Mention the Sunshine Coast and the things that come to most people’s minds are abundant sunshine, gorgeous surf beaches, alfresco cafes and designer boutiques on Noosa’s Hastings Street. There’s no doubt that this coastal holiday area north of Brisbane — stretching from Caloundra to Cooloola — has some of Queensland’s best beaches.
Away from the beach, the roads sweep through picturesque rolling hills and into charming hinterland towns filled with galleries, boutiques and craft shops. The hills reverberate in a different key to create a mystical mood. The stunning coastline, lush hinterland and the absence of an urban skyline are some of the ingredients that make the Sunshine Coast a special kind of place.
A day at the beach, a drive in the hills or an alfresco lunch; these are things you could experience anywhere. Yet on the Sunshine Coast it’s these simple pleasures that put you in a peaceful zone and create memories that persuade you to come back again and again. But if just being on the Sunshine Coast is not enough to induce a tranquil state, here are some options to nurture body, mind and soul.
The Sunshine Coast has long been a paradise for golfers, who come for the weather and international-standard golf courses such as Noosa Springs Golf & Spa Resort, Hyatt Regency Coolum and Crowne Plaza Pelican Waters Golf Resort & Spa. All the high-end golfing resorts have luxury spas that welcome day customers who are not staying at the resort. In the past year, though, there has been a mini spa boom with the opening of new resort spas such as Stephanie’s Ocean Spa at Outrigger Noosa, Spa Anise at Spicers Clovelly and Mii Spa at Quay West Noosa.
Ancient Tibetan remedies, Greek and Roman bathing rituals, gentle Balinese healing and antioxidant vinotherapies from France are some of the internationally inspired treatments available.
At Stephanie’s Ocean Spa I discover there’s more than one way to absorb the benefits of red wine. My vinotherapy body wrap and polish is a pampering treatment using the rich antioxidant properties of grapes to soothe the skin and slow the ageing process. Vinotherapy is offered as a body polish, body wrap or wine bath. Also on the menu is a hot stone crystal massage that uses soothing warm volcanic basalt stones to release aches and dissolve stress in tight muscles and to instil a sense of calm. The treatment uses balancing-chakra crystals to restore energy and equilibrium to mind, body and soul. Treatment suites are equipped with up-to-date spa technology such as a private flotation colour therapy pool and a Geisha Light therapy spa suite where colour therapy is used.
Also in Noosa, the Aqua Day Spa located within the Sheraton Noosa Resort & Spa offers a holistic experience that begins with a hydro massage in the Aqua Therapy Centre’s outdoor jet pools. The jets are followed by a 10-minute sweat in the steam room to open up the pores and flush out toxins. I experience Nirvana in Noosa, a treatment that starts with a sand and seasalt scrub, leaving my skin feeling refreshed. Then a vanilla and honey body butter moisturising massage has me floating in spa heaven.
The lush hinterland is a visual contrast to the wind-blown seaside scenery. The hinterland is also where healing traditions deriving from ancient cultures have flourished. Ikatan Balinese Day Spa offers a touch of Bali in the Doonan countryside. Villa-style treatment rooms and traditional Balinese open-air pavilions are tucked away among cordylines, heliconias and palm trees. The lovely tropical gardens are punctuated with Balinese stone statues and lanterns, providing a tranquil spot for afternoon tea or gourmet nibbles after a traditional Balinese treatment.
The Chi Massage Treatment is the newest on the menu. My therapist applies a Balinese herbal compress to pressure points. The aim of the treatment is to restore energy through harmonising the qi (energy flow) with a combination of reflexology and massage. It’s a gentle journey that puts me in a relaxed frame of mind. Ikatan has recently introduced the Environ cosmaceutical skincare range, which was designed by a plastic surgeon and uses intensive vitamin therapy to repair, restore and rebuild the skin at a cellular level.
In the hills of Dulong, Natural Beauty Retreat offers a completely different experience. It’s a down-to-earth homegrown spa that combines spa and beauty treatments with creative art. Life drawing, silk painting and T-shirt printing are taught by local artists. The classes are designed so that even those with little artistic talent can take home a piece of art that looks good. Tina Rossiter is a natural at making guests feel relaxed. Rossiter, who used to work in a bank, has reinvented herself as a massage and beauty therapist with her own line of handmade natural and organic beauty products.
My aromatherapy massage is followed by a silk painting lesson where local artist Nerida Roberts guides me through a process of painting a mandala on a silk cloth. Mandalas have spiritual significance for Hindus and are used in meditation by Buddhists. Roberts helps me mix the paint and shows me how to apply the colours. I discover that dabbing paint on silk and watching the colours spread is extremely soothing.
Spice of life
In Montville, I check into Spicers Clovelly for the Spice of Life weekend retreat program. Driving through the gates into stately grounds with enormous fig trees, jacarandas and groves of magnolias and gardenias, I feel like I could be visiting a European country estate. Accommodation at Spicers Clovelly consists of 10 suites in a charming French provincial-style country home. It’s a dash of French flair in the hills of Montville with wall decorations that conjure images of France, French food and the French countryside.
