As a long-time visitor to Byron Bay, Raes on Wategos has always been one of my bucket-list destinations. Perched in a prime position overlooking Wategos Beach, the landmark Argentinian-style property has hosted a who’s who of A-list names over the years, such as Elle Macpherson, Tom Cruise, Keith Richards and Kate Winslet.
Last year, the seven-suite boutique hotel, which includes two penthouse apartments, underwent a full refurbishment by Sydney-based interior designer Tamsin Johnson, who transformed the interiors from dark and austere to fresh and relevant.
More recently, under the guidance of new general manager Francesca Webster, Raes Dining Room has also been given a complete overhaul with celebrated chef Jason Barratt now at the helm.
With a focus on fresh, locally sourced produce, the alfresco beachside dining room is an inviting space to be enjoyed by barefoot locals and discerning guests alike.
Today, there are a group of 20-something girls celebrating a birthday, as well as a casually dressed couple who appear to have come straight from the beach. Our waiters, clad in pastel blue and white Lucy Folk-designed uniforms, are friendly and attentive.
We start with a mixture of natural and spicy Pacific oysters and a glass of Champagne Perrier-Jouet while we take in the magical view. My main course, the Saltbush agnolotti with oyster mushrooms, stracciatella is seriously good, as are the sides of warm broccoli, yoghurt and almonds and scallop potatoes with sea salt.
Like the restaurant and recently refurbished pool area, our home for the night, Penthouse 2, oozes simple, understated luxury. Boasting natural light and curves in all the right places, this two-bedroom apartment has two bathrooms, a kitchenette, sunken lounge and two balconies overlooking Wategos Beach, the perfect spot for a sundowner.
However, it’s the finer details such as the rattan armchairs, tiles sourced from Java, chandelier over the dining table, indoor plants and pots, and textured rugs and bed linen that set Raes apart from other luxury properties.
In an Airbnb world where authentic, personalised guest experiences are key for hoteliers to create a powerful bond with guests, Raes absolutely nails this. The staff can’t do enough to ensure your stay is memorable, yet they give you the space and privacy to truly enjoy the property. This is unpretentious luxury at its absolute finest and if Raes isn’t on your bucket list, it really should be.