While some might say the Byron Bay bubble has burst, there is a plethora of cool little towns on the outskirts of the trendy social centre that are proving to be a slower, more authentic alternative.
Since real estate has sky-rocketed to Sydney status, and parking your car near the main street of town is a nightmare, it was only a matter of time before want-to-be Northern NSW residents started to look for alternative locations for their dream businesses.
Which is exactly what James Hudson has done. Relocating from the Bondi Beach hustle around five years ago, he found the perfect location for his industrial-meets-Joshua Tree style luxury Byron Bay accommodation, Blackbird.
This architecturally-pleasing retreat, named in honour of the rare and Indigenous yellow-tailed black cockatoo that calls this mountain home (and The Beatles’ song), is located on a high cliff face in Mullumbimby – a town known for its natural lifestyle and hippy roots.
There’s something magical about waking up on the east coast of Australia and having an unobstructed view of the sun rising over the Pacific ocean. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to open your morning eyes to this spectacular site, you’ll know just how special it is to stay at such a location.
Each of the three pavilions at Blackbird have been cleverly designed to face the ocean, while blocking out any other building that would obscure your view. Made of simple concrete panels, whitewashed ply, Moroccan tiles, rescued railway sleepers and concreting reo mesh, the pavilions are a beauty to look at, and an absolute dream to sleep in.
I couldn’t help but feel completely removed from everything that annoys me about the Byron shire while at Blackbird. No cars. No hipsters. No excessive retail prices. Just a zen-like rock garden adorned with cactus and succulents, pristine magnesium pool looking out at the horizon, big comfy chairs to lounge the days away in, huge trees above, chirping birds everywhere, and clean fresh air.
But more about the pool. This beautifully tiled structure has been designed with rejuvenation in mind. Its chemical-free, magnesium-rich waters will do wonders for your health by helping to alleviate aches and pains and soothe your skin at the same time. With big timber sun lounges made cleverly by hand from old railway sleepers and a maximum of six guests at any one time, it’s easy to sneak in a quiet day-time snooze while you enjoy the peaceful mountain surrounds.
Inside the pool house, or the ‘reception’, there are comfy couches, a communal dining table (did we mention you can have meals catered by a local chef) and loads of local produce and drinks for you to sample.
The pavilions themselves are simple structures, made mainly of concrete and old recovered hardware such as reo mesh and railway sleepers. Inside you’ll find a lush king bed with elegant linen and a massive bathroom.
The main purpose behind Blackbird is to switch off. So apart from a small TV and stereo, there’s not much more here technology wise to distract you.
If mountaineering is your cup of tea, there are plenty of bush walks in the local area to have you pulling on your hiking boots.
What might catch your eye is the spectacular bird watching and night-time star gazing. Every room has a pair of binoculars and a star guide for your use so getting right into these slow pastimes is easy done. Come nightfall, there is a big open fire in the reception you are free to light up, whet your whistle and maybe make some new friends.
Perched high in the hinterland looking down at the most easterly point of Australia, you’ll be strumming your own guitar to the sounds of Blackbird before the end of your Slow Stay. You might even decide that city life is no longer for you, just like James did, and never look back.