Winnie Stubbs checks in to Elements Of Byron
In a satisfyingly poetic twist, the first thing I notice about Elements Of Byron is the air: eucalyptus-spiked and salty. It doesn’t take long for the flavour of the other elements that have inspired the name of the beachside resort to making themselves known either: earth, water and fire are woven into the fabric of the place, naturally or otherwise.
The stand-alone villas that house Elements Of Byron’s 203 bedrooms are nestled amongst the mangroves, beneath arching eucalypts and along the stone and wooden paths. Pools and lakes punctuate the grounds, and in front of the main swimming pool, an elevated version of a campfire burns above a large, copper bowl filled with pebbles and a layer of water that reflects the flames.
Despite the fact that the Northern Rivers region has seen more rain this year than most, the time I spent at Elements was unpredictably dry: days of the kind of uninterrupted sunshine that has helped to earn Byron its reputation as one of Australia’s most coveted destinations. As I walk back from the pool to my suite one morning, I hear a guest remark to the staff member driving her buggy “this is the summer we never had,”.
The sunshine – unsurprisingly – only enhanced my stay, but I can imagine Elements is the kind of place that rises to meet any conditions (almost literally – the architecturally designed suites are suspended on stilts above the bush, so there’s no need to worry about flood damage). The 22-hectare stretch of rainforest and wetlands that sit behind Byron’s Belongil Beach is strikingly beautiful in its own right, and though the town centre is only a short drive (or a walk along the beach when the tide is right), you wouldn’t be blamed for never leaving the complex.
Incorporating passive solar and water-sensitive urban design, Elements was purpose-built as a holistic resort that allows guests to celebrate the natural beauty of the Byron area, from a refined, wellness-focused base.
As well as the Osprey spa, there’s a tennis court, outdoor gym, daily yoga classes and beachside horse rides available on request. Rooms are equipped with coffee machines, mini-fridges, smart TVs, an iPad loaded with essential information and a resort-specific magazine filled with beautifully crafted articles penned by Byron locals. Bathrooms feature deep oval bathtubs and raindance showers stocked with Appelles products, and the cleaning team arrives daily – seamlessly – to ensure supplies of fresh towels and tea are amply replenished. The resort’s main eatery – Azure Bar & Grill – serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in the cavernous dining space or outside overlooking the main lagoon, but dining options aren’t limited to one choice. Breeze – a more casual eatery which occupies one side of the main pool area – serves a perfect poolside menu of fresh poke bowls and thick, golden fries, and there’s a swim-up bar and taqueria by the adult’s only pool serving tacos and margaritas for the over 18s. Room service includes handmade sourdough pizza, with vegan and gluten-free options available (as well as a four cheese, hot salami and fermented chilli affair).
Although I was working during my time at Elements, the design of the resort generated a constant calm: an excessively indulgent sense of leisure that reminded me of a childhood trip to Disneyland, when the reality was rendered a distant memory by the otherworldly nature of the place.
During my stay, I woke up to the sound of the ocean, which summoned me with its gentle thrum and sparkling turquoise. Before the storms that ravaged the east coast, Belongil beach was accessible directly from the Elements beach club, which occupies a stretch of palm-flanked sand on the edge of the resort. While the track from the beach club is rebuilt to account for a recently formed cliff face, the long stretch of beach can be reached through the dunes to the south of the resort. I dunked in the ocean each morning before heading barefoot to the adults-only pool, where I’d swim a few laps before heading back to my room. By this time, the roads that link the villas would be baked in sunshine, and – aside from the occasional buggy carrying guests wrapped in towels – entirely empty.
Byron itself is home to a strong selection of cafe options, but Elements’ breakfast menu includes truffle butter mushrooms and stracciatella on sourdough, so waiting until lunchtime to leave the premises isn’t at all unwise. If you are heading out, you needn’t walk any further than Barrio: a contemporary cafe and restaurant in Byron’s creative industrial estate, just an eight-minute walk from the resort. Barrio’s breakfast and brunch options are great, but it’s the lunch and dinner offerings that really sets the restaurant apart. Created by Head Chef Santiago Socrate, Barrio’s menu is a seasonally-inspired, masterfully balanced curation of woodfired meats, delicately crafted salads and freshly caught seafood cooked to perfection. The catch of the day comes bathed in a rich beurre blanc, and the locally made stracciatella is crowned with crisp radicchio that’s laced in a brown sugar olive oil. If you don’t make it to Barrio for lunch, stop by for happy hour on your way back to the resort and you’ll likely stay all evening – revelling in the buzz of what is arguably Australia’s most trendy industrial estate precinct.
Back at Elements, the lagoon-like pool that acts as the focal point of the resort will be lit from within, and a few guests will be sitting around the fire pit enjoying a cocktail or two before bed. The walk back to your villa will be lit by the stars, and if you’re lucky (or, in my case, embarrassingly terrified) you might find yourself joined by a wallaby hopping home through the bush. It’s a resort, but very much immersed in the elements.