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Byron Bay

6 October 2013 48,478 views No Comment

on the road

Byron Bay is in the far north of New South Wales, a 45 minute flight from Sydney. Flying isn’t the right way to arrive in Byron; VW camper is the right way, or hitch hiking. Yep, Byron is known as a hippy surfer destination. Well, neither Ems or I are hippies or surfers (don’t let the meditation beads, soy lattes or actual surf boards confuse you) and we were smack bang the target market for this town, because Byron has hit the icy commercial slopes and sold out, gone mainstream. There were still bongos on the beach and harem pants for sale but they’re now featured between the carefully styled coffee shops & Mexican Bars, the SUVs, and the Ray-Ban & skateboard crowd, in short, we loved it.

country file

IMG_5277The amazing thing about Bryon is in fact its wild beauty. Its beaches are vast; tonnes and tonnes of squeaking fresh sand backed with messy dunes. The dunes expand into fully developed rainforest, a big mix of shapes, sizes and textures, hiding thousands of interesting lizards and birds. This is the most Easterly point in Australia, so these unsheltered beaches are married to an ocean that is unpredictable and scruffy. And, because of the curve of the land and the slope of Cape Byron, the dawn and sunrises are spectacular.

carry on abroad

We were staying just fractionally outside of Byron proper, in a fantastic guest house, Aaron’s at Byron. Our room was enormous, cosy and stylish, with a spacious deck and comfy furniture. Plus we could make use of the kitchen, BBQ & patio, little saltwater pool, loungers & daybed, hot tub, and video room. If I told you how much it was you’d think I was joking. This place was a find (props again Ems), super relaxing, homely and accommodating (to very late check out for example). We spent a lot of time hanging here, lolling from the pool to the loungers, snoozing, reading, nibbling, was lovely. One of my favourite things was cooking BBQ breakfasts, so much fun, such good smells, and I’d forgotten how quickly the ants rally when there’s al fresco food in Australia.

hunger games

Cleverly we were able to organise ourselves to have both BBQ breakfasts at home and still make very comprehensive useIMG_5269 of the many delicious coffee shops in town.
Eatery was lovely, lots of cushions tumbling around, drop down industrial Italian lighting and great Aussie breakfast and brunch menu (Emma: eggs, goat cheese and spinach on toast, coffee, coconut muffin. Luce: scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with sprouts and toast, juice and coffee).
Mary Ryan’s bookshop & coffee shop had incredible pastries, really good music and ridiculously lickable staff. Twisted Sista was very cool with good souvenir-y bits to buy, amazing baked goods and deli dishes, and a perfect street front location for people spotting and nosing.

what lies beneath

Byron is good for mooching. We can get all up tight about the commercialised situation but it’s a nice, laid back town where you can now drop cash on branded clothes instead of home made ones, and consequently there’s enough municipal budget for street lighting and bins. So mooch and shop we did, flopping frequently on the beach to recover with another coffee, chitter chattering the whole time and frequently pissing ourselves laughing at things that only make best-friend-sense. Our two must-do activities were walking up the lighthouse and ‘making’ sunrise. Both were superb.

to the lighthouse

The walk from Byron to the lighthouse is a wonderful example of Australian attention and investment in its natural assets. After the beach, but before the rainforest there’s a little climb and a little curve and then an opening in the trees where – if the timing is 8H8B2112flukily right – you can look back over Byron with horizontal sunbeams cutting across the salt haze and kite surfers slicing across the water.
Board walks lead you through the bush and through to an the open cliff side which has the horizon-wow-factor, it was bonkers windy when we were there. Back down, and into Wategos Bay, a lovely wild and special little place with some brilliantly positioned properties including a hotel and restaurant (note to those who want to splurge…) Board walk steps up into the bush again – the maintenance of this walk is really good, when you think of how many people are up and down here, really reminded me of the Manly Scenic Walk.
At the top of the Cape is the ‘most Easterly point’ sign and then, if timing is flukily right again, you can see whales swimming out in the ocean. I think they’re Southern Right whales and I think they were swimming south. At the lighthouse the view over Byron is really delightful, and you get a full panorama from Byron out to the ocean. It’s a really stunning walk – there and back – and we rewarded ourselves with glasses of wine in the hot tub and then really good fajitas (snapper for me, chicken for Em) with homemade guoca and margaritas at the Mexican place :)

before sunrise

Now, sunset is easy isn’t it.. Get a beer, get a seat, jib jab away and don’t look away at the important moment. Sunrise. That requires a whole heap of commitment. Either you have to kip on the beach or you have to haul ass to the beach in clumsy sleep walking fashion. We did the latter but there were others who did the former and it looked like a rough ride. Typical Australia, it was just as busy on the beach at 6am as 10am: walkers, runners, kayakers, and, photographers, like Em, doing clever things with light, waves and driftwood. From our position on the beach the landscape means that it was already light, but we hadn’t seen the sun yet (remember that curve and slope I mentioned earlier). The sun rose behind the lighthouse creating a silhouette that belonged in Turkey or Jerusalem. It was stunning.
The kayakers were now deep into the bay and the hungover crew had ambled to their dorms. We decided to enjoy the calm and beauty of the morning, walking the length of the beach splashing in the shallow waves and rock hopping sandy obstacles. Across from the headland is Fisherman’s Lookout, an outcrop that you can wade to and climb steps up to the wooden viewing platform. Up we went, feeling very pioneering despite the helpful infrastructure, and what do you know… whales frolicking around again. They were pretty close and they really were playing – flipping and finning, it was a rather special moment. No sooner had we made the most of nature’s wonders than we immersed in the wonders of The Pass coffee shop for a couple of lattes to see us through to real brekkie.

the young adventurers

8H8B2162We definitely made the most of those beaches. On Monday night we had drinks at The Beach Hotel, the closest pub to the surf, before going for some of our favourite flavours at Lucy’s Thai :) (green papaya salad and spring rolls to start, green vego curry for me, chicken basil noodles for Em). Wednesday we walked a lot of Belongil Beach, another unfussy stretch relatively protected from urban development. There were some lovely rock pools and not a lot of people so plopped down and got our kits off to even out the tan marks.
It was Wednesday night as well that we took a bottle of bubbly down to Byron beach, the wind was down so it was perfect for surf-side aperitifs, before dinner at a casual Italian place on Bay Street (shared mezze to start, seafood and chilli linguine for main for both, sticky date pudding to share for dessert, all incredibly satisfying). We treated ourselves to cocktails at The Balcony – sea breeze still accompanying our evening. The Balcony is swish, you can’t be a commercial town without a swish bar can you?, and the cocktails were great, even if the service was ropey.

Doesn’t matter where you go when you’re with your best friends – is always a good time isn’t it. Byron suited us perfectly for easy going fun and relaxation, the town was cruisey and the landscape was gorgeous. No better place to giggle & nibble your way through a mini break.

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