An out-of-body experience

Jacqueline Maley swaps the pub for pleasure in Byron Bay.

I worry it will be a shock to the system when I swap the pub for the pleasure den of the Aveda Day Spa at Azabu, a secluded luxury retreat on the outskirts of Byron Bay.

Azabu's cluster of five timber studios is set on sloping bushland beyond the dreadlocked hordes at the Arts Factory Backpackers' Hostel, then down a long, winding road that becomes unsealed and shrouded in rainforest.

Two incredible peacocks greet me as I negotiate ponds and slate stepping stones to arrive at the front door. The retreat's garden and single-storey timber buildings reflect a Japanese influence and the reception staff have a quiet, Eastern manner to match.

Rachel Beaumont, my massage therapist, leads me past the pool and down wooden stairs to the darkened, heated treatment room, lit softly by candles. I am here for the "self-renewal face and body" treatment, which, according to Azabu's website, is "based on ancient techniques and integrated with state-of-the-art technology".

I assume the position - face down on massage table - and Rachel places a (rather hot) heat pack on my back then covers me with a towel and a blanket. To the soft sounds of a Cafe Del Mar soundtrack, she massages my legs with rose oil. I quickly lose all sense of time, but at some point she moves to my arms, then my back, shoulders and neck. Later she sets about "renewing" my face, covering it with aromatic goop and, after some banging and scraping, she turns a steamer onto me.

At this point I am so relaxed I have pretty much left my body. I'm hovering somewhere over the rainforest. I am a cloud. I am a peacock. I am a peacock in the rainforest looking at a cloud.

Rachel massages my head lightly and whispers softly in my ear at the end. "There is a glass of water waiting for you at reception," she breathes. After what she's done for, and to, me I feel like we should share a cigarette and a chat about our relationship. Instead I return, glowing, to the pub.

The Verdict

Where: Azabu Luxury Accommodation, 317 Skinners Shoot Road, Byron Bay.


Best bit: The leg massage transported me.

Worst bit: The singeing heat pack.

Who would it be good for: Anyone wanting a body overhaul and general relaxation.

Value for money: $135 for 75 minutes. The whole body was covered and multiple products and gadgets used. The length of the treatment meant I could fully relax. Accommodation at Azabu costs $240 a night for two people during the off-peak season and $450 a night during peak season. For singles, rates range from $160 a night to $300 a night. Prices include a three-course breakfast.

More information: Phone (02) 6680 9102, email or go to