This review of Victoria’s at Wategos in Byron Bay is taken from our guidebook Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection Australia/New Zealand.
As we turn onto the road to Byron Bay, thoughts of past adventures here flash through my mind: beaches, festivals, mud, tents, music, swimming and sunrises (far too many of them the result of not getting to bed). Among all these great memories, however, there are none that belong to specific sleeping arrangements. This time is going to be different; this time it’s all about the hotel.
As we head through town, my thoughts turn to another of my Byron obsessions: whales. On all my trips here, I’ve never seen one, which doesn’t stop me from craning my neck as we come over an incline. Nothing. Well, except for our first glimpse of Victoria’s at Wategos. Outside the Tuscan-inspired villa, we’re greeted – by name, no less – by staff who make us feel as though we’ve arrived at an old friend’s house. They give us a quick tour before taking our bags upstairs and leaving us to enjoy the room. Mr Smith bounces on the bed, while I begin my explorations: fruit plate, fluffy towels by the spa bath, views of the garden and Cape Byron lighthouse, and a decanter of port for that post-prandial tipple. So far, what’s not to like?
Lunch is beckoning, so we decide to stretch our legs and head into town. Only we never figured on stumbling across the Byron Beach Café. What starts out as a stop for a quick bite turns into a long affair. How could it not? Our table looks out over the beach, the sun is beating down, the people-watching is stellar, and we have plates of tasty tapas-style dishes, along with a chilled glass of sauv blanc, as the epicurean accompaniment. Our hosts, locals and visitors are all debating the best place to spot whales; to say my interest is piqued is an understatement.
After a little too long enjoying the sunshine and the wine, we amble back to Victoria’s and immerse ourselves in the spa. There are no water restrictions here, our phones are turned off and, with the aid of some deliciously scented bubble bath, we doze off with music softly playing.
Downstairs in the lounge, having emerged from our siesta, we feel as though we could curl up on the couch and never leave, but our rumbling stomachs make us flick through the book filled with restaurant recommendations. We snare a reservation at the Italian at the Pacific, more city restaurant than beach café, where we tuck into the specials, with a lovely pinot to match. The drive back to the hotel is an adventure in itself, as we navigate our way slowly past echidnas and bush turkeys.
Waking to a clear blue sky in the morning, I’m intent on continuing my mission to see the elusive whales. The ever-helpful ‘Victorians’ have suggested a hot-air balloon ride or a boat trip, both of which would hopefully give us a glimpse. I, however, have a fear of boats and Mr Smith is afraid of heights, so instead we decide on a pre-brekkie stroll. After walking along the almost-deserted Wategos Beach, we tackle the stairs to the lighthouse. From this, the most easterly point of Australia, the views are spectacular, but there are no whales.
Back at Victoria’s, the tables are set up in a corner of the lounge, overlooking the pool and down towards the beach. We can’t resist the aromas of the breakfast: perfect eggs, crispy bacon, feta and home-made chutney. Just when I think it can’t get any better, I’m offered a glass of bubbles.
Without even trying we fit in a lot of local sights during the morning. Twenty minutes away is the Crystal Castle, with its beautiful gardens, walks among mystic statues and a giant stone Blessing Buddha. It might not appeal to all, but the serenity is a welcome break from our hectic lives. On the way back we go via Bangalow, where there’s no choice but to explore the boutiques, galleries and antique shops on the main street.
Realising the time, we return to our sanctuary and the in-room treatment that has been arranged. Not being too keen on the whole holistic experience, Mr Smith leaves me with my idea of heaven to visit his: the golf course. He returns to find me luxuriating in my robe on the bed after a 90-minute massage and facial, feeling like I’ve been replaced by a new model me (ah, the magic of healing hands). With time before we have to meet old friends for dinner, we give the spa another road-test.
The next morning, to combat the indulgences of the past few days, I’m determined to beat my time to the lighthouse on our dawn walk. Mr Smith, meanwhile, lingers on the beach watching the surftastic members of the Byron Bay Malibu Club in action. I’ve got my head down, focused on pushing on up the hill, when a Japanese tourist rushes past me laden with cameras, squealing with delight. I hear the word ‘whales’ as she and her companion sprint by. Picking up the pace, I’m on their tail dashing along the path to the lookout. And there they are, just off the coastline, a small group of migrating mammals playing and splashing. For once, I am speechless. They’re beautiful. I look back, but Mr Smith is nowhere to be seen. I race back to the beach and grab him. This, after all, is an event that needs to be shared.