Gurney’s Montauk Retreat with Fern Olivia: A Recap

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If you follow me on Instagram, you have likely seen lots of photos popping up from my time at Gurney’s Resort & Spa last weekend for Fern Olivia’s wellness retreat. While the projected forecast left a lot to be desired, it turned out to be a nice weekend after all—with only intermittent showers and overcast skies.

My day began with a just under two hour drive out to Montauk, which may not sound ideal, but once you make it out to the Hamptons the serene surroundings make driving a pleasure. Each time I head out East I always relish the slower pace of life that you begin to encounter. The East End of Long Island has a noticeably different feel from the rest of the Island—and is a completely different animal when compared to New York City. Regardless, I embrace the leisurely drivers, the windmills that I pass along the way, and the sense of excitement that overcomes me when I begin to see water on the horizon.

Hampton Coffee Company

Mornings out East for me always begin with a stop at the Hampton Coffee Company in Southampton, irrespective of my final destination. There, I ordered an iced coffee and chocolate croissant for the road before continuing on for the remaining 45 minute drive out to Montauk.

The last time I was at Gurney’s was for a friend’s Sweet Sixteen party, so you could say it has been a while. I had heard that the resort had undergone some recent renovations, so I was excited to see what the establishment looked like today. As I drove down the hilly Old Montauk Highway after breaking away from the long, straight stretch of Sunrise Highway, I instantly felt like I had departed from mainland Long Island. The rolling landscape gave way to spectactular views—which are absent on my daily commute.

When I arrived at Gurney’s, I was greeted by a valet who parked my car…and waited patiently as I tried to stuff fifty outfit changes and four pairs of shoes (none of which I wore) into a single weekender bag. Once in the lobby at Gurney’s I stood for a moment, silently taking in the breathtaking panoramic views.

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Erica, who works with Fern, came to take me to the morning’s first activity—yoga in a studio overlooking the ocean. There, I met the other participants who would be joining us for the day. As I took a seat on my mat I felt an immense sense of gratitude. I was grateful that Fern had included me in this retreat; for the beautiful space that I would be practing in that morning; and to be surrounded by a room full of wellness warriors.

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The yoga class was restorative in every way, and before I knew it, the hour and a half class was over. Next it was time for brunch. Despite having had a bite to eat on my way there in the morning, I had worked up an appetite after yoga. Gurney’s put out quite a buffet spread—eggs, bacon, pastries—you name it, they had. And if they didn’t, you could order it.

After our delicious brunch and getting acquainted with everyone, I knew that the beach was going to be my next stop. I had been eyeing the soft sand since I arrived and was just waiting for the weather to improve before venturing out.

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Beach, Montauk, NY

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The moody skies briefly gave way to some sun. I wasn’t sure which direction to head first and felt as though I could just walk along the shore for miles. Concerned that I would miss out on the next activity—spa time—I stayed fairly close to the resort. In between taking copious amounts of beach photos, dipping my toes into the somewhat frigid water, and finding some driftwood to sit on and take a rest, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would have rather been that day.

Fern and I made plans to hit the sauna at 1 pm. I hurried back to the room and changed before walking over to the spa area for a sweat session. Gurney’s spa was a happening place that day, with women waiting for their treatments, but it didn’t feel crowded. The atmosphere was relaxing and inviting—the perfect setting for pampering.

The dry heat of the sauna felt good after being out on the windy beach. After the sauna, we spent 20 minutes in the steam room, before freshening up and heading to our next event of the day.

Despite bringing enough outfits to live in Montauk through the summer, I forgot to pack my makeup bag so I could touch up as needed throughout the day. I was fully expecting my new Armani Silk Foundation to be running down my face after the sauna and steam room, but to my surprise it actually held up well.

Our last official item on the day’s itinerary was a natural beauty workshop. We sat out near the beach club on a deck overlooking the water. Fern started off the discussion by asking what beauty meant to each of us. While I can’t remember my answer verbatim, the definition of beauty has changed for me. As a 30-year-old cancer survivor, beauty to me is no longer about wearing a ton of makeup—something I had embraced throughout most of my twenties. Today, I am proud to show the imperfections in my skin, skip makeup entirely when running errands, and wear lighter foundations with fewer ingredients. Beauty to me is being happy with the person I see in the mirror because I know that true beauty is within and radiates out. I am happy and healthy, and that makes me feel beautiful every day.

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Fern then discussed her line of essential oils, which I have incorporated into my own beauty routine since first meeting her last year. Her Ajai Alchemy line is made with therapeutic grade ingredients and each blend is blessed with the Ajai Alai sound current. I have been using Grace Alchemy, an essential oil with Egyptian rose geranium, patchouli, and Australian sandalwood for a year now, and I feel like it is my signature scent. In January, during another of Fern’s events, I purchased a bottle of her Solar Sun Protect. During the cooler months, I wear it on my cheeks over my highlighter for that dewy glow. But during the summer, I plan on applying it under my makeup to give my skin a little extra protection from the sun.

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As the evening began to wind down, the weather turned cool and rainy. But the night couldn’t end without celebrating our beautiful Fern’s birthday. In honor of her special day, I brought her some of my favorite fudge from Chocology (thanks, Chocology!). They make their fudge with Belgium chocolate and goat’s milk, so I knew Fern would enjoy the sweet treat. We returned to the room for celebratory drinks and reminisced about how we all felt like we were back in college hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms.

When the weekend concluded, I felt like a kid leaving summer camp. Monday’s post about community over competition was inspired by the women I met and the friends I made at the retreat. Their positive energy and ambition surely rubbed off on me, and after doing yoga with Fern, I left with a renewed outlook on my health, this space on the internet, and on my future as a creative entrepreneur. I left the retreat knowing that I was moving ahead in the right direction, feeling inspired to continue with my yoga practice, and loving the life I was building.

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If you are looking for a resort out East, I highly recommend a stay at Gurney’s. The resort is like a peaceful oasis, and you can’t beat the balcony views and direct access to the beach. Gurney’s has every amenity you could ever wish for—a spa, an indoor and outdoor pool, and delicious meals—all with great views of the ocean. Leaving was no easy feat. I wish I could have stayed out there forever!

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A special thank you to Fern Olivia for having me out at the retreat and for sharing her birthday with us. And lots of love to Erica, Megan, Sari, and Suzie for making this incredible day even more special!