Tucked halfway between the energetic Gold Coast, and the zen town of Byron Bay you’ll find a hidden paradise; a collection of small beachside towns that offer respite from the usual hordes of tourists.
Three of my favourite sleepy beach towns along the Queensland-NSW border are conveniently lined up just south of Tweed Heads. Kingscliff starts off the trio, and a bit further south you’ll encounter Casuarina and Cabarita Beach.
Setting yourself up in this part of northern NSW allows you to enjoy three delightful beach towns for the price of one, though only one of these towns is home to a lavish Balinese-style retreat (hint: it’s Casuarina).
Smack bang in the middle of these three often overlooked beachside getaways, Casuarina is quite the hidden secret … and we got the distinct impression that locals prefer it stays that way!
This is where Gold Coast locals come to escape the tourism that floods into their city; and as soon as you step through the colossal automatic bamboo doors at Oaks Santai Resort Casuarina, you’re instantly transported to Bali.
Oaks Santai Resort Casuarina
A Lavish Balinese Retreat in Northern NSW
The first thing that hits you when you arrive at Oaks Santai Resort Casuarina is that it looks a bit out of place, but in a very good way; well above the standard of accommodation you expect from visiting a small beach town along the east coast of Australia.
As the resort begins to appear as you edge further up Dianella Dr, it cleverly doesn’t give away any secrets about what lies behind the giant wood carved doors that greet you. They slide open automatically as we approach, as though we were expected.
As soon as the bamboo carved doors close you’ll have to blink twice – logically you know you’re still in Northern NSW, though if you were dropped into the lobby without any geographical context, you would swear you were somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Stunning pools lined with large palms capture your attention right away and the sounds of fountains instantly bring a sense of calm. As the doors close behind you, all traces of the outside streets and neighbouring buildings disappear.
Offering one and two-bedroom self-contained apartments, the resort is ideal for both couples and small families. It definitely hints at Bali, but does add in a bit of Australian contemporary design to remind you that you haven’t left the Sunburnt Country.
Our Studio Pool Apartment
We were lucky enough to be set up in a Studio Pool Apartment which offered ultra-convenient direct access to the luxurious pool. It almost felt as though you could dip your toes in the water from your room as the water was so incredibly close.
The spacious open floor plan provides plenty of room to spread out and packs a king-sized bed, spa bath, and walk in shower. A small kitchenette allows you to cook your own meals and the local full-sized grocery store is just a five minute walk.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for Aussie culture, they even provide you with your own private outdoor BBQ to grill up an Australian feast if you want to (we call them prawns, not shrimp. Though we do call it a barbie!).
Featuring elegant tile throughout, the apartment provides you with a dining area, lounge with sofa and coffee table, and a small outdoor area with tables and chairs. Open up the blinds by day to let in the killer views of the pool and palm trees, and lower them by night to allow you some privacy.
As comfortable as the room is, however, we did struggle to stay contained knowing there was a beautiful poolside oasis and nearby beaches just steps away.
Photos from the Room
Photos from the Pools
Oaks Santai Facilities
The exclusive feel of the resort is comforting, showing no signs of the outside world to distract your sun worshipping sessions beside the pool. And speaking of pools, you have two to choose from as well as a soothing jacuzzi on those cooler days.
From Wednesday to Sunday, you can take advantage of the onsite restaurant. Spice Den further enhances the feel of being in Southeast Asia by presenting elegant Asian flavours in an idyllic setting.
Start out with Crunchy Sesame Squid with Vietnamese Mint or Crispy Chicken & Crab Wontons with Sweet Ginger. Move onto mains such as Royal Red Curry Boneless Duck Leg, Wagyu Beef Pat See Yeuw, or the Vegetarian Panaeng Curry. End the night by sampling their Black Sticky Rice with Salted Coconut.
You can also take advantage of the resort’s wellness spa or head just down the street to enjoy your own private sunrise yoga session on the beach in the morning.
If you’re planning a wedding, the Lanai and Garden Pavilions provide a beautiful backdrop for an outdoor / indoor wedding … without having to fly everyone to Bali! Set against the backdrop of the resort’s beautiful pools, this is the perfect place for an intimate ceremony, with incredible photo opportunities.
If you’re staying on a Monday or Tuesday and find the Spice Den closed, nearby shops are within a 5 minute walk and include the grocery store, liquor store, pizzeria, several cafes, and a smokehouse restaurant and bar called The Crafty Cow.
You may also want to check out the fun Rip Curl beachwear shop before heading to the surf. Enjoy secure underground parking to keep your vehicle nicely shaded from the hot midday sun.
Exploring the Local Area
Oaks Santai Resort sits in an opulent residential area that is just steps from Casuarina Beach. While mansions may line the beach, a buffer of natural vegetation makes them invisible once your toes hit the sand, meaning you can walk along the ocean without any hints of civilization.
You have the option of heading south, where a 5-km walk will take you to Cabarita Beach and Norries Head, popular for surfing. The Cudgen Nature Reserve lines most of the route, with sightings of all kinds of birds like brahminy kites, Australian brushturkeys, ospreys, and white-faced herons.
All up, the reserve protects well over 600 hectares of habitat which supports one of the area’s last koala populations. Although we didn’t manage to spot any, it was quite exciting to know they were present.
If you decide to walk north from Casuarina Beach, you’ll hit the beautiful town of Kingscliff. Both Ed Parker Rotary Park and Jack Julius Park offer great places to swim and paddleboard. Just a bit further north will bring you to the Fingal Head Lighthouse, still first established back in 1872 and still functioning to this day.
You can access both Kingscliff and Cabarita Beach either via the coastline itself, or you can take advantage of the Oceanway Bike and Pedestrian Trail that runs parallel to the beach. There are numerous points for beach access from the paved trail, and a great deal of tropical vegetation and wildlife along the way.
You can hire a bike from either Cabarita Beach Cycles or the Kingscliff Cycle Centre. Of course you can reach either town even quicker should you decide to drive.
Fun fact: #OaksSantaiResort Casuarina is actually closer to #GoldCoast airport than the Gold Coast is! @Oaks_HotelsClick To Tweet
If you decide you want a break from the beaches, check out Tropical Fruit World, just a ten minute drive inland towards the Pacific Motorway. This fruit plantation grows more than 500 fruit varieties that are sourced from all over the world.
Open daily from 10 am – 4 pm, you can taste and learn about the different fruits they grow across the region, which are always changing depending on the season.
Common fruits include pineapple, passionfruit, papaya, banana, and avocado, while more exotic fruits like rambutan, lychee, grummichama, and jaboticaba are sure to bring flavours you have never encountered before.
Benefits of Becoming a MyOaks Member
If you enjoy your stay at Oaks Santai Resort Casuarina as much as we did, you should really think about joining the Oaks Hotels, Resorts, and Suites Rewards Program.
Currently, there are over 50 properties across Australia in some of the country’s most premier locations. Becoming a MyOaks Member is free and allows you to take advantage of exclusive member only rates, gives you complimentary Wi-Fi, early check-in and late check-out, and 10% discount off stays at their sister hotels Anantara and AVANI.
Oaks also offers weekly housekeeping and great rates for long stays. For more information, or to make a booking, visit oakshotels.com.
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