According to the travel section of this masthead, Byron Bay has finally got “the five-star hotel it deserves”. To put you in the picture, Hotel Marvell (named after its street address, not the cinematic universe) has 24 rooms, a quality restaurant, its own laneway and a rooftop bar (open to anyone) and pool (splashing is limited to guests).
I’d like to come out swinging and say this development misses the whole point of Byron’s laid-back vibe, but I’ll pull my punches as the truth is far more complex.
All in all, I have no problem with the existence of a centrally located fancy hotel that’s made of concrete and decorated in many shades of brown. That’s despite reservations from me, and others, that Byron stands for relaxed, down-to-earth, alternative, escapist, colourful and many other things that are the opposite of five stars.
You see, Byron is far more complex, real and gritty (not just from sand in your swimmers) than the “Bohemian yet luxe aesthetic” this hotel allegedly reflects. (On a side note, if you consider Bohemian to be a version of Britannica’s definition – people who prioritise community living while rejecting constraints of mainstream society, such as money – you’ll realise it’s best to never again put this culturally appropriated word together with “luxe” in a sentence.)
You don’t have to look far from Hotel Marvell to see some of these complex layers in action. Its direct neighbours include a relatively standard medical centre and beauty salon as well as one of Byron’s first hipster-style cafes – Bayleaf – which is now old enough to be considered an icon. Then there’s the international and backpacker side of Byron with an English school and youth hostel. Opposite is a classic example of mainstream-business-meets-Byron with a car-hire office located in a falling-apart, bright-yellow weatherboard house.
Then, there’s a fabulous Vinnies op-shop, where an acquaintance went to buy a colourful outfit for the funeral of 101-year-old local legend, Nina Milenko Marzi, only to find Nina’s name in the outfit that caught her eye! A nearby restaurant – The Mez Club – is in one of my favourite Byron buildings because it was designed around living trees (and now sports a non-living tree trunk after they, according to the architect, “grew too well”).
If that’s not eclectic enough, how about the aged-care home further up Marvell Street, built through the fundraising efforts of George Feros walking Byron’s streets barefoot while ringing a bell. It’s now the focus of community outrage while its residents face eviction so the land can be developed more profitably.
Opposite Hotel Marvell is another luxury hotel under construction and there are two more at the artist-impression-hoardings stage around the corner on Jonson Street, either side of Mercato, a shopping development from 2019 that’s become a largely deserted white elephant.
https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/byron-gets-the-five-star-hotel-it-deserves-but-i-have-reservations-20230824-p5dz89.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw Byron gets the five-star hotel it ‘deserves’, but I have reservations