This is a tough review to write. I spent some of the happiest years of my life wandering and surfing the Far North Coast of New South Wales. I believe the area around Byron Bay, the beaches from Lennox Heads to Tweed Heads, the hills behind Byron, especially around Bangalow collectively form one of the most beautiful places on earth. And in all of this area, Wategos Beach at Byron Bay is one of the safest, most picturesque beaches. So you can imagine my affection for accommodation which is located directly on Wategos Beach.
So, location is excellent. We also liked the room styles a lot, I think the Mediterranean/ Moroccan effect is perfect for the climate and it is well executed. I also thought the property was pretty well maintained, especially bearing in mind its beachfront location, a very tough environment.
We have just returned from 3 nights in the Mirabella. We loved the room. Yes it is all hard surfaces, lots of tiles and cushions, and the sofas are firm, but they are ok and we spent more time curled up on the day beds.
Take your own iPod and speakers, Raes haven't caught up with the trend to sound systems which you can plug your iPod into. There is a CD selection available, but this is all a little old fashioned at this end of the market. Cable TV is available.
And then there is the service. It is simply appalling. In three days we have returned with enough material for several episodes of Fawlty Towers. John Cleese created reality TV.
It started the booking. Similar to other reviewers I felt there was a strange dismissiveness when talking to reception to book. I put it down to me having an off day. After all, anyone who has ever spent much time in the area knows that "immediately" is a word which translates locally to "some time today, mate". We also booked dinner the first night at the restaurant and several spa treatments. Booking the spa was a little odd, as the reception only "passes on messages" to the separate spa people, who call you back later.
We started to get increasingly concerned a few weeks later. It started with the spa. We decided to meet some friends one night, which required shifting a late afternoon spa treatment by one hour. A call to the reception left us believing all was fine. The spa called us back later, and it became clear that all bookings were on the wrong days and times. We cleared that up, relieved that we had spoken directly to the spa and that this must remove the possibility of error. A couple of days later the hotel rang to check I was still coming, "just a normal confirmation, sir". A couple of days later they did it again! We were now quite concerned. They either didn't have any systems, or were trying to bump us (reservation confirmed with an Amex). We resolved to ring a week out, and go through every detail of the bookings. We did. The room and restaurant were ok, the spa bookings were again in a mess and we sorted them out again!
We arrived and, you guessed it, the restaurant booking didn't exist and the spa bookings were all wrong days and times!!!
The worst was the way the establishment dealt with it. They essentially conducted a detailed cross examination of both of us, which left the clear impression they believed we were lying. Happily, after the first couple of calls I had started keeping notes of names and dates of our conversations. But it was ugly unrepentant bullying with a really nasty tone. This is, in fact, the signature tone of the reception staff we discovered over the next three days. Every call was greeted with a similar tone. Calls to ask for the water that housekeeping had forgotten to replace in the fridge were greeted with "have you checked the fridge? have you looked by the bed" not, "sure, I'll send some up".
And then there is the restaurant. It rates 12/20 in the current Good Food Guide. I would agree. Great location, again, nice food. The menu is available as room service (incidentally the room service is good). But chaos. Having mislaid our booking, we were assured the restaurant would squeeze us in "because we were house guests", but only at 7.15. No other time. Odd, because the restaurant was only three quarters full, and our request was for 7.30. But we just added it to the list of eccentricities. We were by now expecting a bad table, but we got a nice one, and decided we were chilled. Then they lost our order. Of course. After we gave it again and settled in to the second bottle of wine (nice list) my girlfriend went to the toilet. The funny thing about the loos at Raes is that you can overhear the conversation in the kitchen. Which led to her overhearing our waiter ask the chef "what about table xx? We lost their order and they have been waiting forever" to which the reply was "no, stuff them, I am not advancing any orders". What can you say really?
We went to bed eventually, laughing about our extraordinary experiences so far...and then the possums came home. Possums are a cute furry Australian animal which are nocturnal. They love living in ceilings of buildings. They wake at about 10pm, play for a while (picture the noise from two cats fighting), go out to eat leaves and flowers, then come home at 4.30am, play a bit more and go to sleep. Home owners in Australia do anything to get rid of them from the ceiling when they arrive. They permanently damage the ceiling, which can be expensive to repair. They are damned noisy. My girlfriend is English, and so had not had the uniquely Australian experience of a couple of possums playing directly above her bed at 4.30am after a couple of bottles of good wine. I may have a malicious sense of humour, but I enjoyed the moment.. Happily, again, we travel with 35db rated ear plugs for emergencies like this...so we could sleep. Which is lucky, because the mention of it to reception in the morning was greeted with disbelief, initial denial and a later statement from another staff member that nothing could be done about possums, and that they had been in the roof above rooms 1, 2 and the hall between them for some time. I was rendered speechless by the incompetence of this view of whether one would happily leave possums in a ceiling at a 5 star accommodation.
I could go on, but I feel better now and will leave it.
So, would I go back? Probably yes, despite the unpleasantness of the people there. I can't think of a nicer property located in one of the loveliest places on earth. But I wouldn't rush.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.