10 wellness retreats in Australia and Asia with food as luxe as the surrounds

Dine over a jungle lagoon at Daintree Ecolodge.
Dine over a jungle lagoon at Daintree Ecolodge. Photo: Supplied

Wellness retreats don't have to mean woeful food. These 10 leading retreats in Australia and Asia know how to mix business with pleasure.

1. Daintree Ecolodge

Diners visit Julaymba Restaurant from outside Daintree Ecolodge, which ought to tell you something about its food and its location. Dining on a wooden platform over a lagoon within the rainforest gets points for X-factor, while the menu keeps pace with a focus on the northern Queensland seasonality and native ingredients; think local reef fish with confit fennel and nashi pear in saffron and garlic broth. The three-night "indulge" package to rejuvenate mind, body and soul looks like it was very well named. daintree-ecolodge.com.au

Scallops, quinoa and avocado stack with Japanese citrus dressing at Gaia Retreat & Spa, Byron Bay.
For Larissa Dubecki health retreat travel story, Good Food Magazine Feb 2020.

Scallops, quinoa and avocado stack with Japanese citrus dressing at Gaia Retreat & Spa, Byron Bay.  Photo: Supplied

2. Gaia Retreat & Spa

Opened in the Byron Bay hinterland by Our Livvy – that's Dame Olivia Newton-John to the uninitiated – in 2005, the holistically minded Gaia doesn't see fit to feed its celebrity clients an abstemious cuisine. You can juice-fast if that's your heart's desire, but mere mortals will be thrilled to hear that the cooked breakfast – we're talking eggs on freshly baked bread – has not been banned. It's all about the balance, which extends to beautifully prepared three-course dinners in which duck breast with beetroot and rhubarb might be served with activated walnuts. gaiaretreat.com.au

Pumpkin ravioli with pecorino, basil, oregano, Gibsonâs Grove olive oil at Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley.For Larissa Dubecki health retreat travel story, Good Food Magazine Feb 2020.

Pumpkin ravioli with pecorino, basil and oregano at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley. Photo: RUPERT PEACE

3. Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley

A five-star sanctuary in the Blue Mountains, this luxe retreat houses a who's who in its villas with private pools and amazing views. Stay active with wellness pursuits such as the new Wolgan Warrior Adventure Challenge, a guided 21-kilometre trail run available to just 10 people a month. Luckily there's classically inspired Australian food to fuel the fire, including duck pastrami and lamb loin with smoked eggplant – backed by an equally on point wine list. oneandonlyresorts.com/wolgan-valley

4. Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat

File this one in your food dictionary: LHI, otherwise known as low human intervention. It's the guiding principle of the all-organic food at Gwinganna, where excellent produce (mostly from its kitchen garden, orchard and apiary) is treated with minimal-intervention respect. Tucked in the Tallebudgera Valley on the Gold Coast, this longtime leader of the Aussie retreat scene has no caffeine, alcohol or TV (sorry) but withdrawals will hardly be noticed as you swing from exercise sessions to a smorgasbord of spa treatments. gwinganna.com

5. Kamalaya

Attracting wellness seekers to the island of Koh Samui in Thailand since 2005, this retreat on a jungle-covered coastal hillside even boasts its own ancient meditation cave. This is the place for stressed-out Silicon Valley tech execs to take a "wellness sabbatical", bookending their days at Kamalaya with yoga and reflexology and evaluating their life's journey over food menus that can be raw and vegan (hello, wheatgrass shots) but also puts the yin into the yang with a la mode seafood, lamb and poultry dishes. kamalaya.com

At Samadhi Spa and Wellness Retreat, the pre-digestive apple cider vinegar jellies incorporate 24-carat gold for its unique health properties.
For February 2020 Good Food Magazine.

The pre-digestive apple cider vinegar jellies at Samadhi Retreat incorporate 24-carat gold for its unique health properties. Photo: Tibor Hegedis

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6. Samadhi Retreat

At this serene bolthole in Glenlyon, Central Victoria, just two luxury suites are booked for exclusive use of the Zen-like property and days are spent in thrall to a raft of treatments going deep into body and soul. The same just-for-you approach extends to meals. You'll dine privately in your room on food that's equal parts delicious and restorative, starting with pre-digestive jellies of apple cider vinegar incorporating 24-carat gold for its unique health properties and going onto dishes such as pistachio-crumbed wild salmon on coconut parsnip mash. samadhiretreat.com.au

7. The Farm at San Benito

Five pillars of healing guide any stay at this renowned Philippines retreat, and the third one is "nourish". If the words "plant-based whole-food vegan cuisine" scare you, the enthusiasm of the Alive! restaurant might just win you over with its raw menu based on ingredients from the resort's own organic farm. Almond butter sauce jazzes up salads, Mexican burritos get a run and it swings Mediterranean with aglio e olio mushrooms. thefarmatsanbenito.com

Lakeside Sangha Retreat in Suzhou, China.
For Larissa Dubecki health retreat travel story, Good Food Magazine Feb 2020.

Lakeside Sangha Retreat in Suzhou, China. Photo: Supplied

8. Sangha Retreat

There'll be no secrets at this just-opened lakeside retreat in Suzhou, China, two hour's drive from Shanghai. Its state-of-the-art health and wellbeing centre shares its clinical assessments of each guest with the kitchen to create a personalised menu with the help of nutritionists. If that sounds too draconian, fear not: chef Paul Then Seh Chon (formerly of Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant Cuisine Cuisine) oversees a menu that includes things like melon soup with coconut milk and coriander. sangharetreat.com

9. Bawah Reserve

A private island in Indonesia, but just a short seaplane flight from Singapore, Bawah is a place for the full A-list treatment. The casual-luxury resort within a marine conservation archipelago has yoga, hiking and sea kayaking while the all-inclusive tariff extends to daily treatments in the Aura Spa, where you can be body-scrubbed from morning until night. It also extends to Tree Tops Restaurant and its sandy-toed counterpart The Boat House, where ordering things like whole lobster grilled with lemongrass butter won't sting a bit. bawahreserve.com

10. Anantara Quy Nhon Villas

This resort retreat at beachside Quy Nhon takes a Vietnamese approach to wellness – it is, after all, the home of Viet Vo Dao, a martial art incorporating mindfulness you can practise on the sand with a private instructor. A similarly one-on-one approach guides the food: have a breakfast picnic on a private island, head out with local fishermen and have the catch prepared for lunch, or enjoy a dinner of street eats prepared by the chef in your villa. Or simply head to resort restaurant Sea. Fire. Salt, where local seafood is cooked on salt bricks. anantara.com