Experiencing the elements of Byron Bay
Leading luxury travel and food writer Mary Pratt, founder of The Caviar Spoon, takes in the minimalist but luxe vibe at Elements of Byron, nestled along the beach at Byron Bay in Australia.
Am I allowed to have a favourite place on this earth? The world’s a big place, I know, so how about we just say that Byron Bay absorbs a huge part of my heart.
Pra first stumbled upon this lovely little corner of Australia while backpacking with friend Rabbit back in the day. I still have fond memories of my adventures here! Byron Bay is Hippie Central at its finest.
But as Byron Bay has grown from a sleepy coastal hippie town to a more hipster hippie town, so have the properties. What used to be boutique and chic have evolved to a couple of sprawling properties, which includes Elements of Byron based down by Belongil Beach.
Still, I was curious about exploring this new property and so booked a night here during my jaunt over here.
The Story & The Brand
Part of the Accor Group and the first developmental project of owners Brian and Peggy Flannery, Elements of Byron includes 94 villas spread out over 20 hectares (and it’s still growing!). To be completely honest, I was initially shocked and my heart sank at the vision of what looked like some kind of massive social or sports centre, which was actually the reception and restaurant area. On the positive side, rather than being on a block of concrete, at least it has tastefully spread itself amongst the surrounding nature.
Getting There & First Impressions
After I got over the shock of why on earth Byron Bay would allow such a commercial-looking building in town, I started to relax and see it for what it was.
My eyes became fixated on a beautiful fire pit that sat together with their 850,000 litre lagoon pool which was peppered with LA-esque sun loungers and cabanas. In fact, the more you look and wander around, the more you realise that you’re encapsulated by either flora, fauna, or water.
And the reality is this:
As the world keeps spinning, hot spots will keep emerging and developing and with the hot spots come the tourists. An increase in tourism then creates a need for larger, more accessible properties. That’s what they’ve done with Elements of Byron but they’ve put some thought into their brand, audience, and environment. Believe me, with a spend of $100 million on this property, they mean business whilst making sure that the dollar doesn’t overtake nature.
For example, the villas were strategically designed around all of the trees and they planted another 65,000 native endemic trees plus offer eco-trails to their guests. You have to respect that kind of effort in maintaining the nature around the property.
Shane Thompson Architects and the interior designer Rowena Cornwell created a property that is completely based around the four natural elements of water, fire, earth, and air. (And now you see why this place is called Elements.) Truthfully, I didn’t really feel that the design resonated with the core natural elements, particularly that massive reception area.
Understandably, with the number of villas, you need a large communal space like that, but I do wish that the exterior had been designed a bit differently to really work with and melt into the gorgeous nature surrounding it.
Setting that aside, the overall property is tastefully designed.
Take the lobby, for example. It’s open, airy, and organic, with lots of curves and movement. This thoughtfulness in design reverberates throughout all 94 villas and the rest of the structures on the property.
But, who am I to judge?? After all, Elements of Byron was awarded “Best Hotel Design” by the Society of British Interior Design International Design Awards this past November in London, which is the highest international award for interior design! Plus the property has been racking up other awards since opening so whilst the design didn’t quite speak to me, I would be lying if I didn’t say that there’s something truly special about this place.
Where You’ll Sleep
When we (finally) found our villa across the vast expanse of property, we discovered that it was built off the ground so as not to disrupt the ground and the design was beautiful. The villa itself wasn’t massive but because of the flow created through the thoughtful design, it seemed deceivingly spacious. I’d say it was inspired by Japanese design—making the most of a compact space by using different levels, neat shelving, and implementing sliding doors that don’t take up any extra space when open.
Minimal aesthetics, clean lines, uncluttered—it was all perfectly suited toward the vibe of getting back to being one with nature. There were also understated hints of luxury, however, from the Bose music system to the soft linens to the fabulous bathtub that sat quietly in the centre of the bathroom, waiting for a good, relaxing soak.
Where To Unwind
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away was the pristine Belongil Beach—perfect for those moments you want to chill or do a sun salutation on the sand. When it comes down to it, Elements of Byron is just an ideal place to hang out. You can pop into Byron Bay for a bit and then spend the rest of the time chilling around the pool and catching a meal at Graze where the menu is based around fresh, seasonal, regional cuisine. Or keep it even more casual by chilling at the Barefoot Kiosk with some light nibbles and a refreshing cocktail.
Or you could treat yourself to a day of pampering at the sleek and minimalist Osprey Spa with luxe rituals like the Soul Temple (a combo of a foot ritual, bath exfoliation ritual, back/neck/shoulder massage, and facial) or something simpler like an aromatherapy massage.
Elements of Byron is far from the hippie hotel you might expect given its location. It is a full-blown luxury resort for the capitalist hippie but in the best, most minimalistic way possible. If Byron Bay is going to continue developing along the same course as the past number of years, one can only hope that all future properties will take the same care and mindfulness when it comes to respecting and designing around this gorgeous corner of Australia.
144 Bayshore Drive
Byron Bay, New South Wales