The Byron at Byron resort is 30 minutes’ drive from Ballina Airport – which is an ideal amount of time to put away your phone, sit back and take in the Northern Rivers scenery.
Bursts of bright pink crepe myrtle interrupt the wash of deep green palms and dusty gums, and lilypad-covered pools peek through roadside foliage. Modern homes, quaint country chapels and the odd grazing horse also dot the landscape.
It gets even more serene when you reach the Byron at Byron resort. The hotel is set on 45 acres of subtropical rainforest, and as soon as you saunter up to the open-air reception, a wave of relaxation comes over you. The slow swirl of overhead fans punctuates the air, as does the crack of whipbirds from the nearby melaleuca forest. You feel very far from the bustling main beach (which is about five kilometres away), and of course your busy life back home.
Crystalbrook Collection bought the hotel in 2019 and last year completed a $6 million refresh of the restaurant, Forest, and the 92 guest suites. Some of them are larger than city apartments and come with king-size beds, a full kitchen, living and dining areas plus screened-in front and back verandas. It’s the sort of setting that’s difficult to leave, a predicament made even tougher thanks to room service that arrives promptly by golf cart, deep bathtubs and plenty of spots to read.
If you can pull yourself away from your room, take a stroll on the timber boardwalk leading to a secluded waterway bordered by mangroves. Another passes through one of the world’s last habitats for the endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail. Keep walking and you’ll arrive at the pavilion, which is reserved for morning yoga, or follow the unmistakeable roar of the ocean past a security gate and across a sleepy suburban street to the seemingly endless stretch of sand at Tallow Beach.
The Eléme Day Spa opened in December a few metres from the hotel’s large swimming pool, offering seven rooms for facials, massage, skin detox and couples sessions. Facial therapy starts at $160 for a 60-minute treatment, and massage lasts from 60 to 90 minutes (from $165). Products by Australian-owned skincare brand Sodashi are used in all the treatments.
Every Thursday, executive chef Etienne Karner (formerly of Sydney’s Park Hyatt) heads to the local farmers market to source produce for the kitchen at Forest. “There are maybe 15 stalls, each specialising in a different thing,” he says. “There are vegetables, fruit suppliers, olive oil and macadamia nuts. I buy cheese from Debra Allard, a Northern Rivers cheesemaker who owns Jersey cows. Her cheeses are very close to French-style cheese.”
When Broadsheet visits, Karner’s menu features raw and pickled vegetables with truffle-dusted crème fraîche; marinated spanner crab with chilled apple-and-avocado soup; and Black Angus beef cheek served with Jerusalem artichokes. Tart lemon-curd ice-cream comes with a piece of honeycomb sourced from one of the property’s three honeybee colonies.
“Eighty percent of the food at Forest is sourced within a three-hour drive of our resort, and we farm our own beef at Crystalbrook Station, located inland from Cairns,” says Rocher.
While it’s tempting to stay in and order another cocktail at the resort’s poolside lounge, there are also plenty of good reasons to venture out. Borrow a mint green cruiser bike and take the 15-minute ride into town to pick up a sourdough loaf from The Bread Social. Launch a double kayak from the main beach and go on a dolphin tour with Cape Byron Kayaks. Commit to a 4am start and see the sun rise over the coast and hinterland from the sturdy basket of one of Balloon Aloft’s expertly piloted hot-air balloons. Or pull on your shoes and walk around the lighthouse to Wategos beach for serene ocean views.
You can also book a walking tour with Arakwal Bundjalung custodian Delta Kay to learn about the area’s First Nations history, which stretches back tens of thousands of years to when the local Arakwal Bumberlin people used the bay and surrounding areas as a sacred meeting place. Kay will probably also tell you about Nguthungulli, the Dreamtime creator of the land and water around Byron Bay. His resting spot is in an ocean cave at Julian Rock, just off the Byron coast – making him very lucky indeed.
Suites start at $495 per night and sleep three to four people.