It’s not every day you get invited by Megan Larsen, the incredibly inspiring founder of Sodashi, on a three-day wellness escape to Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley. Eliza Hynd spends the weekend unwinding in one of Australia’s most luxurious resorts…
It turns out that paradise isn’t as far away as you might think. Ultra-luxe conservation-based resort Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is a three-hour drive from Sydney, or if you’re up for something really special, a 45-minute scenic heli-ride flying over one of the most dramatic landscapes in Australia in the world-heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains region. The resort is set on 7,000 acres of carbon-neutral wildlife reserve and offers a quintessentially Australian bush experience (an extremely luxurious one at that). With several international awards and accolades to its name, the resort has a commitment to broader social, ecological and environmental sustainability, all while providing a fascinating mixture of traditional experiences – bushwalking, four-wheel driving safaris and horse riding – combined with understated luxury with a conscience for the high-end traveller. Encompassing 40 free-standing luxury suites, each with its own private terrace and swimming pool with direct mountain views, the luxury resort blends seamlessly with the vastness and dramatic beauty of Australia’s hinterland terrain and breath-taking sandstone escarpments that fortify the valley. From the moment we arrived, I knew I was going to be in for an unrivalled experience. We first sat in the grand lounge (reminiscent of Hotel Jerome in Aspen Colorado) with breathtakingly majestic valley views for a refreshing welcoming beverage. Checking into our heritage villa was an experience in itself. Mountain bikes were poised on the veranda and a chilled bottle of Pol Roger champagne awaited with a personalised welcome note. The villa was designed to perfection, with a two-way fireplace, separate walk-in wardrobe, his and her basins, an extra-large bathtub catering for seven foot long legs and a rain shower with a glass roof for star gazing. The personalised luxe pillow menu is always a welcomed gesture with One&Only hotels worldwide. Every detail of the villa had been thought through and carefully selected to complement the natural surrounds, right down to Australia’s 100% chemical-free and natural Sodashi bath and shower products.
For my husband and I, all the small details really do make a holiday feel special. What you pay is what you get at Wolgan, ensuring you are not forced to sign a bill every time you have a beverage or eat a meal. Unlike other luxury resorts, everything is built into the price of your stay upfront, which makes the stay so much more enjoyable knowing you are not going to be signing your life away unknowingly upon check out after a few too many cocktails. After a full day of activities, I loved returning to the room each evening to discover our personalised daily agenda printed out for us with the following day’s weather forecast and activities listed so we wouldn’t have to think about where we needed to be and when. Service perfection. Following a delightful lunch of citrus salad, fresh grilled snapper and crisp chardonnay at The Country Kitchen – providore-style restaurant – the first afternoon was spent exploring the property on mountain bikes. Kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos are everywhere. You really do feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney city life and the fresh mountainous air is so healing and nourishing for the soul. There’s no better way to cool off after a bike ride than to laze about in the villa’s private pool. Wolgan Valley is so private and secluded with something incredibly special to support, nourish and nurture your wellbeing. In the evening, we had drinks on the balcony of the main lodge and watched the sun go down over the mountains, as wombats meandered across the green lush landscape. My husband and I indulged in a six-course degustation (venison, scampi, scallops, partridge) with matching wines in the Wolgan dining room at sunset, which was truly spectacular. This culinary world-class dining experience celebrates the food of the region (within one hundred miles) enhanced by a seasonal, regional and organic food philosophy and where possible uses produce from the local Blue Mountains boutique farms, private growers and vintners. The cuisine is prepared with the utmost freshest ingredients right down to the handpicked herbs and array of seasonal and organic vegetables and fruits which are grown on site at the historic 1832 Heritage Homestead and Kitchen Garden. The food was mouth-wateringly to die for, every meal we had (be it a la carte or daily specials) was incredibly delicious full of robust flavours and wholesome goodness. Did I mention the epic cheese platter with the most moreish cheeses, crackers and dried fruits? I ate every mouthful of everything paired with wine.
