A shimmering Aladdin’s Cave of indulgence, tucked in the ground floor of a boutique luxury hotel Rae’s Spa, is where to come in Byron Bay if you’re serious about your skin. While the stunning, petite, two-roomed spa offers a range of treatments, it’s really all about the facials – thanks to the Hotel and Spa Manager Marionne De Candia, who administers them. An industry doyenne, with over 30 years in the business and a knowledge of skin and ingredients to match, Marionne tailors the treatment to your complexion, utilising her own skincare range, a pure, highly-active range of cosmeceuticals along with the healing magic of Reiki.
Access to the spa is via a staircase from the front driveway and up white, windy stone path that leads you past the pool. I’m lucky enough to be staying upstairs so I don’t have to travel far, but the spa is open to non-guests, as well. Rae’s has played host to almost every visiting celebrity to Byron Bay over the years – such is it’s privacy and sense of understated luxe. As a result, Marionne has tended to the delicate dermis of everyone from Elle Macpherson to Kate Hudson.
Stepping inside the spa, you do get the impression that you are entering a magical golden cave – the walls are curved and tiled with beautiful champagne-hued Italian mother-of-pearl tiles that glisten iridescent, like fish scales. Ornate fretwork adorns the arched doorways giving the spa an exotic, Moroccan vibe, the marble floors glisten and cleverly placed lighting gives everything a gilded glow. Rae’s signature blend of oil (gardenia, geranium and patchouli) is burning and the place smells gorgeous.
I shed the Tigerlily silk robe that I’ve wearing (it feels appropriate to waft around in seventies caftans and kimonos at Rae’s – such is the luxe I’m-with-the-band-vibe of the place) and slip between the cool crisp cotton sheets as Marionne begins her magic.
She does a double cleanse and then during a deep, satisfying steam I feel her hands on my forehead and I know she’s doing Reiki on me, I can feel the warmth of her hands even she’s barely touching me. Suddenly I feel incredibly calm and cared for. An energy that stays with me for the entire treatment.
After the steam, Marionne applies a 100% strength hyaluronic serum, its jelly consistency is sucked up by my skin almost immediately. She addresses some pregnancy-pigmentation with a vitamin C and vitamin B actives, before beginning a heavenly facial massage.
Her touch is light and delicate, with gentle tapping motions that Marionne tells me later was lymphatic drainage. Once the mask is on, she does an incredibly relaxing arm massage with a warm collagen massage cream.
A few times I feel myself balancing on the edge of sleep, catching myself as my breathing tips into its heaviest. An hour whizzes by in what seems like seconds and then Marionne speaks quietly, telling me she’s going to get me some water. I sit up slowly and go to examine my skin in the mirror. It’s all juiced up and plump, the dim-light reflects off my cheekbones satisfyingly. It’s just what my starved skin was craving. I head back to my room and leave the products on my skin for the rest of the day – the beauty of a facial with Marionne is that she doesn’t use any oil, so you don’t have to wash your hair afterwards. My skin feels hydrated but not greasy.
We are staying in the fabulous Ocean View Penthouse, which, with its tiled floors, vast balconies, marble bathrooms and carved wooden doors has a luxe Moroccan/Balinese appeal. An impressive chandelier hanging over a large wooden table greets us on entry, while a curl of incense and deep-purple furnishings add to the opulent rock ‘n roll vibe. From the master bedroom we can hear the rhythmic drum of the waves bashing the shore of Watego’s beach, and the gentle sea breeze wafts across the balcony and over sunbeds positioned looking out to sea, and through the room. The second bedroom, where we’ve installed Max, has another daybed tucked away on a third balcony for afternoon naps.
The rest of our stay goes by in a luxurious blur of incredible meals in their famous restaurant, idle beach wanderings and afternoons and mornings working from the perfectly-positioned daybeds. Thank God their WIFI is up to scratch.
Rae’s is a very special place, that is steeped in history and cult appeal, and a treatment at the spa (followed by a meal at the restaurant – if you can muster it) is a wonderful way to experience a luxurious little slice of the hotel’s hospitality.
Review by Sigourney Cantelo