Top End luxury at Cullen Bay Day Spa

With waterfront views and an extensive list of pampering and cosmetic treatments, Cullen Bay Day Spa is redefining luxury in the Top End. Professional Beauty caught up with owner Marii Fordham.


The Cullen Bay Day Spa team with with owner Marii Fordham (front).
The Cullen Bay Day Spa team with with owner Marii Fordham (front).

Why did you open Cullen Bay Day Spa?

It originally opened in the 1980s. I purchased the salon in 2007 when I was eight months pregnant. I had a Bachelor of Commerce and Laws and had retrained in a Diploma of Beauty Therapy and Nails as I wanted to help people look and feel amazing and own my own medi-spa one day.

I created the first medi-spa in Darwin that included cosmetic injectables and other cosmetic facials like microdermabrasion, facial peels, skin needling and now we have included cosmetic tattoo.

How did your partnership with Babor come about?

We changed from another French brand to Babor in February 2013 when we needed a more extensive and quality range to suit our clients’ demand for quality and results. Our clientele increased despite the products having a more expensive range as the products worked.


The ideal views to help clients unwind.
The ideal views to help clients unwind.


How would you describe the look and feel of your salon?

It’s boutique. It’s very similar to the Babor beauty and spa concept salons you see overseas. Most Babor spas are in luxury five star hotels [and] we try to emanate this concept… Most people that walk in are in awe of our views and always say it’s so relaxing here! As soon as they see the water they relax instantly.

What’s unique about running a spa in Darwin?

We treat more environmentally damaged skin conditions and have more opportunity to learn about and treat different skin conditions…This offers more opportunity to expand your career path.

Being remote, therapists’ salaries are higher and there is a transient population. That’s why we have started our training academy to offer more training to our staff.

What kind of training do you offer?

We train our staff to be skin, spa and beauty consultants [so they can] offer the best advice to their clients across all three areas. I think for any salon to survive and grow it’s imperative that they have monthly in-house training as well as encouraging and helping pay for staff to take on external studies to become aware of new procedures and products.


Marii Fordham blends results-driven treatments with generous doses of Top End luxury.
Marii Fordham blends results-driven treatments with generous doses of Top End luxury.


What are the challenges of running a salon?

Retaining qualified staff and keeping them interested in career development, as many want to be doing things quicker [rather than] investing in furthering their education as it’s becoming more expensive.

Product copies purchased online are affecting consumer loyalty to a salon, so we have to offer better deals to ensure they buy authentic Babor products from a Babor stockist.

How do you market Cullen Bay?

I have focused a lot on our website over the past three years and recently advertised on television…We also have a monthly newsletter, YouTube channel, Facebook and now will be more active with email marketing and Instagram. We also support local charities and offer donations to schools and community organisations.

Have you seen any changes in the industry during your career?

Consumer demands have changed due to [the internet]. They are more aware of what is available overseas and what they want to achieve. Flights overseas from Darwin are cheaper than flying to Sydney so consumers will fly to Asia if they cannot get the service here.


One of the treatment rooms at Cullen Bay Day Spa.
One of the treatment rooms at Cullen Bay Day Spa.


Where do you think the beauty industry is heading?

Beauty salons and spas are expanding their services as consumer demand is growing. Salons are now offering cosmetic injectables, skin needling, IPL and laser, and cosmetic tattoo treatments. Salons don’t want to turn customers away so they are training and up-skilling to incorporate cosmetic treatments and tattoo removal as part of an add on to makeup services.

What do you love most about your job?

I love the diversity it offers to expand your knowledge into many areas of beauty, which means you can help your client in many ways. From a diploma of beauty you can study advanced dermal therapies and be able to use IPL or lasers, then study cosmetic nursing and perform cosmetic injectables and move into cosmetic tattooing for someone who loves makeup and is more creative.


The newly refurbished interior.
The newly refurbished interior.



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