Byron Bay, from budget to lux love nest

Long-known for its free-loving spirit, this NSW North Coast town now has a sheen of glamour luring all - from big spenders to budget sticklers.

Here's four ways to take in the splendour of Byron Bay.



The Raes penthouse.

The Raes penthouse.

A favourite of the rich and famous, Raes on Wategos Beach is Byron's upmarket hotel. The Spanish-mission-inspired building was built in the 1970s for Ruth Harris, an eccentric local restaurateur known as "the Queen of Byron Bay".

The hotel's two penthouses and five suites overlook the pool, ocean or nearby Cape Byron Lighthouse. Lucy Folk-designed textiles and local artworks provide accents to the whitewashed walls and it all exudes simplicity and elegance.

The service is warm and non-intrusive; the intimate setting has the staff knowing your name, your coffee order and, by the evening, your favourite cocktail. The day spa is a total retreat and uses skincare products from cult Italian beauty brand Santa Maria Novella.

At Raes Dining Room, head chef Jason Saxby displays his flair for Italian cooking with local ingredients, as seen in the Queensland tropical lobster in XO bisque with heirloom polenta and native lime. For something more casual, try the crumbed snapper sandwich from the Cellar Bar.

Cost: from $650 (low season) per night


The Atlantic Byron Bay

The Atlantic is perfect for long days around Byron.

The Atlantic is perfect for long days around Byron.

The stylish, mid-priced Atlantic Byron Bay is in the heart of town. It's perfect for long days at the beach, hiking or shopping.

The Atlantic offers ensuite rooms in a group of beach houses which share a large garden and lap pool. The rooms come in four different themes which are all light and bright. Cabana rooms are in a chilled-out surf shack; Classic have lovely leather chairs and kitsch ornaments; the West Elm Bungalow has groovy mosaic tiles and beautiful crisp linen; and Tropical rooms have their own private outdoor showers among the palms.

All rooms have king-size beds, air-con, free wi-fi and Grown Alchemist amenities. If you are planning a long stay in Byron Bay, the Atlantic's communal indoor and outdoor living areas are a bonus. The open-air dining table encourages socialising amongst the guests, in an upscale backpacker kind of way.

If you want to try surfing Byron's renowned swell, there are surfboards to borrow or, if you prefer to stay on dry land, there's a few Tokyo bikes.

Cost: from $200 per night


Barbara's Guesthouse

This intimate guesthouse is set in Bryon's quiet residential streets, a five-minute walk over the train tracks from the town centre. It is still only a 10-minute stroll to Belongil and Main beaches.

Owner and interior designer Virginia has created something really special with this cottage, built in 1902. It's filled with beach-inspired ornaments, retro furniture and the pops of red throughout contrast with the rooms' crisp white tones. The atmosphere is warm with a shared lounge area and back terrace garden. A gurgling fountain and swing chair add to the tranquillity.

There's no restaurant but the communal kitchen has a coffee machine, toaster, microwave and fridge. The larder is stocked with artisanal bread, cereals, jams and spreads for self-serve breakfasts.

The five rooms are all comfortable in size and come with robes and organic, locally made toiletries in the contemporary bathrooms. Some rooms have air-conditioning. The Premium studio is best for longer stays as it has a small lounge and a kitchenette.

Cost: from $150 per night

Love nest

Wategos Treehouse

Wategos Treehouse is definitely not for the kids.

Wategos Treehouse is definitely not for the kids.

For something a little different, book this treehouse studio nestled in the forest by Wategos Beach. Definitely not for the kids, this romantic getaway is aimed at couples who want to unwind and escape.

It's not technically in a tree, but the lush surrounds make it feel like you're staying amid the rainforest canopy. The simple but cosy timber house was built in 1977 and has a lovely open-plan layout.

Designed for just one couple to stay at a time, the living area - or Lover's Lounge, as the owners call it - has a TV and a chaise for cuddling. There is also a library of books and DVDs for nights spent in.

A small dining area leads into the kitchenette, which is equipped with a microwave, dishwasher, electric wok and a two-burner hotplate.

But the best part about the Treehouse Studio is the terrace which looks out through the trees. It may be a quiet retreat away from the main town, but it's still just a five-minute walk if you want to try some of the local restaurants and bars. Plus, there's direct access to the beach.

Cost: $245-$455 per night