Perched on a hill overlooking Wategos Beach, Raes on Wategos in Byron Bay is one of Australia’s most sought-after boutique resorts. The luxurious whitewashed villa has cemented itself as a travellers’ hotspot, attracting visitors for its outstanding hospitality and charming mid-century facade.

Its history is as compelling as its Mediterranean aesthetic. Raes was originally constructed in the 1960s as a kiosk called Argentine Ant Cantina. The 1970s saw the property transformed into a restaurant and private home called La Belle Epoque for a local named Ruth Harris. Legend has it Salvator Dalí designed the tropical garden and freeform pool which, like many of the property’s other original design features, are still there today. Raes on Wategos opened in 1994.

After a superlative 2017 refresh, the hotel is now better than ever. But with just seven rooms (five suites and two penthouses), securing a night at Raes, particularly over the summer period, can be tricky – and it’s not cheap. But you don’t have to check in to soak up the resort’s charm. Here’s how to make the most of Raes if you’re not a staying guest.

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Raes Dining Room
There’s a fair chance you’ve already seen the antique blue and white tiled stairs that lead to Raes dining room. Getting a photograph on them, standing next to the painted Raes sign, is an unwritten rite of passage for guests visiting the seaside diner. But don’t stop at the stairs. Through the glass doors you’ll find the restaurant, which arguably has one of the best views on the premises.

Large accordion windows line the room, giving guests a full-spectrum view of Wategos Beach. The walls are adorned with black and white photographs of surfers from the ’60s, and an easygoing playlist featuring Aretha Franklin’s hits plays in the background.

In line with the coastal theme, executive chef Jason Saxby (Sydney’s Quay and Pilu, the Ledbury in London) has designed a seafood-forward menu starring some of the region’s finest produce. Book in for a three-course à la carte menu or splash on the six-course tasting menu. Highlights include caviar served with cultured cream, chives and seaweed-salt potato crisps; seared coral prawn and shellfish tomato tagliolini; and Australian Bay lobster glazed in fermented chilli and served with hand-rolled fregola. If there’s ever a time to save room for dessert, it’s now. There’s a crowd-favourite lemon meringue bomb and an elevated mint slice that takes the retro Australiana biscuit to new heights.

Raes Cellar Bar
Sitting at the bottom of those famous stairs is the Cellar Bar: the Dining Room’s laid-back little sister. It’s casual – strolling in from the surf for a spritz is totally acceptable – yet the warm service ensures the experience still feels special. Unlike the restaurant, the Cellar Bar is walk-in-only (welcome news for unorganised travellers).

With all seats facing the sea, it’s easy to lose an afternoon simply gazing out at the blue. But don’t forget to take in the beauty of this spot: with its textured arch doors, chic striped umbrellas and creeping bougainvilleas it could be mistaken for a Greek island.

Like all good al fresco dining venues, you can count on fun snacky plates: lobster rolls, yellowfin tuna tartare and outstanding vinegar-salt fries. And, depending on your mood, there’s coffee alongside a neat selection of seasonal cocktails.

Raes spa and sauna
All seven rooms at Raes are distinct and breathtakingly impressive. Some still have the property’s original tiles, others are multi-storied with pool views. One feature that remains the same across each room, though, is the luxe white robes. But it’s not just sleeping guests who can wrap themselves in the textured muslin. Book into the day spa and experience the pleasure for yourself.

The on-site Moroccan-inspired oasis has recently undergone a refurbishment, with new whitewashed interiors and the addition of an infrared sauna. To match the fresh look, the team has introduced a range of new treatments. The selection of facials includes the signature Renew & Rejuvenate, which targets signs of dryness and dehydration (ideal for those who have been spending time in the sun) through a combination of massage, multivitamin infusion using Rationale products and LED light therapy.

As well as facials, there are three full-body treatments, plus the option to book out the sultry new sauna all to yourself.

Raes store
Whether you’re visiting the spa, bar or restaurant, it’s worth popping into the Raes store, located at reception. The resort has its own range for sale: caps, towels, totes, keychains and, of course, those signature robes, as well as a number of pieces created in collaboration with local designers and makers.

The team has worked with one of Broadsheet’s favourite homewares labels, Maison Balzac, on a limited-edition carafe (also stocked in all the suites) and a wax candle that captures the scent of warm, salty days by the sea. More recently, Raes teamed up with chic Aussie fashion label P Johnson on a playful line of casualwear and swimwear.

Sea Raes
If a trip to Byron Bay isn’t in your foreseeable future, Sea Raes has just docked in Sydney Harbour for its second season. The superyacht is the sister accommodation to its Northern Rivers counterpart, offering the same easy-living Euro-style holiday vibes as the hotel.

The floating retreat, designed by Sydney interior designer Tamsin Johnson, accommodates up to eight guests for overnight stays and up to 30 guests for day charters. Each cabin has its own ensuite – the main bedroom also has a bath – as well as LED screens and bluetooth sound systems. Plus, there’s a mega 30-metre deck with a bar and barbeque area. With your booking comes a number of friendly staff who will ensure you’re well fed and hydrated. Saxby is behind the menu so you can look forward to the modern seafood dishes he’s known for.

Where you sail depends on your preferences and the weather – you could explore the hidden beaches of the harbour, or charter a trip to Pittwater.

Starting price for a nights’ stay on Sea Raes is $18,000, and it’s $2000 an hour for events all inclusive.

Raes on Wategos - Byron Bay
6-8 Marine Parade, Byron Bay NSW 2481
(02) 6685 5366