Byron bay is a little town situated at the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. The local Arakwai Aboriginal people named the area Cavvanbah, meaning meeting place and it was traditionally a place of healing and fertility. Captain James Cook named Cape Byron after John Byron, curcumnavigator of the world and grandfather to the poet , Lord Byron. What a fitting name it has become for the Byron name legacy ! Starting out as a cedar logging town, then a dairy township and for a short time even a whaling town, Byron bay has , after all it’s European colonialism , transformed into a poet’s town, an artist’s town, a dreamer’s town, a surfer’s paradise and most importantly a hippy heaven ( ranging in scope from the I-gave-up-all-my-possesions kind to the luxe city slicker with a dash of esoteric ).
I first came to Byron Bay at Christmas 98′ and didn’t much like it. It was touristy, it was busy and that main beach in the city wasn’t that great. I wondered what all the fuss was about and left within two hours of getting there. But in ’04 I went back again and this time, well, I was falling in love and this romantic mood made me fall in love with Byron too. Hard. The insider tips didn’t hurt and neither did the fact that once I gave it a chance Byron bay was and is just a super gorgeous part of the world and one of my favourite places ever. Like totes top 5 stuff. So what IS all the fuss about Byron Bay? Let’s start at the top:
1. Beaches. Everywhere you go in Byron, you will notice the sand. It is so pale, nearly white, and made up of the cleanest, smallest silica grains that squeak as you walk – it is paradise sand. My favourite beaches in Byron are:
Belongil, with it’s gorgeous unkept dunes, pristine sand and nature
The Pass– for it’s views over Julian Rocks, Belongil and the hinterland beyond and an awesome famous surf break renowned for it’s long waves
Watego’s – a beautiful forest bay studded with multi million dollar mansions that overlook frolicking dolphins
Cosy Corner beach, nestled under the lighthouse is a little haven from the southerly winds
Tallows, beach for that vast expanse of wild, windswept nature. Oh, and water temperatures are always warmer in Byron than in Sydney- even in winter – such a delicious incentive!
STAY: BYRON ON BYRON hotel: Within a rainforest with paths through the bushland to Tallows’ beach,this 5 star luxe bungalow style accomodation boasts a great pool,morning yoga and it’s own restaurant
EAST ON BYRON: Opposite Belongil beach self contained dream of modern apartments, quiet and mod cons- pool and spa included. Tip: stay in the Beach House for extra peace or rent the whole Penthouse with some friends and enjoy your own private pool
BYRON LUXURY BEACH HOUSES: New complex behind the dunes from Belongil, these beach houses epitomise comfort and style…and come at a price. Rent all of them with friends and start your own luxury resort!
RAE’S ON WATEGOS: This beautiful boutique hotel has the best views in Byron over Watego’s cove. Once a playground of the rich and famous, this Byron gem’s lustre has diminished slightly over the years, but with a new owner in it’s midst, it will rise again.
THE ATLANTIC– Cute, cool and not too exxy, this new joint in town has all the artists raving about it and leaving their works behind
BYRON SHIRE MARKETS: One of the best reasons to visit the area. With a vast selection of artesian food and clothes, organic beauty products, eco toys, massages, psychics, tropical fruit plants, jewellery, healers, art and all the weird and wonderful that the area has to offer these weekly markets are a place to plug in and drop out. The best ones are in Byron bay and Bangalow, but check the schedule here for instructions as venues change week to week.
THE BYRON HINTERLAND: Byron is surrounded by some of the most luscious, rich and lush countryside imaginable. If ever did I want a farm , it is here. It also holds charming towns such as Bangalow, Ewingsdale, Mullumbimby, Federal, Brunswick Heads… where you can find anything from gorgeous antiques to yummy produce and art. Don’t miss climbing up Mount Warning , hiking at the gorgeous Minyon Falls,skinny sipping at Tea Tree Lakes, or stopping at roadside stalls for local honey and organic fruit. Check the local Echo newsletter for healing treatments du jour then indulge in aura clensing,past life therapy or rune reading. The hinterlands of Byron also hold something so cheesy but so dear to my heart: the Crystal Castle. This farmstead is a magnet for crystal fanatics or anyone looking to walk it’s contemplation maize, meander around the peace pole or just , you know, get a psychic reading, soy chai , aura photo and , ahem, a bunch of crystal jewellery.
Which brings me to something very dear to my heart -food! The restaurants chop and change all the time in Byron Bay. Here is the most recent pick of the bunch :
ITALIAN AT THE PACIFIC: Fresh seafood and delicious Italian food in it’s own charming little nook in town.
O-SUSHI: Multi award winning sushi joint with a non-pretentious streak. Go for the biodynamic brown rice soft shell crab roll or buckwheat soba noodles.
ST ELMO’S: Tapas style fusion with great cocktails.
THE PASS CAFE:Overlooking the gorgeous Pass and open all day. Don’t miss the awesome variety of delicious breakfast dishes.
THE TOP SHOP: Burger and salad joint high on ethical values and taste. Clean line caught fish salads, free range local beef burgers , gluten free rolls and thickshakes.
BELONGIL BISTRO: If you are thinking that sprouted bread, poached eggs, asparagus and haloumi are calling your name then head on over to this cute new-ish place for breakfast .. then take a dip across the road at the Belongil beach
THE ROADHOUSE: A new joint just out of town dishes up awesome organic food, home fermented cheeses,ginger kombutcha,avocado and coconut smoothies, organic coffee etc. for breakfast while by night it turns into a slow cooked food heaven and whisky bar! A local fave.
NAKED TREATIES: What started off as a raw chocolate business has turned into an off the hook raw food heaven. Smoothies with all possible add ons such as maca, e3Live powder, probiotics etc, cold pressed juices , sprouted raw lunches , cold drip coffee and yes- all the raw, sugar free, dairy free, cacao goodies you can imagine.
FAT BELLY KAF: This cute little restaurant in Brunswick Heads is no longer owned by it’s talented owners but it still dishes up delicious modern-meets-traditional Greek cuisine such as slow roasted lamb and melitzanosalata and speck wrapped figs with meredith dairy feta
HARVEST CAFE: One of the best newcomers on the scene is this gorgeous gem of a place off the Pacific highway at Newrybar. Think seasonal and organic produce from their own farm done in a big on flavour modern Australian way in a huge wraparound Queenslander. So delicious for any meal of the day.
MILK & HONEY: Woodfired pizza in Mullumbimby wins hands down!
SATIATE: Go for broke on this 6 course degustation menu in Bangalow for your special night out
FINS At Kingscliff: Delicious fresh fish, shellfish and oysters. For a limited time they are also hosting a fantastic Portuguese pop up restaurant. Go for the flame grilled apple cider vinegar, garlic and chilli marinated chicken marylands.
So what is it about Byron Bay? Is it the atmosphere, the laid-back vibe, the gorgeous beaches, nature, food or easygoing people? Maybe it is the people’s eco minded orientation ( Byron Bay shire is proudly 97% gas fracking free )? Or is it the fact that apparently the whole region has obsidian crystal underfoot that acts as a psychic healer on residents and visitors alike …not to mention all the sacred lay lines crossing the land making Byron Bay an energetic vortex of opportunity , a portal to new understandings ,soul’s purpose and manifestation ? It’s all of these things. It’s magic, beauty and spirit , it is a recharge button and an off switch. Byron Bay I love you!