Long-known for its free-loving-spirit community and surf culture, the northern NSW coastal town of Byron Bay now has a sheen of coastal glamour that attracts all – from the rich and the insta-famous to backpackers and families. Here are four accommodation options, whether you’re there to spend big or stay on budget.
One of the town’s premier destinations – and a prime spot for the rich and famous – is Raes on Wategos Beach. The Spanish-mission inspired building was built in the 1970s for Ruth Harris, an eccentric local restaurateur known as “the Queen of Byron Bay”. It’s rumoured that surrealist painter and family friend Salvador Dali designed its garden and pool.
The hotel has two penthouses and five suites, some of which look out to the ocean and nearby Cape Byron Lighthouse on the easternmost point of Australia. Famed Melbourne designer Lucy Folk, known for her whimsical and beachy prints, was commissioned to create many of the textiles you will see at Raes. The white-washed walls and archways of the hotel are accented by the lush pot plants and artworks by Byron Bay artists. The bathrooms are stocked with amenities from organic Australian skincare brand Aesop. Everything is simple, but elegant, and let’s the surrounds speak for itself.
The service is warm and welcoming, without being intrusive. The intimate setting allows the staff to get to know your name, how you take your coffee and, by the evening, your favourite pre-dinner cocktail.
The day spa is a total retreat and uses skincare products from cult Italian beauty brand Santa Maria Novella, which has its roots in the apothecary talents of the Dominican monks of the 13th century.
In the sumptuous Raes Dining Room, head chef Jason Saxby demonstrates a flair for Italian cooking with local ingredients, as seen in the Queensland tropical lobster in XO bisque with heirloom polenta and native lime. For something more casual, try the crumbed local snapper sandwich from the Cellar Bar.
Cost: from $650 (low season) and from $1000 (high season) per night
The Atlantic Byron Bay
For something that won’t break the bank, the stylish Atlantic Byron Bay is right in the heart of the town. It’s perfect if you’re planning to spend your days at the beach, hiking or shopping for local homewares and crafts.
The Atlantic is a group of beach houses which are divided into ensuite rooms with a large shared garden and lap pool. The rooms come in four different themes which are all light, bright. The Cabana is a chilled-out surf shack; in The Classic you’ll find lovely leather chairs and kitsch ornaments; the West Elm Bungalow has groovy mosaic tiles and beautiful crisp linen; and The Tropical rooms have their own private outdoor showers among the palms.
All suites are fitted with king-size beds, en-suites are stocked with Grown Alchemist products, TVs, air-conditioning and every guest also gets free wi-fi.
The best thing about The Atlantic, if you are planning a longer stay in Byron, is that it comes with a shared indoor and outdoor living area if you want to cook your own meals with the local produce.
Each room is assigned, in the communal space, a pantry basked as well as fridge space in the open kitchen. The open-air dining table encourages socialising with your fellow guests and it almost has an upscale backpacker feel. You’ll find that most of the people you encounter at The Atlantic, are super-chilled and friendly.
For guests wanting to try surfing Byron’s renowned swell, The Atlantic provides surfboards. If you didn’t bring your own beach gear, you can borrow things like beach umbrellas and towels. Otherwise, if you want to explore the town, The Atlantic has a few Tokyo bikes that you can use. They’ll also provide a handy map and guide of hidden cafes, bars and restaurants.
Cost: from $200 per night
For something intimate, Barbara’s Guesthouse is a five-minute walk over the train tracks from the centre of Byron Bay. Set in the quiet residential streets of town, the accommodation is only a 10-minute stroll to some of Byron’s best beaches like Belongil and Main.
Owner and interior designer Virginia, has turned this house, built in 1902 into something really special. In typical Byron fashion, the house is filled with beach inspired ornaments mixed with retro furniture like Tolix metal chairs. She’s refitted the house with wooden floors, cane lamps and red and white textiles that accent the crisp white tones of the rooms.
There’s a warm atmosphere with lots of communal spaces including a lounge area and a back terrace garden. To add to the tranquillity of the outdoor area, there is a gurgling fountain, a swing chair, and an outdoor shower where you can wash the sea salt away.
While no food is served at Barbara’s, the communal kitchen is equipped with a coffee machine, breakfast items as well as a fridge which you can stock your own supplies. Breakfast is the only time you’re allowed to use the cooker, but the staff will stock the larder with artisanal loaves, fruit, cereals, eggs and spreads.
There are plenty of DVDs and games if you wish to spend your days relaxing at Barbara’s. And the added bonus – the staff also offer laundry service.
The chalkboard out the front will tell you which of the five rooms you are staying in. They are comfortable in size and come with robes and toiletries. The King Room 3 is at the front of the house and offers guests a view of the front garden. The room comes with a sumptuous king bed which can be turned into two singles, and a contemporary bathroom. If you are staying for a while, the studio-style Premium Room comes with a small lounge as well as a kitchenette where you’ll find a fridge, toaster, kettle and microwave.
Cost: $150 per night
If you’re looking for something a little different, near the lighthouse you’ll find a treehouse nestled in the forest that surrounds Wategos Beach. The Wategos Treehouse is a romantic getaway and is perfect for couples that want to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of the Byron township.
While it’s not technically in a tree, the lush surrounds make you feel like you’re staying in the canopy of Byron’s rainforests. The timber house was built in 1977 and has a lovely open plan layout so guests feel immersed in their surrounds.
The house is simply and cosy. And it’s designed for only two people. The living area, or Lover’s Lounge, as the owners have fondly called it, has a TV and a red chaise for cuddling and canoodling. The lounge also has a large library of books and DVDs for nights spent in.
There is also a small dining table which is leads into the kitchenette, which comes equipped with a microwave, electric wok and a two-burner hot plate.
But the best part about the Treehouse Studio is the terrace which looks out through the trees. It’s a quiet retreat away from the main town, but it’s a short five-minute walk if you want to try some of the local restaurants and bars.
Cost: from $300 per night