On cue for a dose of health and wellbeing

Jennifer Ennion, AAP Travel Writer

When it comes to boxing yourself into a manic sweat on a Sydney beach, after 45 seconds you'll want to throw in the towel.

Of course, you're not given that option. Instead, you'll be ordered to reef your personal trainer into your knee with as much force as possible.

You'll then be commanded to jog on soft sand, drop for some push-ups and then rise to lift weights.

It's all very exhausting but that's the point. No one signs up to boot camp for a skip in the park. And the girls from Prioritize Fitness know this.

On a sunny afternoon on Manly's Quarantine Beach they drill me until my muscles ache and my water bottle's dry.

My mum's in the same boat, despite attempting to bail 30 minutes in. After a series of lunges she calls it quits but after a quick sip of water she's back down on a yoga mat doing sit-ups. I'm impressed.

It's the first boot camp session for both of us - ever - and we've decided to give it a go on our first-ever mother-daughter weekend away.

We're at Q Station in Sydney Harbour National Park, North Head, and have signed up for the Health and Wellness package.

The boot-camp session is part of the package. It's meant to be for 30 minutes but our personal trainers must have decided we need the workout, as we go for an hour. Despite the pain, the adrenalin is pumping afterwards and we reward ourselves with cold Coronas back in our Q Station cottage.

But we're not done yet.

Over our three-day stay we also hit the water on stand-up paddleboards.

Thankfully, we're dropped on the harbour side of Manly and the only waves we have to tackle are the wake of the ferries and speed boats.

The flat water is the perfect introduction for mum, who's quite happy in a kayak but has never had to worry about balancing on a board.

She takes to it with ease. Leaving Manly Kayak Centre's wharf pontoon kneeling on her board she quickly progresses to her feet.

During an hour she falls only once and although it's an impressive belly-flop, she comes up laughing. It's a lovely mother-daughter moment and one we chuckle about again over cocktails at dinner.

At Q Station's Boilerhouse Harbourside Restaurant we reward ourselves for all our hard work, settling in for an evening of indulgence.

For entree, the sweet chilli prawns with coconut and mango are delicious, as is the salt and pepper soft shell crab.

The baked chicken breast on a bed of sun-dried tomato risotto with tomato butter is a delectable main. So too is the crispy pan-roasted barramundi.

When it's time for dessert we deem it well-deserved and quickly consume passionfruit panna cotta.

Utterly bloated but extremely content, we attempt one last bout of exercise before bed by forgoing the retreat's night-time shuttle and scaling the 234 steps to our cottage.

Once there, we collapse into our beds and have a restful sleep ahead of more adventure.

Bike riding along Manly's foreshore is a lovely way to see the popular surf spot - passing beach volleyball courts, sunbathers and diners.

When the path runs out at Queenscliff we retrace our route down to quaint Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve.

It's here we catch our breath and soak up some rays, as we watch snorkellers bob about near the rocky point.

Recent rain means we have to postpone our own snorkelling adventure, but we learn the area is popular with wobbegong and Port Jackson sharks. You can also expect to see Eastern Blue groupers, cuttlefish and squid.

The EcoTreasures tours are held at Shelly Beach (at the reserve) or Quarantine Beach, and we make a mental note to come again.

For now though, we return our bikes and head back to Q Station, where we cap off our fitness weekend with a national park bushwalk followed by a cheese platter and a glass of red.

It's just the right blend of health and wellness we're after.


GETTING THERE: Q Station is on 36 hectares of Sydney Harbour National Park at North Head. It is located at the end of North Head Scenic Drive and is 35 minutes from Sydney's centre and five minutes from Manly Beach.

The retreat can be reached by car, with parking available at the entrance to the site. Driving is not permitted onsite, however shuttle buses are available.

Buses (No.135) operate between Manly Wharf and Q Station (13 15 00) and the Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper ferry operates from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay to Quarantine Wharf five times a day (www.sydneyharbourecohopper.com.au).

STAYING THERE: The property was formerly Sydney's Quarantine Station between 1833 to 1984. Accommodation includes restored heritage guest rooms and suites with harbour and garden views.

There are six self-contained cottages, great for groups, and the property also has wheelchair accessible facilities.

For information Tel: (02) 9466 1500 or visit www.qstation.com.au.

PLAYING THERE: Q Station's Health and Wellness package is a new addition to the retreat. It includes a two-hour yoga session with Skye Baird from Skye Lifestyle, one-hour stand-up paddleboard hire, two-hour bicycle hire, a 90-minute guided snorkelling session and a 30-minute boot camp (as well as accommodation and breakfast).

The package costs $580 midweek and $620 on the weekend (conditions apply).

For more information on the individual activities:

- Manly Bike Tours; Tel: (02) 8005 7368 or www.manlybiketours.com.au.

- Manly Kayak Centre; 1300 529 257 or www.manlykayakcentre.com.au. It costs $20 to hire a stand-up paddleboard for one hour and from $50 per person for a group SUP lesson (3 or more people).

- Boot camp with Prioritize Fitness; www.prioritizefitness.com.au.

- Yoga; www.skyelifestyle.com.au.

- Snorkelling with EcoTreasures; Tel: 0415 121 648 or www.ecotreasures.com.au.

Other activities offered at Q Station include high tea at Boilerhouse Harbourside Restaurant, night-time ghost tours and day tours of the grounds, and self-guided bushwalking. The retreat will also soon be adding SUP and kayak hire from Quarantine Beach.

*The writer travelled as a guest of Accor and Q Station