Elements of Byron, Byron Bay
Elements of Byron is north of Byron Bay township, just past Belongil Beach. The new $100 million resort is a world away from the backpackers and traffic of Jonson Street, but if you fancy a tarot reading or meal at one of Byron's fab restaurants, it's a short drive.
You could even walk along the shoreline and emerge right at the Beach Hotel – it's much shorter than the drive and a lovely evening's stroll. Just take a cab back.
Elements of Byron covers 20 hectares, once owned by Club Med but never developed. Within that, there are 94 villas spread out amongst native bush and dotted around a lagoon and along a water lily-festooned creek. The main pavilions, shaped cleverly to echo the beachside dunes, house a reception area decorated with artworks and coastal tones, the restaurant, bar, casual pool eatery and a gorgeous Osprey Spa.
And oh, that pool. Surrounded by cabanas and day beds and with an adjacent fire pit, it's a slice of Miami glamour in northern New South Wales.
There's also a peaceful lounging area adjacent to the fence along the beachfront, with a view of the estuary comprised of the surf, dunes, nearby wildlife reserve and the place where the tea tree-stained Belongil Creek meets the sea. Throughout the property, there are walking trails to take in all that.
I loved my villa from hello. I walked in past the electronically locked sliding door and took in an almost Japanese onsen-style space of cool wood and creamy-toned decor, accented with pops of blue (other villas feature different coastal tones), a minimalist small living area with a gas fireplace and nice big television, then up some blond wood stairs into the sizeable bedroom, with a sumptuous king bed backed by an artwork-splodged leather bedhead. This area includes a good-sized desk and coffee, tea and mini-bar area.
The bathing and dressing areas are as big as the living, with double basins, a separate loo, sizeable open wardrobe space and a separate semi-outdoor bath annex. With louvre windows and flotsam wooden sculptures on the walls surrounding a deep freestanding tub, it is homestead luxe.
These are also among the most technologically advanced and eco-friendly spaces in the market. Most room functions are controlled from a tablet, there's solar power, and you can monitor your energy use.
On current rates, it's an amazingly good value stay. I loved it so much, I'm heading back with friends and we've booked the beautifully furnished two-bedroom apartment on the lagoon, which features an en suite for each sleeping area, a bathtub, full kitchen, large living area and a spacious patio.
One thing I really loved about my original villa though, was its proximity to the ocean. Though it didn't have views, it had the soothing sound of pounding sea, the thripp of crickets and trilling from the bird sanctuary. I opened the louvre windows all around the structure and seeped in its glorious cacophony. Amazing how you can forgive a kookaburra for waking you up pre-dawn in the right environment.
The restaurant, under resort cuisine expert, Melbourne-born Justin Dingle-Garciyya, formerly of Morgans Group, is fresh, local, rustic and playfully presented.
Dingle-Garciyya's kale Caesar is the perfect mix of comfort food and Byron Bay clean eating. We enjoyed a generous ploughman's platter by the pool, a selection of locally-sourced seafood for dinner one night, and on another, a room service meal of meatballs, salad and yummy crinkle-cut fries (they're back in – and delicious) served on enamel picnic ware. (Dingle-Garciyya has a thing for crockery – dinner is served on mismatched plates, ranging from Asian earthenware to English floral porcelain.)
The included breakfast is a buffet of cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, yoghurt, baked goods and a great gluten-free bread for toasting, as well as juices, tea and filtered coffee. Espresso and cooked breakfast is extra – and the a la carte menu is great value and innovative.
The wine list is interesting and varied and the cocktails are bespoke, with nods to locally distilled spirits and regional flavours, such as eucalyptus and lemon.
Elements of Byron is at the end of a developing cul de sac that has a couple of cafes, an IGA, a good bottle shop and a few specialty stores, perfect for supplies if you're in a self-catering villa and also for drinks and nibbles to enjoy on your deck. Each villa has an excellently-stocked mini-bar but also glassware and crockery for a bit of BYO.
Head to Byron Bay or any of the nearby townships for great pub fare, chic dining and some great shopping, especially in the hinterland village of Bangalow. And of course, some dancing to live music.
With all that green technology and design at play, Elements of Byron is cleverly conceived and undeniably glamorous. But it still manages to hit the right notes to feel like a relaxing beach getaway. That's barefoot luxury at its best.
Elements of Byron, 144 Bayshore Drive, Byron Bay.
Villas from $380 a night, including "Farmers Market Continental Breakfast" for two and yoga class daily. See elementsofbyron.com.au.
Jetstar flies direct from Melbourne and Sydney to Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. See ballinabyronairport.com.au.
Book a car through Europcar at Ballina Byron Airport. See europcar.com.au.
I was delighted by the quality of the staff. Good hospitality people, particularly in regional areas, can be hard to find. Elements of Byron has triumphed in this regard, with a team of bright, friendly, professional people.
My heart sank on the approach to the property. The first thing you see is a huge bitumen visitors' car park. But the vegetation planted around it is in baby stages, so this will likely change.
The writer travelled as a guest of Elements of Byron, Europcar Ballina and Ballina Byron Gateway Airport.
See also: How Byron Bay is turning Japanese
See also: Inside Sydney's new Bondi Beach hotel