Byron Bay Rainforest Resort

Byron Bay Rainforest Resort – originally known as ‘The Wheel Resort’ – is somewhere I had long wanted to stay, but never had the opportunity. At last, a driving holiday to Queensland, to experience the ‘Worlds’ on the Gold Coast, provided that opportunity. We stayed 10 days, and enjoyed our visit immensely.

There are nine self-contained cottages set in the seclusion of 35 acres of remnant coastal rainforest, 3km from Byron Bay and only 300 metres from the ocean. Three are one-bedroom cottages and six are studios. We stayed in two different one-bedrooms and one studio. The one-bedroom cottages are certainly my preference. The extra space, and being able to put all of our gear somewhere out of the way made a big difference.

Interestingly, the cabins are all different, with quite different standards of access, though all have wide doorways, no steps, handrails in the bathroom and several cottages have lowered kitchen benches.

Owner and host, Murray Carter, tells me that the cottages were built over a period of time and some have been renovated since, which explains the variation. Murray is happy to discuss a guest’s specific needs and locate them in the best cottage for them if possible. My vote would go to cottage 8 as the most accessible, and I would ask for it again when next we return.

Cottage 8 has well positioned rails for both the shower and toilet. The shower head can be set high or low, which is a great idea. I was able to transfer to the toilet, back to my chair and onto the shower chair unassisted, which is a big achievement. The kitchen faces the same design challenges of every accessible kitchen (storage v bench usability) but in my view gets it right. And while the benches are high, because you can wheel under them, they can be used to cook or wash up. The floor is cork which is great when I drop things – they bounce rather than break!

I found cottage 2 the least accessible of the three we stayed in. In the bathroom, the rails were too short and the sink too high to use. The mirror was also too high for shaving. The shower can only be set at one height (too high) or hand held. We also stayed in cottage 6, which was in between in terms of access. My advice is to book early and talk to Murray before you arrive to ensure you get the cottage most suited to your needs.

One word of warning. The water in the bathrooms is HOT. Start with the cold and add some hot water, not the other way around.

The whole place has a very relaxed tone. Well behaved dogs are welcome. All the staff were friendly and very helpful – especially Murray who has owned the resort since 1995. We found him to be always around and very attentive, but he seems to implicitly understand some guests like to spend time alone. When we arrived (quite late at night) we expected to find everything shut up for the night, and a key left for us. Amazingly, he was there waiting, and helped us with our luggage and to get settled – a huge bonus. When we needed to move cabins, he moved all of our gear – without us even asking.

The grounds have excellent, smooth, clear paths leading between cabins, and decent dirt tracks to the beach and deep into the bush. Though a relatively busy road is nearby, the place is very quiet – sheltered by large stands of native trees. The resort property consists mainly of wetlands with extensive stands of large Melaleucas, stands of Bottlebrush, Banksias and littoral rainforest. There’s also a variety of birdlife.

The swimming pool is a special feature; a lovely 20m pool with gentle ramp and a sturdy rail. This is the first time I’ve seen a resort pool with such an entry. To me, hoists just add indignity to entering a pool. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never used a hoist in a calm, relaxed fashion. It’s a physical process. If more pools had ramps, I’m sure I’d swim more often. Unfortunately, the days we spent in Byron coincided with the coldest weather SE Australia has had in years. Pools in Byron Bay don’t normally need heating (and this one isn’t heated), but during our 10 day stay, I wish it had been.

There’s also a pleasant and very warm spa, which has a hoist. The Cabana, attached to the pool, is a good place to relax, play pool or cards, read a book, cook a group meal, or sit by the fire in winter. I could imagine if you were travelling with a group and occupying several cottages, this would be an excellent meeting point.

Next door to the resort (a short wheel along a pleasant bush track) there is an excellent little shop/grocer where you can buy general supplies, a few delicacies and fresh fruit and veggies. If it sold good coffee, it would be perfect! The nearest coffee is in Byron – a drive.

There are shared free laundry facilities and free WiFi.

Murray is careful not to raise expectations that his resort is any kind of haven for people with disabilities. He knows well that everyone’s needs are different. And of course there are things I would change about each cottage we stayed in. But overall, Byron Bay Rainforest Resort is a wonderfully peaceful and very accessible retreat where you can relax and revitalize. We found it hard to leave!

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