Byron Bay, on the far north coast of New South Wales has long been a mecca for surfers, tourists and those seeking a haven from the mad crush of city life.
By Kate St James
By now, most people have heard of Byron Bay; that picturesque town on the north coast of New South Wales that was once a sleepy hamlet, the domain of surfers and alternative lifestylers, which has now become a popular mainstream holiday destination. Today, Byron Bay has a population spanning all socio-economic backgrounds and walks of life including alternative lifestylers, tree-changers, movie and TV celebrities, business people and baby boomers and young families. In fact, there are 27 per cent more baby boomers in Byron than in any other town in Australia.
Byron still has an alternative lifestyle element and is host to many events throughout the year such as yoga retreats, pagan gatherings and music festivals (including the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival and Splendour in the Grass). But the area has now matured and offers something for everyone with its beautiful beaches, unique wildlife (including the annual whale watch) and stunning landscape, not to mention great restaurants, bars and shopping and of course the newest five-star resort near Tallow Beach, the Byron at Byron.
A few years ago, retail icon Gerry Harvey was approached by friends John and Lyn with their plans for a resort in Byron Bay. Harvey originally had no interest in the project, however, as John and Lyn persisted, he eventually relented and their persistence culminated in the resort five minutes south of Byron Bay known as the Byron at Byron.
The uniqueness of the site and the potential it showed in attracting tourists to Byron Bay convinced Harvey that he should purchase the site and build the resort, which had been previously approved by the Land and Environment Court after an unsuccessful attempt by Club Med. Harvey decided to move forward with plans and in September 2003 ground clearing commenced on the approximately 18-hectare rainforest site, designed by Queensland firm Haysom Architects. In addition to the accommodation, a conference centre, restaurant, pool, superb spa, boardwalks and extensive landscaping was undertaken and constructed. The sensitive nature of the rainforest has always been in the front of Harvey’s mind and as a result, less than 10 per cent of the total land is being used. Massive re-planting was carried out with predominantly native plants to maintain its original natural appearance.
The resort comprises 92 one-bedroom suites, air conditioned with each suite featuring a kitchen equipped with fridge, hot plates, sink, washing machine/dryer, microwave and plenty of crockery and glassware.
Accommodation also features a separate lounge and dining area with large plasma TV, as well as two balconies enclosed by mesh screening, allowing you to feel as though you are outside while protected from potential biting visitors!
Behind Japanese-style shoji doors is the luxurious king-sized bedroom, dressing room with wardrobe and equally luxurious bathroom complete with freestanding spa bath and large separate glass-enclosed shower.
The furnishings for the resort by Penny Campbell of Haysom Architects comprise oversized cane lounges upholstered in fabrics with earthy tones designed by Julie Paterson of Cloth fabrics. Ceiling fans create a relaxed tropical atmosphere and tranquil water features evoke a feeling of peaceful serenity in harmony with the environment. Artwork for the resort, chosen by Penny, is by Minnie Pwerle and features in the lobby and conference centre.
After cocktails by the pool (try the sparkling wine with lotus flower), guests can dine in the open-air restaurant on fresh seafood prepared by head chef Gavin Hughes. “The food is of a light Mediterranean style and based around the best of what’s available locally at the farmers’ markets,” said Gavin. “And we use Bangalow sweet pork, Alstonville chicken, Yamba prawns, Hervey Bay sea scallops — the fish we get is second to none.
While John and Lyn respect the privacy of their guests, they are happy to have a coffee or a chat as they are invariably around, treating the resort more like a home with their staff and guests as extended family. When Gerry Harvey embarked on this project he admits he knew little about tourism. But the natural beauty of the location combined with the vision of the developer, the talents of the architect and the management skills of the Parchés, has resulted in a world-class facility in an unsurpassed location. How could it possibly have failed?
Byron Bay is situated on the east coast of Australia, in northern New South Wales, just two hours south of Brisbane and one hour south of Queensland’s Gold Coast Airport.
For more information and bookings visit www.thebyronatbyron.com.au