From a Californian ranch to a reimagined ’80s motel, we have curated a guide to the most striking design hotels in Byron Bay, highlighting texture, colour and antiquities
Paying homage to the Californian ranch houses of the 70s while meeting the demands of modern travel, Sunranch is a collection of contrasts. The eccentric, mid-century modern estate is dotted with gathering spaces ideal for small group getaways and corporate events, while the accommodation is described as ‘luxury barn ’-style, with rooms catering to both couples and families. Sunranch also offers unique epicurean experiences along with exclusive onsite activities such as astrology readings and sound healing.
Located in the Byron Bay Hinterland, the project was meticulously brought to life by creative directors Julia Ashwood and Jamie Blakey, who designed the sprawling 55-acre property into a 70s-style California Ranch. The estate comprises six two-bedroom barns and a five-room luxury guest house fittingly named ‘The Rambler Longhouse’, each adorned with internationally sourced antiques, vibrant colours and contrasting textures. Sunranch also features an array of exclusive amenities including The Pool Club, The Badminton Club, The Whiskey Lounge and The Lair, a vibrant sunken lounge where guests can relax.
The estate is a holiday home for Zephyr Horses – Byron Bay’s top riding club – for visitors to saddle up and explore the property on horseback. There is an outdoor alfresco kitchen and dining space at The Field House, a wellness space featuring an ice bath and woodfired floating sauna at Go Easy Dam and The Cowboy Bar, where the saloon doors will swing open for bar service at varied times throughout your stay. Sticking to the 70s ranch theme, guests are greeted with either a salty margarita or icy cold beer on arrival at Sunranch.
Swell Hotel is a retro boutique hotel embodying a harmonious blend of natural elements and vintage glamour. Located in the heart of Byron Bay, the Swell Hotel reimagined the iconic Byron Bay Motor Lodge. The Californian-inspired boutique hotel is imbued with 70s architectural elements and showcases a warm palette inspired by the earth’s rich hues – rich browns, deep greens and burnt oranges.
The creative direction of Swell embodies a coastal interpretation of the ‘Kelly Wearstler look’ – a renowned American designer who was the creative behind the Proper Hotels and Four Seasons Anguilla – who pairs beloved antiques and classic pieces with modern aesthetics. Swell Hotel is a sensory experience, with the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ looks giving a three-dimensional feel to each room.
The guest rooms are positioned either poolside or showcase garden views and are designed for guests seeking a connection with people and natural beauty. Byron Bay is distinctively known for an emphasis on wellness and health, so it comes as no surprise the 16-suite hotel boasts a marble-tiled pool, infrared sauna and two bars stocked up with local produce and beverages.
Raes on Wategos
Positioned in an idyllic beachfront setting, the iconic Raes on Wategos is an exclusive boutique retreat embodying a refined eclectic aesthetic layered with antiques. The remodel of the hotel in 2017 was led by interior designer Tamsin Johnson, whose unwavering dedication to maintaining the hotel’s character set the tone for the remodel.
The redesign of the exclusive hotel allows for the infiltration of natural light and complements the colour palette, which is tonally in tune with the coastal surroundings. Raes showcases five guest suites and two penthouses, each adorned with natural fabrics and a monochrome muted palette. Tamsin has incorporated custom joinery, sturdy outdoor-strength upholstery and unique rattan woven furniture, as well as touches of greenery throughout the establishment.
The hotel boasts one of Byron Bay’s most renowned restaurants, and savouring sunset drinks at the Cellar Bar with a view of the surf at Wategos has become a quintessential Byron experience. The service at Raes is attentive and personable, characterised by thoughtful gestures like handwritten notes and a turndown service that includes Rae’s sleep mist delicately sprayed on the pillows, slippers neatly arranged by the bed, and a candle-heated teapot filled with aromatic herbal tea placed on the coffee table.
