Words Kris Abbey
Set on 80 abundant acres, Emerald Valley Villa is a unique, eco-friendly, private retreat providing premium 5-star luxury accommodation like no other.
As the gates slide open at the end of a windy, rugged road, I understand how Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz must have felt when she finally arrived in Emerald City. A lush green expanse is before me, leaving no question as to why this picturesque place is called Emerald Valley. Simply stunning, it has to be seen to be believed.
Emerald Valley is situated 25 minutes west of Byron Bay and 15 minutes north-west of Bangalow in an area with some of the country’s finest bushwalks and most magical scenery. But it is the Villa that takes my breath away as I walk through the big, double, Balinese-style teak doors.
The Villa’s brochure boasts: “Sleek, Asian-touched architecture flaunts a perfect balance of wood, glass, stone and metal, blending sacred proportions with modern designs to satisfy one’s desire for space, comfort and refined aesthetics.” What it doesn’t say is that you walk into an open-air courtyard that lets you see the sky by day and stars by night, the finest example of ‘bringing the outside in’ that I’ve ever seen, complete with an indoor water feature with a soothing, gentle trickle. There are strategically positioned day beds inside and out, almost forcing you to just ‘be’ while you stop and soak up the serene atmosphere. Everything within and surrounding the villa epitomises luxury, but it is not in-your-face, over-the-top opulence. Instead, with its strong Balinese influence, the Villa is character-filled, relaxed and very, very inviting.
Creator of Emerald Valley Villa, Michael Robison, says, “Emerald Valley Villa is an exemplary model of sustainable living, without compromising luxury or technology. All the building structures and grounds have been designed for minimum impact on the surrounding environment. The Villa is climate neutral and runs on 100% green power. It was developed as a landmark demonstration of how design, technology and ecology can combine to create luxurious living, without causing harm to the earth. Architectural and design elements gracing the property pay homage to Bali’s unique arts and traditions, while embracing modern design aesthetics. Recycled hardwoods, imported stone and marble are featured throughout the Villa, right down to the hand-cut stone framing the garden flower-beds.”
An ancient aquifer supplies the entire Villa and grounds with pure, soft spring water, which is of the highest standards of purity. Accommodation boasts a master suite with huge walk-in robe and, in keeping with this theme, an ensuite with a shower big enough for a small Balinese family. The step-into spa bath is encased by a bay window, so you can soak in the glorious view as you soak your body. There are three more bedrooms, all with adjacent marble bathrooms that open onto private, tropical gardens, plus a state-of-the-art kitchen, lounge area with enticing fireplace and a covered verandah that overlooks the pool… that overlooks the valley…
The pool is a stand-out. It is filled with pure, oxygenated spring water, so there is no smell of chlorine detracting from the clean, country air. There are carved Balinese fountains and pool-side lounges for… wait for it… relaxing! Two 200-year-old teak Rice Barns – one overlooking the fabulous pool, the other overlooking the valley – provide reclusive comfort day or night. On a clear night, nothing beats lying back stargazing, or watching the beam of light from the Byron Bay Lighthouse as you listen to the musical chatter of local wildlife.
If you feel slightly more energetic, there are some lovely walks through the gardens. One path leads you down to the river, where you can safely float or swim under a languid sky or play under the natural waterfall and enjoy a powerful water massage. Overlooking the lake is the River Pavilion, a secluded hideaway with luxurious lounge-beds draped in mosquito nets that provide privacy, protection and an exotic atmosphere. It all just feels totally surreal, and as I relax in the sun on the man-made jetty, I hear a plonk, but by the time I look up, all I see is the ripples from a splash, presumably the resident platypus.
Everything about this place screams: relax and unwind! You can make a quick trip into Bangalow or Byron (a Range Rover is available for getting about) to eat out or gather supplies, or you can have Varney, the onsite concierge, organise anything you’d like.
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Spa facilities. There is a private treatment room with a glass wall that allows you to overlook the gardens as you get pampered. Byron Bay, home to some of the best therapists, offers a wide range of healing modalities, including Swedish therapeutic, deep-tissue, Shiatsu, Thai and other massage styles. So take your pick and Varney will organise for them to come to you. You can steam away aches and pains in the Villa’s spacious, marble steam room. Or, the piece-de-resistance, an open-air, freshwater spa bath nestled into tropical gardens overlooking the valley – perfect for a lazy afternoon glass of champagne or romantic liaison.
Peace and quiet abounds, and if you want to escape from the outside world, you can. Or you can spoil yourself rotten with all the trimmings on offer. You can stay with a friend, or share the experience with a group of friends. How you choose to enjoy this little piece of paradise is totally up to you. My one tip would be to stay for at least five nights, so you have time to fully embrace the pace of life here.
Leaving is definitely the hardest part of your stay. At Emerald Valley Villa, you may not get a brain, a heart or courage, but then again, anything is possible here over the rainbow. By the time you return home, your thoughts will definitely be clearer, you will have fallen completely in love with this place, and you will have the courage to face almost anything after a dose of such good clean living.
Fly to Coolangatta (45 minutes away) or Ballina (35 minutes) and the concierge will organise your transfers to the Villa. Or if you want to arrive in fitting style, the Villa also has an approved helipad!
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the Villa, you are surrounded by loads of local attractions. There is Byron Bay and Bangalow for restaurants, cafes, great shopping and a dose of culture. For nature lovers, the valley backs onto a national park, which includes Mignon Falls. Rocky Creek Dam is a nearby scenic attraction, featuring a gorgeous forest surrounding a lake, with plenty of magical walkways and private picnic spots.
Emerald Valley Villa creator Michael Robison is also founder of The Emerald Planet Trust, which is dedicated to preserving the beautiful and fragile life on earth, providing protection from the assault of modern civilisation. For the past 10 years, the Trust has created companies to develop environmental technologies for commercial application. Such technologies are helping to clean the earth and water, as well as addressing issues of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas production and other dangerous particulates that pollute the atmosphere. Robison and his international team espouse a philosophy that, just as a snowflake requires precise structure to survive, the creation and preservation of lasting beauty is borne of a balanced application of inspiration, discipline and compassion. Emerald Planet Trust has recently formed Emerald Planet Asia, which is involved in the development of large-scale biofuel plantations and sustainable forestry in Asia, particularly Borneo. These and other projects, such as the conservation of Orang-utans and the Indonesian Rhinoceros, include indigenous community development among villages and towns in the region.