Mahalo House, Bangalow, Byron Shire.
Yes, the beaches fringing Byron Bay are iconic and beautiful. But the lush hinterland, just a 20-minute drive away, has a charm of its own. Strewn with an increasing number of eateries and boutiques, historic Bangalow is the hinterland town that sees the most action. You'll find Mahalo House, a timber Queenslander set on a 0.4-hectare block with sprawling lawns and lush gardens, just a five-minute stroll from Bangalow village.
This early 20th-century Queenslander has been renovated to create a supremely comfortable, light and airy five-bedroom home. Set one floor above the ground, as many hinterland houses are to avoid flooding during the wet season, Mahalo House encompasses a sprawling open living, kitchen and dining area, with the five bedrooms and two bathrooms fanned out around the sides, making it perfect for families or groups of friends. A wide wooden balcony – scattered with comfortable tables and chairs, a day bed and a chaise longue – hugs half of the house. The rolling lawns are great for afternoon picnics or, for those with kids, letting little ones run wild.
Of the five bedrooms, the three smaller ones on the western side of the house are ideal for kids. While the light-filled en suite bedroom at the front of the house with its window seat overlooking the papaya trees is lovely, we opt for the bigger, more secluded bedroom at the back of the house. Glass bifold doors covering the front of the room slide back to give an indoor-outdoor feel that will make you want to spend long lazy mornings in bed. All bedrooms are decorated in coastal chic style, the white timber walls accented with macrame wall hangings, colourful art works and prints. Tasteful rugs bring colour to the polished wooden floorboards, while louvered glass windows throughout give the house fantastic air flow.
Mahalo House is self-catered. The open kitchen is equipped with everything one might need for a home dinner party, from tasteful crockery to linens, and the indoor and outdoor dining settings are inviting enough to make you want to stay in. But with so many excellent eateries nearby you probably won't be doing much of that. In Bangalow '70s-vibed Woods Cafe is unmissable for its healthy nourishing bowls and what could be Bryon's best chai tea, while the Bangalow Hotel is the spot for afternoon drinks. Harvest, a seven-minute drive away in quaint Newrybar, is set in a 1900s weatherboard cottage and has an exceptional menu filled with organic wild and foraged produce, much of it from its kitchen garden, with its own bakery and deli attached. The Farm at Byron Bay, a 10-minute drive away in Ewingsdale, is a rave-worthy restaurant and produce store set on a 12.9-hectare property with a focus on sustainable-farming practices, while Doma, in nearby Federal, serves some of the best hand rolls and sashimi salads you're likely to find outside Tokyo, in its palm-filled garden.
Byron's famously pristine beaches are a 20-minute drive away (The Pass is particularly pretty), or you can drive 40 minutes into the hills to hike around the dramatic Minyon Falls. The Cape Byron walking track is a morning ritual for many locals, that takes you through rainforest and via the beach to the lighthouse on the clifftops, from where you get panoramic views. For shoppers, there are some chic boutiques, many set inside the restored Federation buildings along Bangalow's palm-lined main drag of Byron Street, including Island Luxe, Bisque Traders and Worn Store. The unmissable Newrybar Merchants in Newrybar is a collective of creative local artisans including ceramicists, artists and exotic rug traders. For those wanting to sample the shire's fresh produce, the Bangalow Farmers' Market is on Saturday mornings, the Byron Farmers' Market is on Thursday mornings, while the Mullumbimby Farmers' Markets is every Friday morning.
Mahalo House feels like a much fancier version of home, giving you a chance to relax and unwind, while living like a local and exploring the best that Byron's hinterland has to offer.
The bathtub in the main bathroom: the bifold windows open onto the balcony, leaving you feeling as though you're bathing outside. BYO bath salts.
The C-bus touch lighting system can be befuddling. Be patient.
10 Raftons Road, Bangalow. From $435 a night. (02) 6684 7728; byronbayholidayrentals.com/hinterland-bangalow/mahalo-house.
Nina Karnikowski was a guest of Mahalo House.