What was once a banana farm in the rolling hills of the Byron Bay hinterland seduced James and Stella Hudson away from the hustle of the central Sydney bar scene. The bush, the birds and the aspect didn't hurt either. They arrived, the wind picked up and the big banana packing shed fell over. It turns out that one person's trash is another person's treasure; a tangle of timber and iron became a trove of items to be recycled, massive timber beams among them that now frame the views of forest and farmland all the way to Cape Byron, the lighthouse and the big blue Pacific Ocean.
Byron (35-minutes' drive) is busy with billionaires and backpackers, no matter the season, and Mullumbimby (10-minutes) sets a fair pace for a country town, but up here at Blackbird, at what's known as Mullumbimby Creek, you're well away from all that, sitting back in your own piece of peace and quiet. There's plenty of room to move at Blackbird and with your own pavilion and a wonderful pool and surrounds, few reasons to move anywhere.
A central pavilion with soaring ceilings has the dining area, lounges to sink into, books and magazines to browse and a well-stocked bar. At the front of this space sits an infinity pool with the water spilling softly over its edge, surrounded by sun lounges and umbrellas that would have been at home on the beach in the 1960s. The water has salt and magnesium and other minerals to help set in some relaxation, but the surroundings do a pretty good job of that on their own.
From the outside, at the back, you could be forgiven for thinking you're looking at a cluster of containers, but look a little closer and you have a series of rectangular pavilions made of concrete panels, but adorned with wire and timber to soften the concrete and give the plants somewhere to climb. The positioning of the pavilions has a lot to do with capturing the views and also ensuring privacy for their occupants. There's a sheltered porch at the entrance under some more of those big timber beams and inside you have a large space with TV, big bed and more timber tables and benches. Our bathroom was huge, with exposed copper pipes and a big, walk-in copper shower to relax under. No fluffy hotel robes here, but there are some very cool kimonos hanging by the bed.
Breakfast, cooked or continental, is served poolside in the central pavilion. In spring, TV cooking show winners Alex Clark and Emily O'Kane were guest chefs for an optional and very good Mexican dinner (that was Friday night, Saturday they were cooking Japanese). Clark also gave cocktail classes in the afternoons (making a Negroni? Put the ice in last so you don't dilute it, and stir, don't shake, it doesn't like aeration). Best to check ahead with your hosts to see what might be cooking, otherwise you'll need to hit the road to find your food.
The Mullumbimby "original hippie craft market" comes along every third Saturday (8am to 2pm) and the town also has a farmer's market at the showgrounds every Friday (7am to 11am - don't sleep in). Hinterland activities include walking and waterfalls in the nearby Nightcap National Park, otherwise there's the surf, the fishing and all the food and wine of Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay an easy drive away.
Brilliant design, exceptional location and relaxed hosts make this a hinterland highlight. The accommodation is adults-only, well-suited to couples and small groups.
Rooms from $475 a night, 210 Frasers Road, Mullumbimby Creek, NSW, 2482. Phone 0467 904 123; see blackbirdbyron.com.au
The hinterland vibe and the views, all the way to Cape Byron and the ocean beyond.
The location is a strength but a weakness. For supplies or meals beyond what Blackbird has, you'll need your car.
Jim Darby was a guest of Blackbird Byron.