WHAT’S IN A NAME? AFTER SPENDING TIME AT THE BYRON AT BYRON, I UNDERSTAND HOW APT THEIR NAME IS – THE BYRON IS SO VERY BYRON!
WORDS BY KRIS ABBEY, PUBLISHING EDITOR SPA LIFE MAGAZINE
I love Byron Bay! What’s not to love? It is a magical fusion of holistic hippie and cultural class, rural relaxed with urban trimmings. Encased by a stunning beach on one side and lush green mountains on the other, for me it is Heaven on Earth. But don’t take my word for it – if you haven’t been there already, I suggest you go and experience it for yourself.
And if you do go, you must stay at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa. The feel is stylishly chi?, and yet when I walk through the big, open front doors, it’s like getting a warm, embracing hug from a long-lost friend. I am home. This feeling is heightened by the lovely Lyn and John Parché (part-owners/operators), who try to welcome every one of their guests and treat them like a friend who has popped in to say hi. It’s a ‘come on in and help yourself’ kind of vibe. You may bump into John doing his morning laps in the pool, or Lyn arranging plants in pots. There’s not too many places that make you feel so at home within minutes of arriving. That’s Byron.
The resort melds seamlessly with a stunning 45-acre rainforest that shields the resort from the winds of Tallow Beach. Winding through the rainforests is a labyrinth of boardwalks that lead you to places of peace, whether it be the beach, a lotus-filled lake or a Chinese meditation hut. I had arrived early and my room wasn’t ready, so I decided to explore. Strolling along the boardwalk to the tune of the surrounding wildlife, all my stresses soon dissipate out to sea. I’m joined by a myriad of birds and even a slithery tree snake, who momentarily brings some of that stress back! I’m told the resort has its own snake catcher, who keeps these harmless snakes a safe distance from the resort and within the confines of their natural habitat – one of the many ways the resort works in harmony with the environment.
The buildings are scattered sympathetically within the rainforest to minimise their impact on the environment. Buildings occupy less than 10% of the total property, with the remainder of the land carefully regenerated and maintained. The restoration team constantly monitor the native plant communities, encouraging them to become self-sustaining. This is an ongoing project with a long-term goal of securing eco accreditation. All walks of life are welcome here, which is part of the beauty of The Byron, and the same can be said for the town of Byron Bay.
If I’m starting to paint a picture of this place being ‘earthy’, it is, but in a classy kind of way. There is a clever fusion of eco with elegance, natural beauty with beautiful nature. The rooms (which are big enough to be called apartments) are stylishly appointed and have all the luxuries you could hope for. Light and airy, with a giant bathroom complete with spa bath, walk-in robe, kitchen, living area and not one, but two outdoor living spaces. And my favourite feature – louvered windows that allow the outside in and give you a front-row seat to nature’s symphony.
The main building, which houses the restaurant and bar, reception, resort shop, gym and spa, is totally open and a wide timber deck runs the entire length. The deck is adorned with lovely big armchairs and sofas that invite you to take a seat overlooking the infinity-edged turquoise pool, with the lush green rainforest as a backdrop – the perfect spot for sipping your morning coffee or enjoying an afternoon cocktail.
But it is the yoga and Spa that are the cherry on this delicious cake. Starting at 8am every morning, a yoga class takes place on the deck in front of the Spa and Wellness centre. Now I must confess to having only dabbled occasionally in yoga, but as the saying goes, ‘when in Rome’… and since yoga is to Byron Bay what harbour is to Sydney, I know I can’t come to Byron without experiencing yoga at least once. Sheldon Leon is the instructor (a dancer in an earlier life) and he glides to the front of the class with a calming aura that is so strong you feel yourself relaxing just being in his presence. I love that he starts every class with a little reminder not to compete with your body, just go with the flow. But don’t be fooled, the class is not a gentle stretch. Sheldon makes you tap into every muscle and energy channel of your body, helping you bend and twist with his gentle, soothing words.
Sheldon’s yoga class is special. Complete with symbols and rituals and burning incense to keep you present, there is a constant reminder to breathe, expelling any negative energy blocking you from fully relaxing into the pose. But it isn’t a class where total concentration reigns, it is relaxed and friendly, sprinkled with amusing anecdotes from Sheldon’s dancing days. Those with experience are challenged to open their bodies further, while newbies like myself are supported and encouraged to stretch, balance or contract as far as we can comfortably go. Over the duration of my stay, I feel myself gradually improving. Physically I feel ‘longer’ and much more graceful – no, seriously! Emotionally, I feel much more grounded and connected. Filtering all the noise out of my thoughts, clarity is definitely the biggest benefit for me.
