Would I return 5/5
Since COVID I have become a great fan of ‘staycations’. They are a great way to relax and recharge without having to travel far. Let’s face it, flying somewhere is no fun these days. You lose a couple of days (and maybe your baggage too), flights are delayed or cancelled and it’s not that cheap to fly when you want. In contrast, staycations offer the benefits of less stress and more time at your destination in addition to being better for the hip pocket - savings you can use on fine dining or a spa treatment, what could be better than that?
Here in the Northern Rivers we are spoilt for choices when it comes to booking a getaway. Last month we enjoyed a wonderful three days/two nights at Byron’s world class retreat Elements of Byron. The property, previously known as the North Byron Beach Resort, was purchased by rich listers Peggy and Brian Flannery for $110 million - they then transformed the old property into the five star resort it is today. Over the years it has received multiple awards including the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award, Best Pool award from Gourmet Traveller, and Best Corporate Retreat from Qantas Business Travel.
Positioned beachside on Byron Bay’s iconic Belongil Beach, Elements of Byron offers a refined and tranquil haven, extending across 50 acres of luscious rainforest and interconnected tea tree creeks, lakes, and ponds. Inspired by and encompassed within nature, the Elements property is home to more than 19 rare and threatened Australian species. One of the biggest impressions we left with was that we have the chance to rediscover what makes Byron and the Northern Rivers so special.
The resort houses 193 villas in total, including 99 luxury two-bedroom, two-bathroom rainforest villas - featuring timber decks, some with inbuilt fireplaces and luxurious veranda bathhouses. Prices range from a reasonable $395 per night up to just under $2,000 per night during peak season.
In addition to Elements of Byron’s 850,000-litre infinity lagoon pool, the resort boasts an adult’s exclusive pool surrounded by 20 individual cabanas. If you want to hang out on the beach - particularly in the warmer months - check out the seasonal Botanica Beach Club.
As a part of the resort’s eco-friendly ethos, Elements of Byron incorporates sustainability into its architecture through fostering a design that minimises energy and water consumption. Passive solar and a water sensitive urban design contribute to increasing energy efficiency. Each villa also houses an Energy Management System to monitor individual energy use.
We stayed in a Luxury Villa. My wife came up with the best way to describe it - cosy, understated luxury - and I think that nailed it. While not huge - 89 sq. metres - you get a sense of space with the high ceilings. The Villa has one bedroom with luxury bedding, a private bathhouse in addition to the large bathroom with rainforest shower, fully equipped kitchen, comfortable lounge area and an enclosed deck with a gas fireplace. The latter was just great on a chilly night around the fire playing backgammon. There were some nice touches in the room including some wonderful Bemboka throw rugs, a Nespresso coffee machine and Appelles lotions and bath/shower products. There are big screen TVs in the bedroom and lounge. I found the streaming option ‘challenging’ to set up but we were soon happily settled in with a wide range of free movies available. Unlike a lot of resorts that claim to have a ‘kitchen’ which has limited utensils, our kitchen was fully set up with plenty of crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils and a full-size dishwasher. When you add the washing machine and dryer you have everything you need at your fingertips. Great for families, particularly with an easy option to open it up into a two bedroom villa.
Getting around is the resort is easy. Even though the property is big, it’s a lovely walk through the vibrant ecology to get to reception, dining, the pools and spa or you can just call for a buggy and it will be at your door in the matter of minutes. One of the standouts during our stay were the staff. They could have not been more welcoming and helpful.
Elements of Byron has a number of options to choose from including the main restaurant – Azure Bar & Grill, Summer Salt Bar, around the adults only pool, Breeze, the central lagoon poolside café, or you can get food delivered direct to your door.
Dining is under the watchful and talented eye of newly appointed Executive Chef, Ebony Baker. Drawing on her extensive experience in Europe, Asia and South America including working on luxury yachts and at two of the world’s top 10 restaurants – Aramburu in Argentina and Astrid Y Gaston in Peru, Ebony combines her global experience with the freshest of local foods and native ‘bush tucker’ flavours.
Highlights for us were the battered oysters which were the best I have ever eaten and the pork belly which was to die for as were the Tasmanian scallops with a cauliflower puree. For a casual lunch don’t go past the mini wagyu beef sliders.
My only complaint food wise was we thought the desserts were a bit lacking and I wanted the staff to really ‘sell me/excite me’ as to what was on the menu and explain the ingredients rather than just take an order. However, when the order came there was no disappointment our end.
As I mentioned earlier, when you save on airfares you can indulge in other things like the Osprey Spa. We took a herbal bath followed by a 90 minute massage - it was heaven. We chose the couples’ treatment room and drifted away after Nancy and Mirand weaved their ‘magic hands’ over our tired bodies. After all, we were exhausted from our 20-minute drive from Ballina. If you know your Spa treatments, Osprey will not disappoint.
Whatever you do, schedule 45 minutes to take the nature walk with chief botanist Alastair Oakman. Alastair is very cool in a ‘by crikey!’ Steve Irwin way. I recall a couple of American tourists in our group being puzzled when Alastair said ‘stick this delicious Davidson plum down ya gob!’ But Alastair sure knows his stuff as he takes you on a walk through Elements of Byron’s dunes, wetlands, wooded forest and rainforest ecologies. You will eat ’bush tucker’ straight off the trees, learn about the ecology of the region and delight in the different birds and the sounds they make. It was one of the highlights of our visit and again reinforced what a wonderful area we inhabit. Hats off to the owners of Elements for preserving the unique flora and fauna of the region.
There is a mountain of activities the resort can organise for you including horse-riding, yoga on the beach or local tours. And the Byron solar train is right next to the resort - perfect for a quick trip into town.
If you want to take the stress off for a few days break, Elements of Byron delivers with excellent accommodation and facilities, a great spa, delicious food and wonderful staff we left refreshed and felt like we had been away for a week. I must admit it was a bit of a let-down for the 20-minute drive home via Woollies to do the shopping. Snags, chips, and salad for dinner wasn’t the same as the battered oysters followed by pork belly.
The writer stayed as a guest of Elements Of Byron.