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Photography by Annalisa Bermel/Wild Rice Retreat

Over the past year, I’ve adopted what you might call a Zen lifestyle. With pandemic-related anxiety infiltrating all aspects of my life, I found myself seeking out natural ways to care for my body and mind. For me, that means regular exercise, clean eating and the Wim Hof Method (a breathwork and cold exposure practice). So when Wild Rice Retreat, a secluded wellness destination on the shores of Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin, opened its doors this summer, I knew I had to experience its healing powers.

Although I’ve never been on a wellness retreat before, I’m familiar with the concept (thanks, Gwyneth Paltrow). Wild Rice’s laid-back, personalized approach lets guests curate their individual experience, with an emphasis on movement, nourishment and creative expression. The overall goal here is clear: to ground the mind, body and spirit through integrative and holistic practices.

Photography by Annalisa Bermel/Wild Rice Retreat

When I walked into my RicePod, I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of calm. In addition to seven RicePods set across the 100-acre property, Wild Rice also offers eight private king Nests and four Treehauses, each with four private suites. All boast huge windows, natural wood plank walls, minimalist furnishings and soft textures, making for comfortable accommodations that serve as the center of your stay. The destination pays homage to its predecessor, Mary Rice’s famed James Beard–nominated restaurant, and features stunning structures designed by Duluth architect David Salmela.

With no screens of any kind in guest quarters, there was no pressure to be “on” during my stay. After all, I was here to recharge. I plopped down on the bed, took a few deep breaths and thought to myself, Now I can unwind. And boy did I unwind.

I was able to hit pause on life for a weekend and slept better than I had in months on the plushy cloud of a bed. I found peace in my afternoons alone, able to read a book for hours and quietly reflect on where life has taken me. I ventured out to the Brownstone Trail that runs behind the property along Lake Superior to downtown Bayfield. I immersed myself in the luxury of slowing down with some yoga sessions. Come evenings, I relaxed at the Sanctuary, hopping back and forth between the heat of the Sauna Haus and the cold of the Rain Room. It felt like a physical cleanse of the stress and toxins that had been built up in my body for a long time.

Photography by Corey Gaffer

It was a treat to dine at NOVO, where I had the best food I’ve ever tasted. Chef Dustin Thompson (or Food Wizard, as I like to call him) was able to accommodate my dietary preferences, delivering creative and delicious fare. I noshed on dishes like crispy, spring-dug sunchokes with black garlic aioli; nettle and cashew agnolotti with wood-roasted mushrooms, peas and nasturtium; and rice pudding with blackberries, coconut shavings and maple syrup.

My escape to Wild Rice helped me find my center again. The destination’s back-to-basics approach might seem simple, but it’s a far cry from our everyday lives. My wellness retreat allowed me to reconnect with nature and purpose so I could return to my life in Minneapolis with a full cup, ready to be my best, most authentic self, both for my loved ones and for myself. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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