I’m whisked into the spa, where my feet are soaked in a bowl of water infused with star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla bean while spa manager Angie Humphrey conducts a personal consultation. My program is finetuned and the pace is set with a two-hour Spa Escape. My body is exfoliated with a clarifying fruit grommage, massaged and moisturised with a green tea and rose crème. It ends with a Petit Spa Face Treatment using a selection of nourishing botanicals, vitamins, French clay and a hydrating infusion of aromatic essential oils.
After two hours of pampering, my stomach begins to growl. On a sunny day, there are plenty of lovely spots in the grounds or by the pool for a picnic. But on this day, the weather gods have other ideas. Storm clouds are gathering overhead, so my healthy picnic of carrots and celery, smoked salmon, fresh Mooloolaba prawns, salad and mango is laid out in the library.
Dinner in the Long Apron restaurant is another healthy meal. The vegetarian Spa Degustation menu is prepared with organic vegetables sourced from local farms. The menu comprises 10 small courses such as carrots cooked in spices, honey and milk, a garden salad of fresh and roasted vegetables, leaves and flowers from the garden and free-range organic eggs poached to the perfect temperature of 62.4ºC and served on a burnt cedar slab.
Back in my room, the bath butler has drawn an aromatherapy bath infused with oils and soothing milks. The next morning there’s yoga on the terrace followed by breakfast and more spa treatments targeted at problem areas, which in my case are tense shoulder muscles.
A taste of Tibet
The path to the Garden of Enlightenment is a dirt road in Eudlo. I discover that the garden is an enchanting escape in the grounds of the Chenrezig Buddhist Institute. The institute is virtually unknown, even to those who live on the Sunshine Coast. Yet, it was one of the first Tibetan Buddhism centres to be established in the Western world. I stumble upon it by googling “Sunshine Coast retreat” and I’m instantly intrigued. The non-profit charitable organisation is affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, an international non-profit organisation founded in 1975 by Tibetan Buddhist monk Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935–84).
The sign in the carpark of the Chenrezig Institute says “no killing, no stealing, no alcohol, no drugs”. I climb a flight of stairs past fluttering flags to the stupa. The sight of the white stupa against the blue sky makes it easy to imagine I’m at the top of the world in Tibet, the place where some of the lamas who teach at the centre are from.
The institute is a study centre for its sangha, a community of ordained monks and nuns, who live in cottages on the property. It’s also open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday and offers courses on Buddhism as well as guided meditation sessions. The facilities are simple and the focus is on spiritual education. There’s a cafe and a bookshop. Accommodation for those attending longer courses is available in cottages, an on-site motel and dormitories.
I attend A Taste of Tibetan Buddhism session run by Ben, a layperson who is a pathologist by profession. We watch a DVD about the potential of the mind and the path to happiness. The message from this short introductory session is that Buddhism is the study of the mind. It reminds me how important it is to keep the mind free from negative and destructive thoughts. I ponder this as I wander through the Garden of Enlightenment and depart with the conclusion that true happiness is definitely a state of mind.
Where to spa
Natural Beauty Retreat is a homegrown spa experience that combines spa parties with creative arts taught by local artists. www.thenaturalbeautyretreat.com
Stephanie’s Ocean Spa, Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa, is within walking distance of the al-fresco lifestyle of Hastings Street. www.stephanies.com.au
Aqua Day Spa, Sheraton Noosa Resort, is a five-star spa located on Hastings Street. www.aquadayspa.com.au
The Spa, Hyatt Regency Coolum, is a 750sqm wellbeing complex with 18 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, a gymnasium, 25-metre lap pool and aqua-aerobics pool. www.coolum.regency.hyatt.com
Ikatan Balinese Day Spa, Doonan, offers luxurious treatments based on ancient Balinese remedies, rituals and philosophies. www.ikatanspa.com
Noosa Springs Golf and Spa Resort has a Mediterranean-inspired spa complex with impressive water therapy facilities, including a hydro-massage pool, flotation pool, infrared sauna and steam rooms. www.noosasprings.com.au
Endota Spa, Crown Plaza Pelican Waters, offers Australian organic treatments using their own range of certified organic skincare products. www.endota.com.au
Spa Anise, Spicers Clovelly Estate, is a luxury getaway in Montville. The ultimate treatment is the five-hour Clovelly’s Ultimate Retreat pampering costing $750. www.spicersgroup.com.au
The Spirit House, Yandina, is an award-winning restaurant set in tropical gardens with tables arranged around a tranquil lake. www.spirithouse.com.au
The Long Apron, Spicers Clovelly Estate, offers a creative degustation vegetarian menu. www.spicersgroup.com.au/restaurant/long-apron
Lama Yeshe’s Big Love Café, Chenrezig Buddhist Institute, has wheat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free options for lunch. www.chenrezig.com.au/content/view/51/66/
Raw Energy has cafes that serve healthy snacks in many areas of the Sunshine Coast. www.rawenergy.com.au
Flannerys Natural Grocers, Maroochydore, has a range of organic and macrobiotic food and snacks. www.flannerys.com.au
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, visited Chenrezig Buddhist Institute on his 10-day Australian tour. On June 16, the Dalai Lama blessed the Garden of Enlightenment and gave a talk to senior students from Sunshine Coast schools. www.chenrezig.com.au
Christina Pfeiffer is a Sunshine Coast based writer who keeps reminding herself that happiness is a state of mind.