Adventurers, explorers and waterbabies of all sizes: prepare to fall hook, line and sinker for family-friendly Elements of Byron Bay, in beachy, outdoorsy New South Wales. We’ll eat our beach hat if anyone cries ‘I’m bored!’ here – the hotel doesn’t stint on exciting activities or natural highs. Embark on a hiking expedition in the serene green grounds, wheel around on electric bikes, challenge your brood to a game of bocce or giant chess, go horse-riding, skip to Belongil Beach (basically Elements’ backyard) and learn to surf. Sample delicious Australian food and drink in Graze restaurant and the bevvy of poolside bars, leaving just enough time to squeeze in tropical treatments at the peaceful spa.
11am; earliest check-in, 3pm (both are flexible, on request).
Double rooms from $236.85 (AU$345), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually exclude breakfast (pick from Continental and à la carte options from $25). On-the-house extras include: beachside morning yoga sessions, guided rainforest walks, unlimited in-house movies, WiFi and use of the fitness facilities.
The hotel’s minimalist, modern design comes courtesy of acclaimed Australian architect Shane Thompson. He deliberately designed the hotel’s stilted structures to preserve the surrounding ecosystem and cause minimal impact on the local wildlife.
At the hotel
Public beach; seasonal beach club; 20 acres of greenery; tennis courts; yoga classes; library; gym; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, iPod dock, blackout curtains, tea and coffee kit.
Our favourite rooms
It’s a toss up between the Superior or Deluxe Two-Bedroom Villas, whose collective charms include a peaceful location in the eucalypt forest (a five-minute walk from the beach) and all the mod cons a family could desire, including swish kitchen facilities and a washer/dryer. (The Deluxe Villas might just inch ahead, on account of their extra space.)
Prepare to spend plenty of time hanging out at Elements’ double-whammy of watery attractions. The family-friendly alfresco Central Lagoon Pool has hanging daybeds, a heated spa pool, a relaxation deck and daily poolside service. The adults-only pool wows with a dazzling design, private cabanas, full poolside service and a swim-up bar. (Both are temperature controlled, so you can splash around happily throughout the year.)
Frazzled parents can unwind at the whisper-quiet Osprey Spa, decorated with wood and white, where products by proudly-Aussie brand La Gaia star in treatments. Relax with the Rainforest Revival Ritual or boost radiance levels with the Get Glow ritual. Yogis can join group sunrise sessions or have a private class; one-to-one meditation and breathing sessions are also available.
Beachwear, books and binoculars for the birdlife.
Communal areas can accommodate wheelchairs. Dedicated disabled-access rooms have adapted bathrooms and an entry ramp.
Little Smiths are very welcome. Babysitting can be arranged for $25 an hour (minimum two-hour slot; book 72 hours ahead.
All are welcome, but the hotel reckons it’s best suited to little ones aged between three and five.
The two-bedroom villas are perfect for families, offering plenty of space; each one has a fully kitted out kitchenette. Travel or foldaway cots can be provided on request.
Little legs can get tired out with help from the adventure playground, agility circuit and tennis court. Borrow electric bikes, go horse-riding or hit the public beach, a five-minute walk away.
The main pool is family friendly, but keep an eye on your water babies.
The restaurants have high chairs and staff will happily heat up baby meals.
You’ll definitely want to hit the spa, dip into the adults-only pool and enjoy a romantic meal or two. Luckily, babysitting can be arranged with three days’ notice, for $25 an hour. (A minimum two-hour booking applies.)
People-watch from the terrace when it’s sunny (pretty much always).
Go Byron bohemian: floaty layers, splashes of aqua and beach-ready kaftans.
Sample seasonal local produce, seafood and meat at relaxed Graze Restaurant, decorated with splashes of sunset-orange, whose sharing plates provide multiple cues for conversation. Highlight dishes include Moreton Bay bugs with burnt pineapple, betel leaves and roasted chilli and lime, and Pacific raw tuna, crispy duck skin with shitake dust and pickled cucumber.
