Everyone is purple in the face about how Byron Bay has changed. In the last 70 years, it has gone from a muddy whaling town, full of blood and gore, to a Californian surfer’s hippy paradise, to a “chill” version of Manly, standard and kind of suburban, to a hotbed of celebrities, micro-influencers and digital nomads. Its transformation from backpacker to boho has been bemoaned for years, but the transformation is now arguably complete with the latest addition to the Booking.com roster – The Bonobo by Raes – which is due to be complete in mid-2024.
Byron Bay may just be the hardest place in Australia to find holiday accommodation (let alone a permanent rental), but fear not, as of next year there will be a new place to fight other Sydneysiders over splashing your cash on. The owners of Raes on Wategos, “an exclusive boutique retreat in an idyllic beachfront setting,” are lending their street cred to a new project in the middle of town, a new luxurious hotel hangout, complete with a rooftop pool.
Plans for the upcoming luxury apartment hotel – The Bonobo by Raes – have just been unveiled, and it’s sure to make travellers’ (and designers’) pulses quicken. The Bonobo by Raes is being designed by Richards & Spence, a Brisbane firm behind digs like the following.
The place will be three-storeys, situated at 116-118 Jonson Street slap bang in the middle of town, as Executive Traveller puts it, “breathing life into the site of a long-neglected backpackers” like a Phoenix.
Also according to Executive Traveller, it was going to be called The Barbotine, but now has a new name to celebrate its collaboration with the Catalano family, who are owners of Raes at Wategos hotel – a Byron Bay institution near the lighthouse.
The Bonobo by Raes will have 41 hotel apartments, with a mix of two, three and four-bedroom options. The place will have gardens inside (contrasting with the sadistically brutal brickwork) and lush greenery overflowing over the outer walls. A Byron-worthy melange indeed. Certainly beats paying $115 to pitch your tent in somebody’s garden in Ocean Shores, too.
Apartment sizes will vary from 85 square metres to 160 square metres. They will all have big windows, big kitchens and well-endowed balconies. The real Instagram money shot, however, will be the rooftop pool.
Tools are already clattering to get the project off the ground, and it’s meant to be done by mid-2024.
The debate over Byron Bay’s ongoing SUV-ication will undoubtedly continue, with one surf blog commentator summing the situation up as follows:
“I was no shit squashed into my car park by 3 f**kers in Black SUV’s, I had one at both nose and tail and one on my wing waiting for me to move so he could gobble up my park, I felt both outraged and intimidated.”
“There was a time, not so long ago, that it was considered an uncouth act to drive a luxury vehicle in the Byron Shore. I used to joke that the secret to success around here was to have lots of money but pretend that you didn’t.”
“Now the Black SUV is the new surf van, Byron is long past trying to hide wealth, now it’s a matter of letting it all hang out.”
At least we’re now letting things “all hang out” in style?