This boutique property is designed as a retreat for tired city slickers who need a country break to rejuvenate.
Driving through lush green countryside, the freeway turns to a single-lane road and, once through Mullumbimby, morphs into unmarked tar before narrowing into a tiny dirt track lined with tall grass waving in the breeze. At the base of what turns out to be the Koonyum Range, we park and enter through aged wrought-iron gates in a corrugated iron fence. The secret weapon of Blackbird Byron is revealed, with a stunning view over the rainforest, local peaks, the ocean, and I can see Cape Byron and its famous lighthouse in the distance.
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Address: 210 Frasers Road, Mullumbimby Creek, NSW
Website: Blackbird Byron
That view is quite something. And it is not just the surrounding natural wonders that take the eye. In the foreground is Blackbird’s beautiful pool with its boundary of striking Moroccan-style tiles, and I picture myself in said pool, staring out at the horizon over the jungle of green.
On the other side of the pool is the main building of the property, containing a kitchen and dining area that doubles as a chic poolside cabana. It instantly makes me feel relaxed with its mixture of styles, and after I get the lowdown on my stay here from owner/creator James Hudson, he shows me to my villa, my shoes crunching on the stone pathway.
Blackbird has three pavilions, all detached from each other. I fall in love with mine instantly. The entry area has a storage area for luggage, hanging space complete with beautiful robes for use while there, a bench complete with coffee maker, and a bar fridge. The enormous bathroom features a large rain shower fed by exposed copper pipes and the shampoo and conditioner in refillable containers are of great quality.
A sink and mirror are tucked around the corner, and the main space has a beautiful bed, a television should you wish to watch it, comfy seats to sit in and read in, or an outside balcony that takes you one step closer to the exquisite view. A highlight for me is the natural frame off the balcony created by timber that was recycled from a decades-old derelict banana packing shed on the property that collapsed with the weight of time and the elements in the first week James was on site. He did have other plans for it at the time but then decided to reuse the hardwood timber and tin, which are basically “zero miles materials”, and also very effective.
A book on stargazing and a pair of binoculars in the shelving under the TV is a nice touch, and put to good use. You can also arrange a massage in your pavilion, which I do, with birdsong a wonderful accompaniment.
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James was in the hospitality industry in Sydney and had an epiphany one night. He was married with one child and another on the way, and he, along with his wife Stella, decided to move to the country to establish a place in Byron Bay where stressed-out city workers could come and totally unwind. It took a year and a half, and they looked further afield than Byron, but once they purchased it, they knew they had the perfect place.
As for the name, James says they had been working on it since first deciding to make the tree change. “When we settled on the property we came up with friends and had champagne, and as we raised our glasses for a toast, a flock of black cockatoos flew over. A bit later, the Beatles’ Blackbird came on. It seemed like a sign and we both agreed it was perfect, so Blackbird it is,” James grins.
Even the logo for Blackbird is spot on. It was designed by well-known artist Bruce Goold. According to James, Bruce nailed the brief first time, done in black ink and a brush and carrying a palm frond in its claw.
James and Stella dreamed of creating a place where busy people can come and be un-busy, re-energised and de-stressed. A place they would feel immersed in nature. They have succeeded. During my time there I spent a lot of time in the pool area, lazing in the still-chilly but very refreshing magnesium pool, warmed up in the infra-red sauna, read on a day bed, then followed the sun to the other side in a trendy chair. Then I moved inside to the quirky poolside lounge. Like the rest of the property, James describes the style as a mix of industrial with a bit of a nod to Palm Springs and a splash of Morocco, softened with recycled timber and iron. “As I was an industrial designer by trade and Stella was an interior designer, we both knew what we wanted and love the resulting melting pot of influences,” James stated.
James and Stella also wanted to create a sense of community, with guests coming together for evening drinks to watch the sun go down. It feels like catching up with friends around the kitchen table, and I get the sense that this is what James loves the most about his new baby, as he watches proudly as his guests spend hours talking and chatting and having a great time. Mind you, with the excellent wine and spirit list James has put together, and the setting, it is a no-brainer.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is that guests often love it so much here that they end up not doing that hike or surfing the waves, or the market trawling that they may have intended. Blackbird just seems to wrap its arms around you and fill up your heart with a feeling of comfort and tranquillity. Blackbird does not have a restaurant, with the idea being guests would want to dine in Mullumbimby or Byron, but often James will end up cooking a pizza and a salad for dinner using fresh produce from the markets. We are guilty of that, as we bonded so well with the other guests we all decided to stay home. Sorry James!
The breakfast served is a different story, as it is included in the rate. You can name the time you want breakfast, within reason, and it is delicious, without being over the top, weigh-you-down huge.
As James supports local artisans, there is some fabulous jewellery in the lounge area that grabs our attention. It is by Victoria Spring, popular with the Paddington crowd in Sydney and also known for her commissioned work for films. She shows us her jewellery – all reclaimed gemstones collected since the 1950s. Victoria knows her stuff, she created THE diamond in Titanic and also did a lot of the costume jewellery for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! Yes, I did buy something.
Blackbird has that magical quality that you cannot buy, nor plan to experience. It just happens, when the sum of a place’s parts combines to create perfection. And if perfection to you is peace and quiet and reconnection with nature, this is it.
The serenity, the pool and the ambience of the pavilions.
I would change nothing but would like the shampoo and conditioner bottles labelled as I think I washed my hair in body wash! (Insert laugh emoji!). I would also have stayed longer as it would have been good for the soul.
The rate was $595 per night for the pavilion. The pizza was $24 and the salad $12.50.