By Erik Bigalk and Kat Aoki
Byron Bay, mainland Australia’s most eastern point has long been hailed as one of Australia’s top holiday spots, renowned for its natural beauty, endless beaches, and laid-back lifestyle, attracting visitors from all walks of life.
With its lush coastal bush abutting blond beaches and the ocean, its breathtaking rainforest hinterland and waterfalls, as well as the rugged volcanic headland atop which the iconic lighthouse stands – it’s no wonder that so many are magnetically drawn to ‘The Bay’.
Whether it is yoga, massage, alternative healing and spiritual pursuits, or adrenaline-fuelled activities such as skydiving, hang gliding or kite surfing that are on your wish list – or simply some R&R – Byron will nourish your body, mind and soul.
Byron is an ecologically-conscious community, with a wide variety of innovative businesses and shops, as well as restaurants, bars and cafes offering a rich variety of food, art, live music, and entertainment. It’s a one-of-a-kind traveler’s mecca, where the streets are abuzz in a colourful display of international backpackers, traveling artists, families, fun seekers, musos, surfers and people from the world over.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, highly recommended are the Villas of Byron. Discretely located in the heart of Byron Bay, it offers five luxurious and modern Balinese and Japanese-inspired villas that are a true ‘sanctuary for the soul’. Each villa is immaculately designed and comes with heated pool and spa, offering a world-class retreat with total relaxation assured. Designed with total comfort in mind, the villas offer the design principles of Bali, yet are finished in high-end western style with attention to detail, featuring lavish furnishings that make you feel right at home and forget about the world and the everyday life, which is easy to leave behind as you step inside.
To ease into your stay, book yourself a 1.5 hour massage and indulge in the sauna at the Buddha Garden Spa located next door. A peaceful oasis, the Buddha Garden Spa is devoted entirely to your health and relaxation. It’s a sure way to get on ‘Byron Time’.
Take a morning stroll along main beach, leading from the famous Beach Hotel to ‘The Pass’. From there, you can walk up to the headland where the white-washed icon, the Byron lighthouse, tirelessly watches over the endless ocean and magnificent bird life below.
Stop for brekky at ‘The Pass Café’ right off Pass Beach on your way, where you’re guaranteed to spot Kookaburras vying for your bacon. It is recommended to walk first, then eat, though.
While it is common to spot dolphins all year and whales from June to July from the lookouts along the way, you have to take to the ocean if you want a closer encounter with these amazing creatures. Byron Bay Kayaks is the original ocean paddle experience in Byron and a great way to get up close and personal with the Bay’s spectacular marine life.
After a crash-course in kayak seamanship, you’ll work your way over the breaking waves in pairs, then leisurely paddle out over the reef and around the Pass. At some point you will be likely to spot dolphins surfing next to you, an experience that is surely better than any souvenir you can buy. Should you miss out, you can go again for free, because with Byron Bay Kayaks, dolphin sightings are guaranteed.
Or if it’s the silent company of the trees you seek, treat yourself to a dose of rainforest. Only a picturesque 45 minute drive North West takes you to the foot of Mt Warning (Wollumbin in Bundjalung), the 2000 meter high plug of the ancient volcano that created the fertile hilly landscape here some 20 000 years ago. As you walk up the gentle serpentine path through the lush rainforest toward the summit, you’ll get a feel for what the area must have looked like before the arrival of Captain Cook who named this peak.
At the top, you can see far and wide, all the way down to Byron’s headland reaching out to the sea. From here you can glimpse the first sunlight anywhere in Australia – if you get up early enough. Take ample water and hearty snacks as the 2 hour uphill walk, including a steep 300 meter stretch at the end, will work up a bit of a sweat and burn more than a few calories.
Once the hard work is done, you’ll be ready for some more relaxation, so definitely check out some of Byron’s more notable and popular attractions, including:
- Drinks at The Owl and Pussy Cat, Byron’s newest and coolest venue right in the heart of town. Open 2pm ‘til late, it’s a great place to meet locals and travelers alike, with its relaxed atmosphere and user-friendly menu offering everything from burgers to prawn linguini.
- A cold beer (or three) at the Beach Hotel. Always a popular and crowded hangout for locals and tourists alike.
- Lunch at ‘Fish Mongers’, famous for their hand cut chips and delicious gourmet fish plates.
- Sunset cocktails at ‘The Balcony’ overlooking the bustling street life.
- Byron’s Saturday artisan market in Railway Park or the monthly arts market.
Byron is a colourful and vibrant town that will undoubtedly leave you with lasting impressions.
How to get here: Most domestic airlines fly into the Gold Coast (40 mins away) and into Ballina/Byron (30 mins away) airports. You can have a hire car waiting for you, offering a picturesque drive to your destination.
For Accommodation: The local visitors centre is the best spot to get the low-down on all accommodation and activities. Staffed by passionate local volunteers, it’s the best place to get unbiased, in-the-know advice. They can arrange your accommodation and activity bookings, right down to your massage. Find them at www.visitbyronbay.com ph: 02 66 808 558
*The ABC TV series ‘East of Everything’ was filmed here.