfoot tub is set on the verandah and the highlight of my visit was a hot rainwater Epsom salt soak in the privacy of my treehouse, beneath the gumtrees.

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