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Autumn Mooney is a photographer/photo editor & travel writer based in Sydney, Australia. Having worked in glossy magazines in Sydney, London, Dubai and Singapore, the charm of wanderlust continues with reviewsinternational.com
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A visit to Splash Day Spa on Australia's Gold Coast is a purely indulgent way to escape a bustling world; immersing yourself for a few hours in a cosy, underground oasis. Below Surfers Paradise, you can let your body and mind be restored...
There are two entrances to Splash; one is off the mall of Chevron Renaissance, and the other (is the entrance I prefer,) hidden lower than street level, so you feel like you're entering a secluded and sacred den - exclusive to those ‘in the know.'
Walking into the reception, complete with sparkling chandelier, a premonition of glamorous pampering is definitely hard to avoid. Infamous Dermalogica products adorn the walls and a friendly receptionist offers a large comfy lounge area to rest in, followed by a tour of the Spa. Grant Robinson, who runs the spa, has recently returned from Dubai (home of the 5 star Spa experience) - an influence that is noticeable when glancing around the Spa in the luxurious detailing throughout the dimly lit bathhouse. The Spa boasts temperature plunge pools, massage-jet hydrotherapy pools, large steam rooms and sauna, pampering rooms for massage and facials, and a lounge bar with complimentary tea and healthy nibbles, if you fancy. Beauty treatments and enhancements are on offer in the Splash clinic. The change rooms are equipped with everything a 5 star hotel Spa would provide - gown, slippers, chilled lemon water for the day and preparation products to help you return to the real world later, like hair dryer and products.
I arrived early and spent some time rejuvenating in the heat and weightlessness of a 38 degree pool, (fyi official relaxation temperature) and sauna. I held my breath and attempted the cold pool in between, for the circulation health benefits from rapid temperature change- it's a definite pick-me-up.
Time passed too quickly and I was called for my renewing facial. Led into a facial room, resting upon comfortably cushioned table, and listening to the soothing sounds of trendy Norah Jones, the therapist embarked on 55 minutes of face therapy. Dermalogica products cleansed me, and micro-exfoliated my skin. Any pain from extractions was forgotten with a flowing neck and shoulder massage using oil-free massage balm. A hand massage (you get to choose hand or feet) took away my tension, and a multi vitamin power mask worked it's magic while a heavenly head massage finished the treatment - much to the opposition of my mind and body which could have stayed in the blissful facial trance forever....
My verdict: If Surfers Paradise is party city central, then Splash Day Spa is definitely where I'd take myself to rest the next day.
Q1 Spa in Surfers Paradise, on Australia's famed Gold Coast boasts the indigenous inspired Mali Mapi mud treatment and exfoliation. Which, if I didn't know better, was the real meaning of the word "dreamtime..."
On a rainy summer's day I found myself aimlessly wandering Surfers Paradise's urban jungle - through busy streets chock of fast paced business suits, designer shoppers and daytime neon lights. My destination: the Q1 building. Aka: ‘The Tallest Building in the Southern Hemisphere' as any local will proudly recite, following with it would have been ‘the world,' but Dubai trumped that idea.' In fact Q1 is the 25th tallest building in the world, higher than the NYC Chrysler, and I am impressed it would be compared to the Burj Khalifa, having before stared up at the colossal tower, wondering if Jack threw his magic beans into the foundation cement - it's that high!
So to get my bearings, I glanced up. Glistening through rainclouds was a bright white spire piercing the heavens above a skyline of scrapers. It was a magnificent sight and I scanned my eyes to the building attached. 322.5m is noticeably not as high as the Burj Khalifa of 828m. Perhaps no vertigo feeling will hit you on sight, but you will definitely feel a sense of international glamour. To be precise, I was entering an award-winning Spa.
Pettina, the manager, warmly greeted me and directed the way to an exclusive change room, complete with private shower and WC. With robe and slippers provided for the day, I was escorted to a soothing Jacuzzi for bubble soaking before my treatment began. The warm temperature and back-massaging jets immediately lifted any stress. Time vanished, I was escorted to a treatment room where massage therapist Fi introduced herself and described what the Mali Mapi experience was all about.
Fi tells me a female pharmacist, having studied native Australian flaura and fauna befriended a female indigenous elder and together they established the brand Li' Tya. Meaning ‘of the earth' Li'Tya's signature mud treatments, exfoliating salt scrubs and Australian native bush essential oils have been inspired by and created in harmony with traditional aboriginal cleansing rituals. Together they have presented this to the world, and Q1 proudly represent the products in all spa treatments.
Fi holds out a palette of purifying body mud and lemon myrtle desert salt samples, detailing the benefits of each, and I get to make my selection. Every treatment at Q1 Spa begins with a smoke ritual, where burning leaves give off an aroma of whatever you select. There is no foul burning smell, more an incensing aroma enveloping and immediately creating a calming bush-like atmosphere.
