The Billabong is an all inclusive eco retreat for the mind, body and soul. And being just a 45 minute drive from Sydney, pure escapism and serenity has never been more accessible.
It’s hard to know where to start when describing the wonderful haven that is the Billabong Retreat. With the tranquil and strikingly still billabong itself, the surrounding wildlife noises of birds chirping, frogs ribbiting, and ducks splashing in the water, the sun drenched yoga and meditation room which glows from the morning sunshine, the retreat rooms with log burners and sofas your body sinks into, or the delicious locally sourced organic and whole food meals. There’s just too many highlights to pick one to introduce this unique place.
The Billabong Retreat offers numerous different programmes you can sign up to – from yoga essentials, to mindfulness intelligence, and wellness essentials. My husband and I booked into the meditation essentials weekend retreat – a programme offering daily workshops exploring the theory, types and benefits of meditation, plus twice daily yoga classes.
We stayed in the Lodge ensuite, but there’s a variety of different options – deluxe cabins with a free standing bath on the balcony, the Treehouse ensuite, the Cottage share bath, the Lodge share bath, or the Treehouse dorm.
After a quick welcome tour of the retreat we soon began our first yoga class with our very friendly and passionate teacher – Natalie Bowcutt. If you’re a newbie to yoga, like me, there’s no need to feel put off. Natalie is brilliant at catering for all levels and immediately puts you at ease. Shortly after our first class, the retreat room beckoned and we cosied up by the log burner and got stuck into our books. Hours could be spent in the retreat room, helping yourself to a selection of organic and herbal teas, coffee and healthy snacks, taking on one of the many mindfulness colouring in books lying around, playing a game of scrabble, or snuggling up with a magazine.
Dinner time quickly came around, and little did we know that the food experience was going to be one of our top highlights of the weekend. Our chef, Simon Favorito (@consciousfoodculture), greeted us in the retreat room and introduced his culinary delights – vegetable coconut curry dahl with railta yoghurt, crunchy salad and raw cashew berry dessert. All vegetarian meals with locally sourced produce, his food repertoire included roast pumpkin, charred eggplant, paleo bread, avocado & herb sauce, baked broccoli with fennel seeds, cashew cheese sauce, and sautéed kale and baked eggs breakfasts.
After a quick meditation session post dinner, and a cosy lounge by the fire in the retreat room, our beds were calling us for a restful sleep ahead of our 7am yoga session.
Early mornings are a special time at the billabong, and we’d recommend staying in the lodge just for the opportunity to take a stroll around the billabong en route to the yoga studio and watch the morning mist rise off the lake.
As you walk into the yoga room, the floors glow from the morning sunshine, the birds chirp away, and the sun rays start to trickle across the beautifully shaped windows of the studio – the perfect way to slowly wake up and begin your day.
Part of your programme will also involve meditation workshops, where an instructor will share ancient yogi rituals, the benefits of meditation, and usefully, some take away practical tips to continue exploring when home (don’t forget to take a notebook into the session with you – I’ve got half a book filled with mantras, tips and ideas to motivate me when I return home).
An absolute must when staying at the Billabong Retreat is the wellness centre. I was greeted by a wonderful birthday surprise from my friends back in the UK upon arriving – a full head to toe relaxation massage – and it was probably the best massage of my life. If massages aren’t your bag, choose from a facial, reiki, sauna, or a private one on one yoga, mindfulness, naturopathy, or hypnotherapy consultation. Everything is timed around your retreat programme, so there’s no need to worry about missing out on any of your classes.
At the end of your stay at the billabong, you’ll feel refreshed, calm and reinvigorated, hopefully with an intrigue to continue your exploration of meditation and yoga, something that my husband and I have certainly come away with. The Billabong Retreat isn’t the cheapest weekend away we’ve been on, but it’s certainly the best money we’ve ever spent, and is a great little spot high up on our recommendation list.