If you’ve been Byron-bound in the past few years, chances are Raes on Wategos has been on your must-do list. Located on Australia’s most easterly point, the hotel was originally built in the 1960s, going through a number of iterations (and owners) before its reopening as a new boutique hotel in 2017, after Melbourne-based publisher Anthony Catalano purchased the property.
With just seven apartments to choose from, each corner of this beachfront hotel has been carefully crafted by interior designer du jour Tamsin Johnson. Johnson has a magpie’s eye for combining the elegant with the eclectic, and the resulting hotel is a space that’s no longer austere or curtained off, but rather an easy, breezy, stylish setting for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re just popping in for a spritz and bowl of Belgian fries on a Saturday afternoon or checking in for a weeklong stay, Raes on Wategos nails unpretentious luxury.
PHOTOGRAPHY Sean Fennessy
The reinvention of Raes is apparent from the minute you enter the lush tree-lined driveway. Johnson’s design removes the dated Moroccan and Indonesian accents in favour of more bombastic, lightly modern elements like the travertine floors and timber accents. New colours, artworks and textures add personality throughout the hotel, restaurant and spa. Local names are showcased with the striking sculpture and furniture by Steven Clark (aka Den Holm) and artworks by Caroline Walls and the Byron-based Todd Hunter, with wall lights by Anna Charlesworth. Soft linens by est favourite Lucy Folk feature in the restaurant, while simple white linen exudes an effortless luxury in the guest suites.
The updated interior not only demonstrates a refreshed aesthetic, but excudes more personality and charm than the previous iteration of the hotel. It’s the design equivalent of a Tom Collins: fresh, strong and a little bit sweet – the perfect backdrop to lazy days and balmy nights spent in subtropical serenity.
The hotel’s rejuvenation isn’t limited to the visual, with an extensive (and luxurious) guest experience led by General Manager Francesca Webster. Having previously led the guest experience for the Park Hyatt and Halcyon House, Francesca and her team understand today’s traveller expects more – and a stay at Raes gives them both the refined luxury of a boutique hotel with the character and personality of a smaller, more intimate venture.
If the interior is all about celebrating the local beach culture through contemporary eclecticism, the guest experience that happens within the spaces is well-matched, offering surf boards, beach towels and chairs for the beach, with playful Lucy Folk-designed uniforms for the staff. Right down to the coffee cart out front to the in-house yoga teacher, every detail has been included with a clear idea of the Raes personality and experience in mind.
After closing during June for further enhancements to the restaurant and spa as well as some new additions to the hotel, Raes on Wategos is back with a bang in July. Who says you need to head to the other side of the world to enjoy a mid-year beachfront escape? Paradise is just a few hours away.