Quite often the best things in life are the simplest. Tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, my sister and I opted for a secluded getaway during a trip to the Gold Coast to visit my youngest sister. Being early June - the prospect of hitting the beach certainly wasn't an appealing choice and I had been to Surfer's Paradise countless times before. Surely the Gold Coast had something else to offer.
O'Reilly's is a rainforest retreat perched on the edge of the Lamington plateau, only 90 minutes drive from Gold Coast and 45 minutes from the closest town, Canungra. It is a family-run and ecologically sustainable tourism business and includes its own Lost World Spa and vineyard in the Canungra Valley. The most appealing aspect about O'Reilly's is its unique assortment of packages designed to accommodate all groups, tastes and budgets, including: Girls Getaway, Couples Villa Celebration, Families in the Forest and even Baby Moon Retreat Package- just to name a few. My sister and I decided to opt for the 'Girls Getaway'. For $396 per person, the package includes 2 nights' accommodation in a Mountain View room, daily buffet breakfast, a one-hour spa treatment, daily country style morning and afternoon tea, a gourmet picnic basket at the Canungra Valley Vineyards with complimentary wine tasting. At a retail price over $500, this package was incredibly good value.
To get there, I would definitely recommend hiring a car rather than taking the coach. The reason being is that with 2 people the price difference is only around $30 per person and you have the option to visit the countless vineyards on the way and to peruse the nearby towns, distilleries and gourmet foodie havens. The Canungra vineyard is situated at the base of the Lamington National Park and it is an absolute crime to drive past without stopping. As part of the package we had our gourmet picnic by the creek and the spread surpassed our expectations; two platters with different cured meats, smoked salmon, dips, 3 different types of cheeses, pate, salads, crackers and fresh baked baguettes. And don't worry about the fine details of bringing your own picnic rug and bottled water- they have this covered. We were so stuffed but could still manage to fit in the complimentary icecream at the end whilst sitting on the porch overlooking the vineyard. The scenery is truly breath-taking- on par with that of the Barossa Valley. The wines are exceptional as well and very reasonably priced- I would recommend the Picnic red ($15) and Moscato ($18).
After a treacherous drive up the steep mountain dodging large trucks on the windy road barely wide enough for 2 cars and endless blind ending curves, we breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing the sign to the retreat - we had made it to the top alive! This is the absolute last stop so don't worry you won't get lost. The Mountain View room is a medium- grade room but boy did it meet our expectations! It had breath-taking views of the expansive valley and on settling, one sensed that time passed at a different pace here. The air was fresher and I felt all the tension leave my body immediately.
The main lodge is equipped with its own restaurant and bar. For those not fussed about having a proper 3- course meal, the cosy bar is the way to go. They serve bar food and real tasty wood-oven fired pizzas at less than $20. Happy hour runs from 5 to 6.30 pm where all cocktails are half-price. After dinner, you can retreat to the library snuggled with a good book. That's if you haven't yet fallen asleep just from the pure comfort of the crackling open fireplace.
For the ultimate relaxation experience, a trip to the Lost World Spa is a must. A prelude to the treatment included a half-hour experience in 'the pouch' which is basically a room where you can chill out, sip herbal tea and lie on the couches looking out at the open expanse of forest. Then we made a quick visit to the steam room which is like a wet sauna but surprisingly refreshing. The main course was the 1-hour relaxation massage incorporating aromatherapy oils. The staff were very professional and friendly, thoughtfully enquiring about the intensity of the massage you preferred beforehand. The massage itself took place in a cosy room overlooking the valley and you could choose to have the blinds either open or closed. Valued at $129 one can see why the package was great value for money.
Eco-activities are a signature at O'Reilly's ranging from the free rainforest and treetop walks to the flying fox and guided segway tours you can participate in for a reasonable extra cost. There is also an outdoors hot spa perfect for a chilly June evening and sauna.
Did I mention this was a true 'retreat', not a faux one? So for those who get palpitations at the thought of no phone reception for several days this place is probably not for you. And there are NO televisions to paralyse your mind when you think you have nothing else to do. As a true urban chic who has grown up in a city, the isolation and lack of connectivity to the outside world was surprisingly the highlight of the entire experience. It only hit us as we descended the mountain and became bombarded with missed calls and SMSes from family, friends and workmates how complicated our everyday lives had become.