The lush, tranquil landscape of the Waikato – a verdant green pastoral landscape hydrated by the mighty Waikato River – is the perfect place to experience a transformational wellness retreat.
Wellness travel is a global trend and the Waikato region, south of Auckland, is emerging as one of New Zealand’s leading destinations for recharging and rejuvenating the body, mind and soul. Visit these retreats to explore mindfulness, eat well, enjoy nature and learn new skills – from meditation to surfing.
1. Rejuvenate Your Spirit at Te Atawhai
Leading Kiwi fashion designer Annah Stretton founded Te Atawhai Wholeness Retreat after realising the toll modern life takes on our health. Along with other wellness experts, Stretton hosts four-day programmes to share “simple strategies of positive change” with guests. Learn the principles of a whole- foods diet and how to make healthful dishes bursting with flavour. Explore the lush bushwalks of Mount Te Aroha and the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park and enjoy the area’s natural hot springs. Soothe your soul with mindfulness practice, meditation and massage.
Travel Tips: Te Atawhai Wholeness Retreat sits at the foothills of Mount Te Aroha and the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park, which divides the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. It’s a two-hour drive south-east of Auckland and less than an hour east of Hamilton.
2. Relax and Reset at Sakura
One of the country’s newest wellness retreats, Sakura wellness retreat is set on 4.9ha (12 acres) of rolling countryside near the town of Cambridge. Surrounded by cherry blossom (sakura) trees, the property was designed according to vastu shastra principles (an ancient Hindu architectural system) and here you can find your inner serenity with healing practices from the East such as yoga and meditation. On a four-day programme, a trainer will guide you in functional fitness workouts while local celebrity chefs offer workshops on nutrition and food foraging. There are also life coaching and journaling seminars – and plenty of outdoor adventures. You can drop in for a day visit when there are scheduled events.
Travel Tips: Sakura is a 15-minute drive south of Cambridge, a picturesque country town known for breeding thoroughbred racehorses. Cambridge is within easy driving distance of Auckland and also very close to several popular tourist attractions, including Hobbiton and the Waitomo Caves.
3. Soothe Your Soul at Solscape
Solscape, in the coastal hamlet of Raglan, is one of New Zealand’s most well-established eco retreats. Stay at this award-winning sustainable resort and wake up to breathtaking views over Raglan’s famous surf beaches. The retreat has a range of accommodation options, from tents and tipis to earth domes and self-contained “eco baches” (a bach is a small holiday home). You can even stay in an up-cycled railway caboose. Solscape takes its commitment to social responsibility seriously, but there’s also plenty of time for fun. As well as workshops in permaculture, home gardening and self-development, you can hit the waves (Solscape has its own surf school) or get your adrenaline pumping with some kayaking, horse riding or rock climbing.
Travel Tips: Solscape is set on 4ha (10 acres) at the foot of Mount Karioi in Raglan, a popular surfing mecca with miles of spectacular black-sand coastline. It’s a 40-minute drive from the central North Island city of Hamilton and a two-hour drive south of Auckland.
4. Take a Girls’ Trip to Raglan
For something a bit different, head to Surf Dames at Whale Bay near Raglan, with your favourite female friends or family. This quirky “fit for a queen” women-only retreat will get you cruising on the waves in no time with trained instructors (and lifeguards). It’s far from a spartan surf camp, though. You can enjoy everything from manicures and pedicures through to body wraps, massages and facials at the retreat’s day spa. Relax with a happy hour cocktail on the deck of the Lava Lounge, overlooking a forest of native trees after tuning up your body with yoga or surf-fitness programmes. There are one-, two- and three- day packages or you can create your own programme.
Travel Tips: Surf Dames is at Whale Bay, a coastal community between Mount Karioi and the ocean, a few minutes’ drive south of Raglan. The resort provides shuttle transport from Raglan. Raglan is a 40-minute drive from Hamilton and about two hours’ south of Auckland.
5. Master Meditation at The Narrows Retreat
Meditation has been scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety, improve cognitive abilities and ward off depression. Improve your wellbeing by studying this art at New Zealand’s first Ananda yoga centre (Ananda is the “joy that lives within found through regular deep meditation”), The Narrows Retreat beside the Waikato River. Beat stress and learn to fully relax under the guidance of life coach Kavita Parshotam, who has more than 20 years’ experience in meditation and yoga. Stay at the historic Ohaupo post office property on a five-day retreat, or simply drop in to take one of the many day or evening beginners’ meditation classes.
Travel Tips: The Narrows Retreat overlooks the Waikato River and is a short drive south of Hamilton on the way to picturesque Cambridge. Fly into Hamilton airport or drive from Auckland (it’s less than two hours). Hamilton is a great base to explore attractions such as Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves.
Text and photos courtesy to Tourism New Zealand