If you’re wondering where the apostrophe in “Raes” has gone, you’ll find it with the rest of the clutter thrown out in the 2017 makeover of this iconic hotel, restaurant and spa. Built in the 1960s as a seaside kiosk, the boutique pile, perched on a hill above what is arguably Australia’s prettiest beach, Wategos, has been stripped down to its glorious bones and reimagined in cool, coastal style by Sydney-based interior designer, Tamsin Johnson. A five-minute drive from Byron Bay, Raes has just seven luxurious rooms – two penthouses and five suites – so there’s no stampede for poolside day beds or queues at a breakfast buffet. Simply land at Ballina airport, slide into Raes Lexus SUV for a chauffeured ride to the resort, then eat, drink, swim, relax. Repeat. It’s that simple.
Raes sits on Wategos Beach in northern New South Wales, 70km from the Queensland border. Gold Coast Airport is one hour’s drive north, Ballina Byron Gateway Airport roughly half an hour south. Your accommodation is five minutes by car from Byron Bay and a short stroll away from the most easterly point on the Australian mainland.
They’re called “rooms” for expediency but there’s nothing hotel-room-like about these breezy spaces. All are uniquely configured, one is two-storey, some open onto the pool area, others have balconies that capture the sea, the pool and the Byron Bay’s famous lighthouse. What they have in common are decorative marble floors, custom joinery, washed linen, sisal rugs, arty books and the distinct feeling that you’re somewhere very exotic.
Food and drink
From the uniforms of the waitstaff to the gently crashing waves at the bottom of the lawn, everything about the revamped Raes Dining Room speaks of summer – whatever season finds you there. New executive chef John Saxby, whose CV lists Sydney icon Quay and, most recently, the acclaimed Pilu at Freshwater, has created a menu (minimum of two courses over lunch and dinner) drawing heavily on local produce. Try the tagliolini with Ballina prawns, spicy nduja salami and bush tomato crumb (the lurking kookaburra will want to share – stare it down). Raes Cellar Bar serves champagne, cocktails and delicious morsels of seafood.
For business travellers
Let’s face it; you’ve probably gone to Raes to escape the keyboard and meeting rooms. But should duty call, the resort can help with printing and emailing. All rooms contain a desk and a smart TV and wi-fi is complimentary in all suites and public areas.
For wellness travellers
Lined with glittering mosaic tiles and home to a grand, handmade maple Vichy shower, this pocket poolside spa is pampering to sigh for. Pro tip: Given there are just two treatment rooms, book a spa experience when you reserve your room or you may miss out – and you don’t want to do that. If you can’t decide between a massage and a facial, do both with the Santa Maria Novella Indulgence, which includes a back, scalp, hand and foot massage, a foot bath and facial.
The fab factor
Penthouse 1 has a four-poster king-sized bed, a sunken bath, marble floors and three balconies with views of the beach, the iconic lighthouse and the frangipani-fringed pool.
Best for: Couples
Number of rooms: Seven – two penthouses and five suites|
Rates: From $950, including breakfast and Ballina airport transfers
Wi-fi: 50 mbps, free in all suites and public areas of the resort
Parking: Complimentary valet parking is available but guests are encouraged to take advantage of complimentary Ballina airport transfers
Address: 6-8 Marine Parade, Byron Bay, NSW
Telephone: + 61 2 6685 5366