The Surf hotel, Yamba review, NSW North Coast: Everything you could want in a beachside escape

THE SURF, YAMBA

LOCATION

Yamba, where the Clarence River meets the sea, still feels like a locals' village despite the level of fascination the town has attracted and endured in the sea-change era. With a pristine expanse of ocean accessible from 11 beaches around the headland and hip shopping streets, Yamba offers the best of the coastal life, encouraging relaxation and restoration with a side of local prawns. The Surf is perched high on the hill, overlooking Main Beach – perfectly placed to take in the best of the town.

THE PLACE

Opening in October 2021, The Surf feels like it's been here forever. That's partly because the hotel's white exterior evokes nostalgia for the assumed ease of bygone eras, when towns like this one were a bit quieter. The interior, however, is utterly of the moment. With bespoke carpentry, spacious minimalism, and purpose-built furniture by Tait, the hotel's understated opulence is immediately clear. Enter through the arched front door and inhale: the place smells good, thanks to the A'sh scents throughout, and it's immediately calming. The hotel only has 12 rooms and its location at the end of the headland on Queen Street means you're not dealing with through-traffic: just the surfers who drive up before sunrise to suit up and join the dolphin pods in the Pacific. There's even surfboard storage here, and an outdoor shower to wash away the waves.

THE LOOK

There's a lot of curve appeal at The Surf, with highly conscious architecture from Design King Company reflecting the surrounding natural environment. From the street, bright white stucco and contours nod to art deco glam and sophistication without detracting from the surrounding buildings, or the stunning landscape. Creamy, neutral shades match the colours outside – peach, like the Yamba sunset; seafoam green; canary yellow – and the angular Breeze Blocks and curved woodwork hark back to natural forms and surfboards. There's a touch of the Scandi-cool, but the softly-lit space mostly feels like an elevated translation of 1960s beach culture, respecting vintage affectations and setting modern style standards at the same time.

The skyline and the sun are key players in the hotel's aesthetic, always present and always appreciated. Natural light streams into rooms, playing off the white-and-yellow-striped loungers beside the rooftop pool and creating shadows between walls. The hotel's tagline is "wanderers always welcome" – and here, that welcome feels like home. Stay a while.

THE ROOM

On the first floor during this stay, in the Main Beach Deluxe room, we've got space to spread out. Between the useful kitchenette, desk-and-couch combo, and wraparound balcony overlooking the ocean, it's as perfect a spot as one could want for a beachside stay. As the sun rises, light streams in from across Yamba's Main Beach, highlighting brass and light-wood accents, and details in the light grey terrazzo tiles. Earthy blues and greens feature throughout, from the tiny rectangular shower tiles in the generous bathroom (which also has a soaking tub and Leif body products), to the heavy Bemboka throw at the end of the bed. The space is clever, with a Japanese-style sliding window separating the bathroom from the bedroom; a surfboard-length bench to put your suitcases and beach bags on; and two sets of sliding doors to access the balcony, ensuring a cross-breeze is always available. It feels more like an apartment than a hotel room, and that's fitting. You wouldn't need to leave this room if you didn't want to – especially if you add on a Happy Hour cocktail kit for $65, which comes with four mixed drinks, best enjoyed shaken upstairs in the guest lounge and brought back to your private balcony.

It's quiet and calming, with soothing tones and minimal fru-fru. Only the good stuff here, and that's in abundance, with clever details and thoughtful touches, such as a complimentary minibar and Love Tea. There's a coffee machine, microwave and fridge. The sweet scents continue too, with A'sh "Paradis" diffusers spreading "Patchouli, amber, sandalwood and mint" in the room. Watch Netflix on the 55-inch TV if you so want. But with all the gorgeous natural goodness within walking distance, you likely won't sit still for long.

THE FOOD

On the third floor, there's a guest-only patio with uninterrupted views of the ocean. You can grab an espresso or a cuppa (along with fruit and biscuits). For meals, head downtown (a two-minute drive) to pick up a bite. Do brekkie at Laneway Lunchbox & Espresso Bar, where the eggs Benny is served on homemade patty of hash browns with a lemony hollandaise. For dinner, the team at Karrikin whip up a veggie-forward set menu that celebrates local produce. Enjoy it with their signature (and punchy) Davidson Plum Sour. For prawns, stop in at the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-op.

STEPPING OUT

Downtown Yamba has everything you could need for a beach holiday or otherwise. It's full of fantastic homewares and clothing shops, including the curiously eclectic Flots and Jets, and the linen-friendly Coral boutique. If you're in need of a drink and want to enjoy the view from a different angle, try The Pacific Hotel over on the other side of Yamba's Main Beach. The Yamba Museum is worth a visit too.

THE VERDICT

Thoroughly modern high style and curated design in a timeless beachside paradise.

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OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★★

THE DETAILS

Rooms from $380 a night, depending on the season. See thesurfyamba.com.au.

HIGHLIGHT

Location, location – in exceptionally thoughtful style.

LOWLIGHT

The doors could use a touch more soundproofing, as to not break the illusion of your personal coastal paradise.

The writer stayed as a guest of The Surf Yamba.