Waking up for the first time was sublime. Mist gradually rose between the mountain peaks and kangaroos were eager to greet us on our doorstep. We started the day with an invigorating 90-minute yoga class combining breathing, movement and meditation in a sequence of postures on the outdoor deck at the One&Only spa with direct views of the escarpments. I hadn’t attended a yoga class for two years (where did the time go?), so it was wonderful to embrace a class again in such a unique setting. I felt deeply relaxed and re-energised. Breakfast in the dining room is truly beautiful. In the morning, you can see well beyond the cliffs and right through the valley. Throughout the day the mountainous outlook changes constantly – it’s wonderful to witness all the different aspects. I highly recommend The Fresh Wolgan for breakfast – poached eggs, avocado, feta, garden herbs and olives drizzled with olive oil. We spent the rest of the morning swimming and lolling about by the resorts main pool – a haven of tranquillity where the mountain vistas provide the perfect backdrop for relaxation and rejuvenation. In the afternoon, I was treated to a one-on-one personalised wellness consultation with Sodashi’s glowing founder, Megan Larsen. I wasn’t sure what to expect – whether I would be faced with a skin consultation or wellbeing advice and I was pleased to discover the latter. With a unique background in aesthetics, aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Transcendental Meditation, biochemistry and natural healthcare, New Zealand-born Larsen began making her skincare products in Western Australia in the early 1990s setting a benchmark for ethical skincare with no hidden ingredients. Larsen has a deep passion for Ayurveda, and it’s especially evident in her understanding of the Doshas. Just as every snowflake is unique in shape and form, every human has their own blueprint. The word “ayurveda” is translated from Sanskrit to mean “the science of life” and doshas are the three energies, (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) that help shape our own uniqueness and individuality. Knowing your dosha can help you live a healthier, more balanced life. It’s no surprise that Larsen is drawn to this coaching method as the essence of her skincare range, Sodashi, seeks to nurture and celebrate each individual’s unique beauty. As I discovered during our stay every time you use Sodashi, it serves as a reminder that you are beautiful, that you are appreciated and that you are worthy of a nourished life. Sodashi, which in Sanskrit translates to wholeness, purity and radiance, embraces the mind, body and spirit of each person rather than merely the skin. A holistic approach. After an hour consultation, Larsen had uncovered areas to improve my health and wellbeing and the session couldn’t have been more timely for me personally. Larsen explained that the more you love and nurture yourself, the more you attract this into your life. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but when the daily grind (rat race) gets in the way amongst putting others first, running a household and the unpredictable journey of life, it’s very easy to put yourself on the back burner. I thank Larsen for her words of wisdom and guidance – an unforgettable One&Only moment – my anchor of aroma oil personalised for me and daily affirmation which I am repeating 10 times when I try to allocate five minutes to nurture myself. One of my other standout moments was the 90-minute Bushman’s Couples Massage at the standalone Only&Only Spa – a sanctuary of wellbeing that embraces the essence of Wolgan Valley. In this truly unique and calming environment, guests can indulge in the spa experience, choosing from specialised therapies or personalised spa journeys set amongst the pristine beauty of nature. Spa treatments utilise Sodashi products, ensuring each and every treatment is a journey of holistic wellbeing. Sodashi products and therapies are not only found at Wolgan but at some of the world’s most luxurious spas in 25 countries worldwide including the Four Seasons Seychelles and a decade-long partnership with the beautiful Spa at Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris (add to your bucket list). Megan has been involved in the Wolgan Valley journey since its conception eight years ago and together with the Wolgan’s expert therapists has created a collection of results-driven spa experiences to nurture the mind, body and soul; whilst utilising the highest quality plant essences and natural ingredients. The One&Only Spa features six exceptionally private double treatment rooms, each with its own changing area, bathroom, shower and a luxurious Japanese-style soaking tub. Sublime rejuvenation inspired by nature. Be nurtured, escape and regenerate here.
Relax and unwind at the One&Only Spa
Signature horse riding trail ride The Wolgan Valley was made for riding and there is no better way to explore its beautiful hills, creeks and ridgelines than on horseback. We thoroughly enjoyed this scenic two-hour ride, spotted a snake and met a delightful couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, which made for interesting conversation along the way. The horse stables and arena are designed well beyond one’s imagination and the horses are nurtured. Signature Nocturnal Wildlife Tour Heading out in a One&Only 4WD vehicle, this tour provides a memorable opportunity to observe some of Australia’s unique wildlife when they are most active. As the sun goes down, many of their smaller less common animals emerge from their burrows, nests, tree hollows and dens to start foraging and browsing throughout the night. We sighted many wombats. Wolgan Stargazing Talk An opportunity to discover some interesting scientific insights into visible planets stars and even our nearest neighbouring galaxies as well as a combination of mythology and star lore from around the world. Living in a busy city stars can be few and far between so it was very special to see so many clustered together. Hike of the Reserve with a Field Guide The 7,000-acre reserve provides a range of scenic hiking experiences through a diversity of beautiful terrain of curious wildlife and cascading waterfalls. Adventure beckons in the Wolgan Valley so we ventured out at 7am with our knowledge guide (ecologist) via a One&Only 4WD vehicle past herds of hopping kangaroos and wallabies to explore the forest as the sun was rising. A great invigorating way to start the day.