My feet are cleansed in warm, scented water. Heated oil is expertly massaged into my ligaments. I chose the detoxifying salt, which is hydro active and rubbed into my skin to rid dead cells, working on balance and purification. I have the option of a hand or foot massage, and I choose hands. The mud is painted onto my body and I am cocooned in a thermal cloth, while my pores absorb nutrients. The mud is deeply cleansing, and grounds my toxic system. While a regenerating Australian native peach hair mask is massaged into my scalp, my mind too easily picks up on calming music where I recognized faint kookaburras laughing. A female indigenous accent is mixed to modern soothing instrumental sounds on the soundtrack. Breathing in gum scented air, and am transported to the muddy banks of a lost lagoon where life stands still for a moment. I am purified, cozy and feel completely free from the world outside. I also can't help imagining life on earth 40,000 years ago, and the indigenous cleansing rituals before an important night. Next up is Vichy shower time, where water drops emulating rainwater is set to 38 degrees temp, and washes away the mud. 60 minutes have passed too quickly. I am robed, and led upstairs to the Relaxation room with detox tea and quiet time.
I float out of my ‘dreamtime' into the real world... Concrete streets again, damn - take me back to Q1 Spa please!
Australia's Gold Coast is famous for neon lights, stripclubs, and for being an overall bling-tacky-bling city, so finding the Verve Restaurant with a charm and sophistication completely opposite takes me unaware, and reminds me that stereotypes are always fun when broken.
Nestled in the backstreets of Broadbeach Waters, the Verve eatery is situated in an area just far enough from the main drag to see distant flashing lights, and quiet enough to be a surprising elegant delight for passers by. From a dark pathway outside, I look in through an open-air window to a vibrant hub of a warm glowing atmosphere, buzzing with energy. Friends are chatting together after post-work days, and colleagues laughing into the night in pleasantly small groups. Charismatic tungstens highlight a slightly oriental décor; I'd call it ‘cosy-mod.' Deep ruby red walls, trendy bamboo lightshades, a central wooden Buddhahead art peice, and the comfortable feeling that comes from wooden tables and a pure white candlelit table setting. The dining area is large enough to absorb group energy, at the rear is the bar, and behind this an open window previewing the kitchen, where Chef and staff are hard at work creating fine delicacies for the evening.
Shelly Greaves, the welcoming owner, smiles a lot; she is happy. Greaves tells me reservations are recommended here, as the place has become not such a best-kept-secret. Glancing at a wall adorned with awards, I can imagine that would be so. From the wine list I sip my Ferngrove Merlot (byo is allowed) and read that the Restaurant and Caterers Association 2009 gave The Verve an accolade for Best Informal Dining. Head Chef Jay Jorgensen won the Gold Coast Signature Dish twice, and this is proudly displayed along the walls, beside about ten other winning and finalist certificates.
On presentation of a modern cuisine menu (European principles with Asian influences,) I spy fresh oysters for starters; always a safe choice when close to the sea - which I am by about 500 metres. I can feel the salt in the air.
For Entrée I order pan seared scallops, which are indeed succulent, however my vote goes to my guests choice; Ricotta, Pea and Pistachio Dumplings - Ooh the words makes my mouth deliciously water, this entrée truly is divinity in a dumpling. My dinner guest does well choosing a main from the recently updated menu; Market fish. This arrives as a serving of scallop and bacon boudin blanc, with du puy lentils, soy beans, kombu and tomato froth selection - simply delectable (I taste this as well, it's my duty). I believe I choose the winning course; roasted duck breast. All the soft pieces of meat are tempura-ed together into a brick - no bones. Rare-cooked slices are layered on plate. Potato is pressed into a cube of palate ecstasy, then cinnamon orange and cardamom poached pear pieces accompany the duck, and jus gras juices complement everything on my plate.
The desserts were too hard to decide upon, so we shared Coverture white chocolate bavarois with cherry sauce and flambé Italian meringue, and Roasted Stone fruit with passion fruit glace and chrysanthemum flower syrup. Melting in mouths. There is a cheese board listing 8-10 cheeses from around the world, but we are too full...
The Verve is a Sophisticated award winning restaurant, reasonably priced for a fine dining experience. I would recommend this eatery to anyone who wants to live in the now, unwind in a happy, vibrant atmosphere, listen to suave sounds and laughter, be reminded that life is good, food exists for pleasure and restaurants exist to remind us of that - well, this one certainly does.
Byron Bay on Australia's noth coast of NSW is considered the country's yoga capital due to the the many yogi's who flock to the area seeking sun, surf, health and like minded people. Incorporating yoga into your own holiday will rejuvenate your soul, and Bikram yoga is worth looking into. It's a hard, sweaty class, but the health benfits are numerous and the after glow is guaranteed, as is the happiness that comes with having successfully lasted a 90 minute workout.
The Byron holiday package includes unlimited yoga classes for one or two weeks, with option of three classes a day. There is plenty of accommodation nearby which you'll need to arrange yourself. The studio resides opposite a beach (in summer a swim after class will be your life saver.) Byron Bay is one of Australia's most holistic destinations for the health conscious traveller. Aura and psychic readings, massage, organic foods and naturopaths are in abundance and all part of a chic hippy culture. The town is full of trendy cafes, outdoor pubs and activities like surf lessons, and kayaking. Whale watching whilst on a bushwalk up to the lighthouse is not to be missed.