Recognising that swimming is thirsty work, both of Elements’ pools have their own bar. It can get pretty busy at the Central Lagoon Poolside Bar, where patience is rewarded with seasonal cocktails and ice-cold brews; you might be better sneaking off to the adults-only pool for house margaritas, served in a Mexican-inspired setting. There’s also the hotel’s beachfront club, which is open daily during summer months (on the weekend only, during cooler months).
Breakfast is served until 10.30am, lunch until 2pm and dinner until 9.30pm.
Order items from the restaurant menu during Graze’s opening hours. You can also dip into your villa’s minibar, which is stocked with soft drinks, snacks and booze.
Elements has a prime location on Belongil Beach, in bohemian Byron Bay.
Ballina Airport, served by Virgin Blue, Regional Express and Jetstar, is just a half-hour drive away; from the airport, hop on the public shuttle service to Byron. (Our Smith24 team can help arrange your flights.)
The hotel is a 10-minute drive from central Byron Bay; on-site parking is free (and plentiful). It’s worth having a car to explore the surroundings: an enticing tapestry of beaches, rainforests, volcanic escarpments and hinterland.
Jet in by chopper if you fancy; just speak to staff in advance to arrange.
Worth getting out of bed for
This family-friendly hotel is perfectly positioned for adventures in the great outdoors: wheel around on the hotel’s electric bikes, go horse-riding or laze around at the beach club. Belongil Beach is basically the hotel’s beautiful backyard; this 10-kilometre stretch of sand is also home to a coastal nature reserve. Lifeguards are on the beach every weekend, and seven days a week during school holidays. Explore the resort’s 20 acres of native rainforest along two kilometres of walking trails (a handy trail map is given to guests at check-in). You could also tackle the Cape Byron Walking Track, learn to surf or visit Tallow Beach in the rugged Arakwal National Park. Ride into Byron town on the world’s first fully solar-powered train; the station is just a two-minute walk from the resort lobby. Perfect your serve at the hotel’s tennis court or hit the gym. Saddle up with help from Zephyr Horses riding school, right next to the resort. The school has a range of steeds – including ponies, Clydesdales, thoroughbreds and Australian stock breeds – suitable for all ages and levels. Bookworms could curl up with a tome or two in the library; Elements also offers yoga, meditation and Pilates classes (and has a very tempting spa). Little Smiths will love the Parkour-inspired outdoor playground, the giant chess set and bocce.
Go for a waveside brunch at easy, breezy Beach Byron Bayon Massinger Street; have a leisurely lunch – barbecued goodness, perhaps – at Three Blue Ducks on Ewingsdale Road. For dinner, have a casual, plant-centric meal at Folk Byron Bay, also on Ewingsdale, or dress to impress at ravishing Rae’son Watego, a boutique hotel on Marine Parade. Rae’s chef has a thing for seafood: try the kingfish crudo with melon and mint, or the barbecued diamond clam broth with fennel and fregola.
Toast the sea and sunset at sociable St Elmo on Fletcher Street. Elmo’s devilishly good tropical cocktails have garnered a loyal following; if you’re peckish, order tapas, too.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this beachy hotel in New South Wales and unpacked their sun lotion and snorkelling masks, a full account of their family-friendly break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Elements of Byron in Byron Bay…
Warning: your little ones will never look at their local pool in the same way after a trip to Elements of Byron, whose liquid lures include two dazzling pools and easy access to Belongil Beach, where surfing lessons, aquatic adventures and sandside lazing await. That’s pretty much the only drawback of staying at this nature-loving, outdoorsy retreat, whose freestanding villas really are sitting pretty amid a eucalypt forest (some survey a glittering lagoon). Australian starchitect Shane Thompson has cleverly designed the villas for family stays: picture lashings of space and a sleek kitchenette fit for meals en masse. Speaking of food, you’ll want to spend plenty of time sampling the local seafood at relaxed Graze restaurant – and toasting your good decisions at the poolside bars and the buzzing beach club. It’d be very easy to stay put at boutique basecamp, joining free morning yoga sessions, unwinding in the spa and notching up laps in the pool – but Byron Bay and the beach are your compelling cues to go at least a little bit further afield.
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