Halcyon House is set on a wide, seemingly endless, wind-swept surf beach in the quiet coastal town of Cabarita, New South Wales. It’s slap bang between famous hippie surf town Byron Bay and Queensland’s breathtaking Gold Coast, which has yet more beautiful beaches and a lush, subtropical hinterland with rainforests and waterfalls.
We flew into Brisbane Airport and hired a car, driving an hour and a half along the Pacific Highway to reach the hotel, though it’s also just 20 minutes from the fast-expanding Gold Coast Airport.
The location is undeniably a huge draw, but it’s the wonderful service, top-notch food and Instagram-worthy interiors that make Halcyon House a real showstopper.
This former 60s surfers’ motel has been given the five-star treatment and has recently been voted Australia’s most Intagrammable hotel. Styled by award-winning Brisbane designer Anna Spiro, it has a blue and white Mediterranean-style colour scheme throughout – from the wow-factor in-house restaurant Paper Daisy, with its blue and white wicker chairs, to the lounge area with its jazzy blue printed cushions and striped rug, to the pool area with its blue and white candy-striped loungers. Even the staff wear blue and white uniforms.
The lounge area at Halcyon House
Paper Daisy restaurant
Pack your chicest swimwear – this is a place to see and be seen. The poolside area has a glamorous Riviera feel and is great for people-watching with an aperol spritz in hand.
Each of the 19 rooms and two luxury two-bedroom suites has its own unique style. The feel is whimsical and quirky, and as in the communal areas of the hotel, there’s plenty of clashing prints, fabric-covered walls and individual artwork.
The bathrooms are equally striking – ours had a marble vanity top, bold black-and-white patterned floor tiles and gold fixtures and fittings. And of course, all rooms have balconies/terraces, the higher rooms (like ours, on the second floor) benefitting from a view down onto the pool and over the trees to the crashing surf beach beyond. It’s breathtaking.
One of the suites at Halcyon House (above)
Beautiful tiles and fixtures in our bathroom
Our balcony – and those stunning views…
The in-house restaurant, Paper Daisy, is a destination in its own right. Named after the wildflowers that grow on the headland here, it’s presided over by one of Queensland’s best chefs, Ben Devlin. Expect a dinner menu of summery Australian fish-heavy classics (everything from oysters to octopus).
But for us, breakfast was the best meal of the day. Served in the alfresco bar area, where you can hear the waves crashing on the beach just beyond, it’s no small affair.
We loved ‘toad in the hole’: fried sourdough and egg with lonza, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive, and the avocado on toast with poached eggs and bacon is epic. Expect to form a major addiction to the super-creamy flat whites, too. (Nowhere does coffee better than Oz, after all.)
Needless to say, the delicious smells often tempt in locals out for an early morning jog, or walking their dogs along the beach.
TIME TO EXPLORE
The hotel handily provides a full itinerary of local attractions, so you’re never stuck for inspiration.
Feeling adventurous? Ask one if the staff about the complimentary long board hire and surf lessons are also available (for a charge), if you need them.
We began gently, though, peeling ourselves from our sun loungers to take out a couple of the hotel’s complimentary basket-fronted vintage bicycles (in the hotel’s signature shade of blue, of course!) along the tree-canopied cycle path to nearby Kingscliff. The route passes soaring coastal mansions and ends up on the town’s sweeping white-sand beach.
The retro-cool complimentary bicycles
On another day we hit Byron Bay (20 minutes away by car), known for its excellent surf and hippie vibe, as well as its fantastic shopping, restaurants and bars.
We started with a scenic walk up through the Cape Byron Headland Reserve to Cape Byron lighthouse (about an hour from town), located on Australia’s most easterly point. From here, you can enjoy the most spectacular views over Byron and neighbouring Tallow Beach.
Back in town, we headed to St. Elmo, a buzzing Spanish tapas bar for a few light bites and a glass of wine to round off the day.
Cape Byron Lighthouse and Tallow Beach (above)
Byron Bay at sunset
The Gold Coast is well worth checking out, too. Begin at the bustling mecca of the Gold Coast, Surfer’s Paradise, with its high-rise hotels, restaurants and bars, then beach-hop to some of the quieter spots.
We loved Burleigh Heads, Queensland’s answer to Byron Bay, with its bohemian vibe, and the wonderfully named town of Coolangatta, which is far less touristy than Surfers Paradise.
‘Coolie’ – as it’s become known – has quality surf beaches, including the legendary Superbank. It boasts arguably the best beach break wave in the world, a man-made wave that can run for kilometres.
Stroll down the beach to the Cabarita Beach Surf Life Saving Club for an alfresco lunch with these amazing views…
DON’T LEAVE BEFORE…
Checking out the spa. This new addition to Halcyon House, in an extension off the main hotel, is an oasis of calm.
The interior design scheme continues here, with a palette of coastal-inspired soft blues and clashing prints.
We loved the unique dome-shaped steam bath – like something from a Turkish hamam – and the boutique downstairs selling gorgeous beachwear.
ALL THE SMALL THINGS
Complimentary extras always go down well. The free mini bar, pillow menu, free surfboard hire and vintage bicycles all scored points with us.
Double rooms (on a bed and breakfast basis) cost from 600 Australian Dollars (£365) in low season and from 700 Australian Dollars (£425) in high.
Author: Kirsty Nutkins
Kirsty is an experienced journalist and travel writer, currently working on a national newspaper supplement as Features and Travel Editor. She is the founder of TravelLuxe.co.uk.