Once a dated 80s motel, The Sunseeker is a boutique accommodation located in the heart of Byron’s town. The vision of the hotel was to create an esoteric place that felt like a residential home filled with a unique collection of treasured pieces. The design showcases eccentric objects, bespoke furniture and ephemera sourced from local creatives. The quirky design details include bedside orb lights and sunshine-infused pops of art inscribed with reminders to ‘Holiday Often.’ The Sunseeker seamlessly blends the past and present in a narrative of architectural ingenuity and timeless style.
The Sunseeker comprises well-considered yet understated family-friendly facilities, with all the adult trimmings. Accommodation at The Sunseeker includes both guest rooms and bungalows, in addition to the private residence available for larger groups. The hotel boasts a library, a playground, a retro takeaway coffee van, a fire pit for gatherings and an ‘80s-style pool lined with plush daybeds and positioned next to a tiki meets-tropical brutalist bar.
Situated just out of the hustle and bustle of town, The Sunseeker was designed to be as sustainable as possible. The hotel is powered by the sun thanks to the integration of solar panels, water tanks service the pool, garden and each bungalow, and repurposed materials were used in the remodel.
Hotel Marvell is Byron Bay’s newest five-star hotel and is home to its first-ever rooftop bar and pool, bringing a new level of luxury to the town. Located slightly back from the sandy shores of Main Beach, Hotel Marvell embodies Byron’s tropical aesthetic, showcasing earthy tones and a 24-hour lobby adorned with lush greenery.
Designed by Harley Graham Architects, the hotel boasts 24 hotel guest rooms with private balconies and is adorned with natural materials. Hotel Marvel offers a welcoming ambience akin to a ‘home away from home’, complete with meticulously curated in-house features, such as Baina beach towels, Leif toiletries, premium linen bedding and Nespresso coffee machines.
The hotel houses a locally inspired restaurant, Bonito, that serves dishes that marry contrasting flavours and textures. Although it is positioned in the lobby of the hotel, Bonito was designed to be a standalone restaurant and showcases custom-made joinery and intricately curved woodwork in the banquettes and cabinetry. The restaurant is led by Minh Le, whose background at renowned restaurants like Spicers Peak Lodge, The Byron at Byron and Harvest, has solidified his reputation.
The Bonobo by Raes will be a hotel and apartment complex from the Raes at Wategos team opening in the Autumn of 2024. The design team – led by Richard and Spence Architects, who designed the award-winning The Calile in Brisbane – will imbue the residence with a rare sense of place. The incorporation of granite reflects rocky outcrops, limestone and pale timbers suggesting the soft colours of the shore, while off-form concrete ceilings create dramatic texture overhead.
The design of The Bonobo focuses heavily on the details, in the same vein as that found at Raes on Wategos. Positioned in the heart of town on Johnson Street, even the name of The Bonobo is idiosyncratic, deriving its name from the iconic Cheeky Monkeys nightclub that was positioned across the road.
The accommodation showcases generous living and dining areas, entertainer kitchens are a focal point for people to gather, while tranquil bedrooms and indulgent ensuites are intelligently positioned away from any bustle. The facilities at the residence will include an array of dining, retail and wellness venues, while an elegantly landscaped pool crowns the rooftop.
Byron Bay Hotel
Designed by Plus Architecture, the Byron Bay Hotel is characterised by the ‘barefoot luxury’ aesthetic unique to Byron Bay. The hotel will showcase a design that embodies the established coastal vernacular while overlaying contemporary elements that elevate the guest experience. The attention to detail will be prevalent through the materiality, colours and objects, that reflect the coastal environment’s natural hues. The use of travertine, brass and bronze will be incorporated to create a warm and inviting atmosphere that resonates with the unique charm of the region.
Located in prime position along Lawson Street, with easy access to popular dining and retail districts, as well as natural landmarks including Main Beach, Wategos Beach and Cape Byron, the internal space of the hotel will be thoughtfully designed to provide guests with an oasis amidst the bustling town. The heart of the hotel – a light-filled atrium –will feature a high-end restaurant, allowing guests to reconnect with friends and enjoy their time together in a unique and curated setting. The hotel will also boast an expansive rooftop bar, pool and cabana, offering uninterrupted panoramic views of Byron Bay.