Nov 25, 2019
The iconic crack of a native eastern whipbird reverberates through the surrounding rainforest—the first clue that I’ve left civilization. Green valleys fold into the landscape, crumpling all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where a full moon prepares to rise above a misty Cape Byron. With my toes dipped in the magnesium infinity pool, my hand clasped around a glass of sparkling wine, it’s as if I can reach out and touch the easternmost point of Australia. It’s well out of earshot, though. Here in the hinterland outside the buzzy coastal refuge of Byron Bay, the beat of bongos is replaced with the primal hum of nature.
Commanding a hillside above the township of Mullumbimby (Mullum to locals), the boundary-pushing Blackbird Byron (blackbirdbyron.com.au; from A$445 per night) sets the tone for small-town travel. “We’re just on that sweet spot,” says owner James Hudson, who built the adults-only bed-and-breakfast with his wife Stella, tapping into their backgrounds in industrial and interior design. “We’re far enough away that it feels like a million miles from anything,” he says. “But Byron is only 25 minutes away, so if you want to dip your toe in, you can.”
Salvaging the corrugated iron and timber from a banana shed that collapsed on their property, the Hudsons’ contemporary “zero-miles materials” retreat is made up of just three pavilions and a communal space overlooking an infinity pool. “We used everything we could from here,” Stella says. Glass doors bring the outside in, and design accents of Moroccan tiles and vintage furniture are offset with raw materials like rusted builders’ mesh and weathered timber.
A launch pad for Mullum’s hip cafés, the destination Kiva Spa and the bush trails of Nightcap National Park (part of the UNESCO-listed Gondwana rainforests), Blackbird Byron makes a compelling case for hyper-local travel. —Jenny Hewett