The northern NSW coastal town of Byron Bay was once known for its free-loving spirit community and surf culture.
But the town’s pristine beaches, trail hikes through the tranquil rainforest and marine life have attracted the rich and famous. Aussie heartthrob Chris Hemsworth and his stunning wife, Spanish actress Elsa Pataky have set up camp in the hills of Byron Bay and there are dozens of Instagrammers that ascend during the summer months. We find four ways that you can stay in this beloved NSW beach town whether you’re there to spend big or on a budget.
Rae’s at Wategos
One of the town’s premier destinations, a prime spot for the rich and famous is the revamped Rae’s at Wategos. Just steps away from Wategos Beach, the Mediterranean inspired hotel is the closest landmark to Cape Byron Lighthouse, the easternmost point of Australia. The Spanish-mission inspired building was built in the 60s by Ruth Harris and served as her home. It’s even rumoured that her friend, surrealist painter, Salvador Dali designed her garden.
The hotel has one expansive villa, two penthouses and four suites, some of which look out to the ocean and the lighthouse. Famed Melbourne designer Lucy Folk, known for her whimsical and beachy prints, was commissioned to create some of the textiles you will find at Rae’s. The white-washed walls and archways of the hotel are accented by the pot plants and artwork from selected Byron Bay artists. The bathrooms are stocked with high-end and 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. Because of the size of Rae’s, the intimate settings allow the staff to get to know your name, how you take your coffee in the mornings, and you pre-dinner cocktails by the evening.
The day spa is an absolute retreat, and it is the only place in Australia which uses the ancient spa line, Santa Maria Novella. The products are based on healing rituals used by Italian pharmacists.
The food in the main dining room of Rae’s is sumptuous and the menu constantly changes. However, a favourite that showcases head chef Jason Barrett’s flair for marrying local ingredients with the Mediterranean theme is seen in the saltbush agnolotti served with stracciattella and oyster mushrooms. For something more casual, the lobster rolls are often eaten by the locals down on the grassy knoll.
Cost: from $650 during the low season and $1,000 during 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 the days at the beach, hiking or shopping for local homewares and crafts.
The Atlantic is a set up of houses which are divided into corridor rooms with a large shared garden and pool that connects them together. There are four differently themed rooms which are all light, bright – The Cabana is a chilled our 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 while The Tropical has it’s own private outdoor shower among the palms.
All suites are fitted with king sized beds, en-suites 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 who are looking to try their hand at surfing as Byron is renowned for its swell, The Atlantic provides things like surfboards. If you don’t come equipped with 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 tranquility 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. The 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.