Sand, Sea and Spliffs. Byron Bay, Australia

May 18, 2010 at 8:59 am Leave a comment

For such a small town Byron Bay has a lot of character. With lovely clean beaches, fantastic surf and more hostels and guesthouses than seems feasible (so how are they always full?), it should have already become another Cairns or Airlie Beach. It should be packed to the rafters with the Oz Experience bunch, fresh off the bus and already colonising all of the local bars. While this is inevitabley part of the scene it is only a fraction of the whole and Byron Bay has made a lot of room for other, less exclusive groups. For some it’s a hippy town. For most it’s heaven.

The real dealbreaker – and I hate to say it because I’m really not that kind of gal – is the vibe. Somehow Byron Bay has retained its small-town feel despite being overrun with international visitors. As a result any walk, however short, will inevitably be delayed by polite conversation with a friendly stranger or excited chat with an old friend. At the centre of this open-armed welcome is Art’s Factory Lodge, a hippy camping ground and home to most of Byron Bay’s temporary backpacker residents. Residing in 100 man tents pimped out with beds, chests of drawers, bongs and duvet sets, they spend their days handing out flyers and their nights welcoming the new arrivals with boxes of goon.

Four litres of goon, one didgeridoo-making session and several brand new friends later, campers fall into their sleeping bags for a long night of tossing and turning. During the night they will contend with the freezing cold (if it’s winter), an entire cacaphony of squaking birds, drunks falling over their tent ropes and enraged bush turkeys hurling themselves at the poles and doors trying valiantly to gain entry for a midnight snack and a tumble in the sack. It’s all in the name of fun though and a night in Art’s is an absolute must for any self-respecting backpacker.

Arrivals that eventually manage to pull theselves away from the campsite, peel themselves off the soft white sand or paddle their way out of the surf will find a town well-worth exploring. One definite highlight is the multitude of interesting walking tracks that snake their way around Cape Byron and reach their climax at Australia’s most easterly point. Walkers are rewarded for their efforts here with fantastic views of the ocean, glimpses of the isolated beaches on the other side of the shore and a stunning hilltop lighthouse. For those that time their visit right humpback whales, stingrays and dolphins are often viewed from the lookout at the most easterly point. We were happily admitted to that exclusive group when we spotted not one but two pods of dolphins (at least 23 of them!) just off the coast of The Pass where they rode the waves under surfboards and over rocks right up to the shoreline.

My favourite part of Byron though (because isn’t it always?), is the wealth of fantastic food that is available on every corner – from refreshing ice cream at Baskin Robbins to scrumptious pies at the local bakeries (more specifically the one on the Cape Byron side of Lawson St.) and the to-die-for Italian grub that is served up in army sized portions in Earth ‘n Sea. For so many reasons that can legally be published and many more, Byron Bay is delicious.

There are more pictures from Byron Bay available in the gallery

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Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , .

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