A steep forested escarpment snaked along the horizon as we headed up the gravel road, past apple-green fields severed by woodland and a dilapidated shack. It was spectacular country and heartening to think that our destination, Ruah Rainforest Retreat, was in such a place. Up, up we went, to the end of the road and it soon became clear why this premier Mt Warning accommodation is a haven to both explorers and those looking to truly unwind.
Stepping from our car, my partner and I were greeted with pebbles and rose-coloured walls adorned with lush foliage, lanterns, carved birds and pretty pots. Up the steps was a doorway framing a Buddha head and striking views over the hinterland. Tracey, our co-host, welcomed us, then departed and my partner remarked how she had good vibes, which were to linger for the remainder of our stay.
Tracey’s partner and co-owner of the retreat, Gary, was likewise relaxed and friendly and he showed us around the place which was both homely and pretty. Located in the stunning town of Chillingham in NSW, near the NSW/QLD border, Ruah Rainforest Retreat boasts views over nearby Mt Warning (Wollumbin) to the south and the Tweed Valley to the ocean in the east.
Situated on a corner, our room contained a medieval-style bed with burgundy and beige curtains. There’s a small chiller on the bench, a table, chairs and a spa. Big enough for two (just), the spa comes with Epsom salts and views over kelly-green ferns and forested mountains. As you might imagine, it’s a superb spot to relax and lap it all up, particularly at night as the stars here are so vivid.
Our room also had access to a private, capacious balcony with wonderful views over the nearby Cougals which stretched all the way to the sea in Kingscliff. Throwing my bags down, I stepped onto the balcony and took it all in for a few moments before exploring the rest of the property.
The common areas
Wandering about with my camera, I bumped into Gary, who suggested we have a glass of wine on the main balcony. Moments later I found myself strolling through the lounge area, which is large and cosy. Here there’s a kitchen where a row of large wooden hands lie waiting to caress your buttocks, lounge chairs, books and a warm fire. Being a little high up, it can get a tad nippy here outside of summer, particularly at night.
A little about the place
Gary is a naturally warm host who does bush regeneration on the property, hosts rainforest walks further up the mountain and is keen to discuss any history of the area. He and Tracey have owned the retreat for five years and a significant aspect of Ruah – which means breath, or spirit in Hebrew – is Balance the Body with Intent, Tracey’s business which she runs from the property.
A qualified vibrational medicine and holistic health therapies practitioner, Tracey has people flocking from all over for her healing, which she has become renown for. Ruah offers guests a package including meals, accommodation, massages, aromatherapy spa, allergy testing, vibrational kinesiology and acupressure. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to experience Tracey’s magic, although I can attest to the overall feel of the retreat, which my partner and I found very comfortable. We felt truly at home here.
Ruah Rainforest Retreat is also eco-oriented as it utilises solar power for lighting and hot water, as well as fresh rainwater which is distributed throughout the property.
After having a good chat with Gary, my partner and I joined another couple staying at the retreat for a succulent roast dinner and red wine by the fire. It was a night of good conversation and as I’ve been busy of late, it was the first time in a while I felt like I was travelling again. It was one of those spontaneously fine evenings and our meal concluded with several roasted marshmallows.
The next morning I managed to haul myself out of bed for sunrise (I’m not a morning person) and it was well worth it, seeing forested peaks tinted gold above mist that lingered in the valley. After enjoying a hearty breakfast and catching up on some work from our balcony, I met Gary, who gave me a map and we explored the property’s forest.
The forest – which is replete with strangler figs, a giant gympie stinger, moss-covered boulders, yellow carrabeens, dappled light and a cornucopia of forest aromas – is a marvellous place to explore. My partner and I followed Gary’s crude sketch which marked several worthy sites. I managed to spot them all, helped largely by the landmark of a bee hive that buzzed in the warm sunlight 50 feet up a tree.
Things to do
- Relax and enjoy the views and wonderful vibe – an integral part of Ruah Rainforest Retreat.
- Enjoy a read from the retreat’s library.
- Explore the retreat’s forest wonders, which offer a summit climb for the more adventurous.
- Experience Tracey’s holistic healing magic.
- Visit nearby Bushrangers Cave – a place I’d recently explored which lies roughly 500 metres from the retreat (as the crow flies).
- Climb nearby Mt Warning – located roughly 30 minutes drive from the retreat, Mt Warning offers spectacular views and is the first place in mainland Australia to see the winter sun (Cape Howe takes the honour in summer).
- Explore the creek along Couchy Creek Road – which is accessible just before you turn into Ruah Rainforest Retreat (if you’re coming from the south).
- Experience the wonders of the Natural Bridge – which lies just over the border (down the road) in Springbrook.
Things to know
- Ruah Rainforest Retreat is located in Chillingham, which is roughly an hour’s drive from both Byron Bay and the Gold Coast and an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Brisbane.
- The retreat contains three double suites (one of which we stayed in) and two family suites, which sleep seven. Each suite is equipped with a bathroom, spa and private balcony with views over the rainforest and/or Tweed Valley.
- Prices start at $165 per night for a double suite (breakfast included), while a family suite costs $220 per night. Dinner is also available.
- Gary and Tracey take on woofers and backpackers looking for work.
- Ruah Rainforest Retreat offers a physical/emotional balance package for 2 days/3 nights.
For more information, check out Ruah Rainforest Retreat’s website.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay at the retreat for review purposes, however all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.