If yoga is not your thing, you’ll soon change your mind when you see what Sheldon can do with his body! It’s hard to believe he once had to arrive to dance rehearsals an hour before anyone else because he was so inflexible. Now he is as supple as an elastic band, yet his clearly-defined muscles ripple with power. He is a walking advertisement for the practise of yoga. Aged in his fifties, he has the body of an 18-year-old, yet is wise beyond words and so completely comfortable within his own skin. He is an authentic Yogi – it is his dharma. His message is simple: “Dream and believe in yourself no matter what the circumstances. Dream and keep on dreaming until the dream comes true. Never, ever stop!” The class concludes with a simple meditation and an inspiring prayer. We salute the day, the day we are ready to enjoy, full of positivity and vigour.
What I love about The Byron – aside from the apartments, yoga, Spa and restaurant! – is that you can have a Wellness Program created for you based on what you want from your visit. The Spa staff will work with the restaurant to create a tailor-made retreat to suit your goals, whether it be detox, weight-loss, relaxation or restoring balance. Relaxation was my goal… and that I did! I was visiting with my family (kids are welcome too, by the way), so I liked the idea of having a glass of wine by the pool, or relaxing in the restaurant enjoying the divine steamed chocolate and rum pudding served with warm chocolate sauce and delicious home-made caramel ice cream!
A Spa is only as good as the treatment you experience. The most beautiful Spa in the world is lost if your experience is not memorable for the right reasons. The Spa at The Byron is a tranquil oasis, with palms gently swaying over the hot tub, but it is the treatments that truly stand out. Melinda, Naomi and the talented therapists pride themselves on always giving the best they can give. Each one of my treatments felt like a gift wrapped in beautiful wrapping, given to me with genuine, heart-felt love.
A special mention must go to the Salt Glow and Vichy Shower treatment. Man, this is not your typical body scrub and Vichy! My therapist, Name, is also a Reiki master and has a special intuitive gift of locating my body’s energy blockages. First and foremost, she tells me this is my time and I should simply relax. She puts a cloth over my eyes, almost as a barrier to conversation, removing any awkward feeling of ‘I should talk to you, but I really want to just switch off and enjoy this treatment’. She deftly massages the salt, mixed with warm oil, all over my body, yet not in a choreographed ‘two strokes this way, one stroke that way’ rhythm, rather one that seems in tune with my body’s needs. If this is the total treatment, I’m happy. But there is more. I am showered off, with again the water at a temperature and pressure dictated by my body’s needs. I am in awe of people who have this talent – she reads me like a book. After drying off, I am coated in a ‘so good you could eat’ Pevonia body oil. Now my skin is glowing, but it is the inner glow I feel that makes this treatment one worth writing home about.
Of course, I had to have a tarot reading, since Byron Bay is also home of the tarot reader. It is a stroke of genius that the Spa offers this on their menu. I am initially a little disappointed that my reader is not a hooped-earinged, scarf-wearing, cat-in-the-lap clairvoyant. Instead, a warm, softly spoken, gentle lady greets me. Straight away I feel comfortable and within five minutes she has uncovered and unravelled my innermost thoughts, and then provides me with her insight and wisdom. We use tarot cards, but she also just says things as they come to her. At one point, she says, “I have no experience in this industry, but I’m told (she inserts industry dialogue here). It makes no sense to me, but this is what I’m told.” I am astounded, as what she has just said makes absolutely perfect sense to me. So this is another treatment where I walk out the door so much more relaxed and in tune than when I walked in.
Our time at The Byron goes all too quickly and, on our last day, we stay as long as we can, seeing if it’s possible to outstay our welcome! The farewell is as touching as the welcome. As we sadly leave, all the beautiful staff we have encountered during our stay wave goodbye with a cheery “see you next time”. And there will definitely be plenty of next times!
I was a guest of The Byron at Byron and I would like to thank John, Lyn, Melinda, Holly, Naomi and Sheldon for a brilliant escape.
Yoga: 90 minutes (complimentary to resort guests)
Salt Glow and Vichy Shower: 50 minutes ($150)
Tarot Card Reading: 60 minutes ($150)
The Restaurant at The Byron: Fantastic environment with just the perfect lighting at night. Dishes are prepared using ingredients sourced from nearby farmers’ markets and local suppliers and the innovative menu makes the most of seasonal produce. Entrees from $15 and mains from $28.
Byron Bay: Byron Bay is located on the easternmost point of Australia, a two-hour drive south of Brisbane, one hour south of Gold Coast Airport, and 25 minutes north of Ballina/Byron Airport, with regular flights servicing both. Byron Bay enjoys a warm, subtropical climate that is ideally suited to enjoying both water-based activities and natural discovery.