Natasha Dragun checks in to Elements of Byron for the wellness offerings, and lingers over the design, which speaks of place like few other Australian resorts.
Over decades of travel, I’ve failed to walk into a spa I haven’t liked. But the Osprey wellness cocoon at Elements of Byron truly dazzles from the moment you arrive.
I could have spent hours in the relaxation lounge. Replete with dramatic pavilions reminiscent of four-poster beds – only fashioned from fallen timbers and embellished with gum and casuarina nuts. They create quite the artistic statement beside a curtain-like crystal chandelier, suspended from a skylight and with nature’s other elements (water, stone, plants) all around.
Osprey Spa treatments
I’m at the Osprey Spa for the ‘Rainforest Revival’ ritual. The treatment begins with a lemon myrtle body scrub and ends, 90 minutes later, with a massage using oils infused with eucalyptus and arnica. But there’s so much else on offer to salve my soul.
The journey toward better being has always been a priority at this retreat on the outskirts of Byron Bay. There is no other destination in Australia that embraces healthy living quite as whole-heartedly as Byron Bay. From the moment the 20-hectare resort opened back in 2016, morning yoga sessions overlooking the ocean became a standard rate inclusion.
More recently, the focus has expanded to cover everything from star-gazing sessions to aqua classes, flotation therapy and horse riding.
Relax, rebalance, revive in the natural surrounds
The resort’s new portfolio of grounding experiences were designed to help guests ‘relax, rebalance and revive’. They were thoughtfully compiled to not only enhance wellness journeys, but also allow guests to fully discover this patch of paradise. Elements of Byron is set along a two-kilometre stretch of Belongil Beach and enveloped by native forest. A lot of it.
Native flora and fauna in mind
When Shane Thompson Architects took on the project to create Elements, the firm surveyed every tree on the property and made the decision not to lose a single trunk while erecting the rooms. There are now 202 rooms including 193 villas reminiscent of traditional fibro beach shacks. On the contrary, the goal was to re-establish the ecology of this pocket of Byron. They worked with not-for-profit WetlandCare Australia to introduce 65,000 native trees and plants across the grounds. Perhaps the ultimate measure of success is in the fact that 19 endangered floral species have been recorded on-site. Bird and animal life is flourishing once again.
“It’s one of those places that captures your soul and quietens it right down,” says Thompson, whose design vision for the resort was to re-interpret the wilderness that surrounds – its dunes, native trees, oceans and lakes – in his structures, while leaving a minimal building footprint on the land.
“It’s one of those places that captures your soul and quietens it right down,”
– Shane Thompson
It’s this leafy backdrop that inspired Elements’ ‘Wellness Experience’ – think of it as a health retreat, without anything being forced. You check in for five nights, choose activities that appeal, and set off on a bespoke journey.
In addition to at-leisure diversions like bird watching and sunrise beach strolls, suggested experiences encourage you to get boxing, go hiking through rainforest with a nature guide, pedal through the countryside, try kayaking or surfing – surely Byron’s most legendary experience.
There’s also the suggestion to curl up in a hanging cabana built for two (replete with cocktail tray) beside Elements’ rather glorious 850,000-litre infinity lagoon pool. As if you need an excuse. For added privacy, the resort also comes with an adults-only pool. This water, and Belongil’s waves, were at the forefront when applauded Queensland firm Coop Creative took over the interior design.
Company director, Rowena Cornwell, worked with local glass, textiles and furniture artists to craft pieces that nod to the sea, and the bush that surrounds. Everywhere you look there’s a connection back to the land, from the shell mosaics and living green walls to the tie-dye shibori leather bedheads – so evocative of the waves it feels like you’re sleeping on the ocean. And then there are the colourful firepit pouffes that resemble scattered stream pebbles.
That firepit, beside the lagoon pool, was a focus for Thompson, who wanted a gathering point beneath the undulating roofs of the main buildings, which curve over the horizon like Byron’s sand dunes.
“From here you can see the arc of the sun in the sky uninterrupted by anything (else) artificial,” he says.
This article originally appeared in volume 37 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Lead image © Brad Walls