Accessed by a private charter flight and located on the Great Barrier Reef, Essentia Day Spa is Australia’s northernmost spa and the only one in Lizard Island National Park, a secluded wilderness boasting private beaches, a marine research station and the 40-room Lizard Island Resort. Renowned as one of the world’s best island destinations, the hideaway was also on the shortlist of honeymoon options for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
With a resort-guests-only policy, Essentia is in the unusual position of having a captive audience, yet needing to convince them to add to a schedule that may already include snorkeling, hiking, boating and beaching. Roughly 30 percent of spa guests book treatments prior to arrival, thanks to a reservations team that helps personalize activities. To entice the rest, wellness offerings are listed on the resort’s daily calendar, which is distributed in all guestrooms alongside spa menus. A promotional video also plays in the lobby and on guestroom TVs, showcasing creative specials. “I’ve found that most island resort spa bookings are spur-of-the-moment decisions,” says spa and boutique manager Lacey Kerr, who has operated spas at several other remote properties. “Once they try us, 25 to 35 percent book a second appointment.”
Employees must live on-site in shared housing, with five-day shore breaks once every two months, which attracts a young and adventurous workforce. “I make sure applicants understand how remote we are, with no phone reception,” says Kerr. Yet Essentia enjoys a remarkably low turnover, retaining highly experienced employees for years. Since staff can’t travel to the mainland for continuing education, trainers come to the island twice a year. Therapists also share techniques with one another, and pitch ideas for services and improvements. “We do a lot of teambuilding activities outside of work,” adds Kerr. Gathering for sunset wine and snacks is a favorite way for staff to bond and unwind.
Essentia offers a range of massages, facials and body treatments to pamper clients and rehydrate their skin after sun and sea adventures. Island Essence (60 min./$107) begins with a Himalayan salt foot soak and scrub in island water that’s been purified 10 times. A back, neck and shoulder massage follows. Hot booties then activate a hydrating foot mask while the therapist performs a relaxing scalp massage, finishing with a hair mask. The once-daily Hibiscus Beach Massage (60 min./$370) whisks a couple away on a short boat ride to a secluded beach for side-by-side al fresco service, with champagne and a gourmet picnic. But the most popular offering is the classic Swedish Massage (60 min./$88; 90 min./$133).
French brand La Biosthétique is used exclusively for treatments and retail. Top sellers come from its Dermosthétique line of holistic antiaging skin care, and sun worshippers also love the Soleil waterproof SPF 50+ and moisturizing Activateur de Bronzage tanning booster.
Location: Lizard Island National Park, Queensland, Australia
Owner: Delaware North
Opened: Reopened in late 2015, following a $45 million renovation
The Space: 4,000 square feet with 3 treatment rooms (1 single, 1 couple’s villa, 1 Vichy hydrotherapy room), manicure and pedicure room, freshwater pool and sundeck, seaside yoga pavilion, relaxation lounge and boutique
Staff: 1 spa director, 4 dual-certified beauty and massage therapists, 1 spa associate
–by Vicki Arkoff