For years Byron Bay has clung to its bohemian credentials, remaining notoriously antipathetic to outsiders – despite being one of the most visited and expensive holiday destinations in Australia.
Lately, though, it’s welcomed a flurry of new venues. Wategos Beach and the lighthouse remain as tourist-friendly as ever, but these new openings will reshape visitors’ itineraries for years to come.
Fusing New York cool with insouciant Byron Bay style, The Bower is a former motel that has been spruced up into a luxury boutique hotel. Inspired by owner Taliah Lowry’s time spent in the Bowery neighbourhood of Manhattan, the retreat offers 14 suites, a barn, a cottage and a family house, all designed with a muted palette, clean lines and simplicity in mind. The floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the dense foliage that surrounds the hotel, which is just minutes from local shops and cafes, as well as the Arakwal National Park. There are plans for a pool in the complex, but it’s within walking distance of several of Byron’s famous beaches.
Byron at Byron
Stalwart Byron at Byron Bay Resort and Spa looks a little different these days. Thanks to a six-week renovation led by Rachel Luchetti of Luchetti Krelle (whose recent projects include Barangaroo’s Banksii and now-closed Bar Brose), the resort’s restaurant, bar, reception and pool area have been redesigned to up the luxury ante. The refresh adds further value to the hotel’s recently updated suites and day spa. The appointment of executive chef Michelin-trained Matthew Kemp has made the restaurant a focus. Kemp says his menu, which will roll out in January 2018, will lean towards the simple.
Byron Bay Railroad Company
A privately owned solar-powered train will set a three-kilometre course between North Beach and Byron’s CBD. It will change how locals and tourists travel the area, which was previously underserved by public transport. The train will run hourly from 8am to 10pm, cost just $3 for an adult’s one-way ticket, and is the brainchild of mining magnate Brian Flannery, whose Elements resort hosts one of the railroad’s two stations. Though it runs on old tracks, and its carriages were built in 1949, the solar-powered technology it uses is a world first. Flannery hopes to expand the service to other parts of town – much to the chagrin of residents.
Habitat Byron Bay
Byron Bay has always been known for its independent boutiques, and now a whole slew of them are being brought under one roof at Habitat Byron Bay. Combining a new residential development with “design-led” businesses, the new hub aims to give people the chance to live and work in a socially and environmentally progressive environment. Throughout the summer there will be two pop-ups: Habitat Home and Habitat Woman. They will host more than 40 brands including swimwear label Zulu and Zephyr, Byron womenswear brand St Agni and furniture designer Martin Johnston. Over Christmas, 10 per cent of Habitat’s sales will go towards local charity Byron Community Showers. Also making their new homes in the hub are One Teaspoon, menswear store The Department of Simple Things, and a barber. It is situated in the North Beach area; a short walk from one of the new train stations.
Barrio Eatery and Bar
Also in the Habitat development is Barrio Eatery and Bar, a combined bar, restaurant and coffee shop with an assortment of salads to take away. It’s a collaboration between Tristan and Kassia Grier, the faces behind Newrybar favourite Harvest; bar and restaurant manager Dan Wyllie; and Argentinean chef Francisco Smoje, whose Francisco’s Table communal dinners have become the stuff of legend in Byron. As its name, which translates to “neighbourhood” in Spanish, suggests, Barrio’s aim is to facilitate a community feel. The restaurant has a woodfired oven and Argentinean charcoal grill, and there’s a focus on nose-to-tail and root-to-stem eating.
Bringing Asian street food to the streets of Byron, Foxy Luu’s is the latest venture by the husband and wife team behind Bondi’s Sefa Kitchen. Uniting a spectrum of flavours from Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and a host of places in between, there are dumplings, bone broths, soups, salads and bao. After dark, the red-lit, red-painted, mural-splashed restaurant turns into a cool hangout joint pumping Japanese R’n’B. And the clincher? Foxy Luu’s is BYO wine.
Scottish chef Alastair Waddell has been appointed to lead the kitchen at Newrybar's all-day Harvest restaurant in the Byron hinterland. Having spent time cooking at Melbourne’s Bistro Guillaume, and more recently as head chef at Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, Waddell will be working with Harvest’s resident food researcher, Peter Hardwick, to create a menu that showcases the region's unique native produce and ingredients.
For the city’s latest, subscribe to the Broadsheet newsletter.