A guide to Byron Bay. The happiest place on earth.
January 1, 1970
How many times in your life have you experienced pure and udder bliss? The kind of bliss that you can feel as your hair becomes softer, your skin clearer and your eyes brighter. Not a bliss that comes from a temporary moment of happiness, but from somewhere deep inside your soul. Chances are a lot of your answers were “well probably never” and my answer probably would have been something like that before I ever lived in Byron Bay. The salty air, the sound of the waves you can hear throughout the town, the quirky little shops, the diversity of people…I could go on for ages.
Byron is a place that I feel more at home than I ever did in my real hometown. Its a place where everyone can be whoever they want to be with little or no judgement. For me, its the only place I have ever found some sort of inner peace. While travelling the east coast of Australia I quickly realized that my 3 day stop there wasn’t going to be enough. I sacked off the rest of my trip to return to Byron and to this day that was one of the best decisions I ever made. For what seemed like the first time in my life, I was truly happy.
The best way to start your day in the bay is a hike to the famous lighthouse. A stunning one hour hike from town its a fairly easy walk up the side of a mountain. I always opted for the beach route rather than the road so I could watch all the early morning surfers dive into the waters at a famous surf spot called The Pass. On your way up the hill you will pass through Wategos beach where you will find an abundance of colorful camper vans with surf boards strapped to their roofs. About three quarters of the way up you reach “the most easterly point of the Australian mainland” where you always find an abundance of travelers getting great use out of their selfie sticks! From the lighthouse there is a beautiful view of the bay, as well as a decent cuppa from the cafe. Its also a popular sunset spot.
What to do in Byron Bay:
There seems to always be something going on in the town. As a backpacker, I always took advantage of “beer by donation” days at The Railway, known as a locals pub. There is often some cool looking guys playing the didgeridoo down at the beach. Sometimes people would come along with a bunch of hoolahoops, unicycles, skipping ropes and a bucket full of other fun toys that the public was free to fool around with. Although the sunny days playing in the waves, sipping sangria on patios, and spending hours nosing around in the abundance of funky shops is hard to beat, night time in the town is truly magical.
The beach fills with backpackers armed with goon boxes, and the streets fill with the most amazing street performers I have ever seen. Keep an eye out for the names Ziggy Alberts, Kyle Lionheart, and Annie Plummer, they are all local singers who have talent I can not even begin to describe. Their songs about the sea, love, and peace fit perfectly with the vibe you get from being in the town, and to sit on the street and listen to any one of these artists gave me goosebumps. After the dinner time performances end, everyone flocks to The Beach Hotel where there is always live music, a great crowd, and a vibrant dance floor. The venue situated beach side, and is suitable for all ages, with a large outdoor patio and 2 separate bar areas. If your in search of a more local crowd The Great Northern Hotel is always full of the areas locals, great stories and live music. My personal favorite venue for a killer night would have to be the Monday reggae nights at The Ginger Pig. You cant help but to smile and sway your hips when you walk into this little cafe turned reggae dance club. There is always a good crowd and incredible atmosphere.
Once the night starts to die and the bars close their doors you can often find a little dance party on the street corner, where a guy with long blonde dreads and a guitar sings “I love marijuana la de da da.” If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, jump down to the beach to find the “silent disco” where a couple of guys rent headphones from their van that play 3 different stations. The beach quickly fills up with people of all ages, their ears glowing neon lights, dancing the night away barefoot by the seaside. Although everyone might be a bit merry, I have never seen a fight or any sort of serious drama occur on a night out in the Bay, the chilled out vibes from the town seem to sink into every bodies soul.
Where to eat:
The delicious food in the Bay attracts people from all over the world, including an abundance of celebrities. A personal favorite would have to be The Roadhouse Byron Bay. A short trip from town they offer excellent breakfasts, lunches, and dinners made from all locally grown organic produce. It is a whiskey lovers dream with over 500 to chose from. I recommend making a reservation if you plan to go there for dinner as the trendy spot fills up quick in the summer months. If you are a Mexican food lover like myself, please do not leave town without going to Miss Margarita. An adorable little Mexican Cantina nestled in between the shops on Johnson street, this little peace of heaven offers 8 different versions of the classic margarita and a burrito to die for. Although the wait for a table on a weeknight is over half an hour it could not be more worth it! My go to lunch venue would have to be Kinoko Sushi train on Jonson street. The classy little venue is ideal for the solo traveler as you can just pull up a stool next to the sushi bar and pick whatever you like off the train. Freshly made right in front of you by Japanese sushi chefs it doesn’t get much better than that. As for coffee, The Barefoot Brew Room is a tiny little shop the size of your closet, locally owned, and serves the best take away brew in town.
Where to sleep:
As for accommodation I will forever warship the Aquarius Hostel. This was my first ever hostel experience and still the best to this day. The dorms a have cute little balcony and lush on suite bathrooms that quickly fill up with sand. Although it may not the be most modern hostel the decor and atmosphere fit in with the town perfectly. With a roof top terrace filled with hammocks and surf board racks, a chilled out pool area surrounded by bean bags, super awesome bar staff, and of course a few lizard friends to accompany you at dinner time I really have nothing bad to say about this place. Aquarius hosts meal deals every night, free BBQ once a week, and lots of games and activities it is an amazing place for the social aspect as well. Being a solo female traveler it was important to me to stay somewhere with lots going on so it was easy to meet people and make new friends. They offer a wide range of accommodation from dorms, doubles, and luxury suites. The Aquarius cafe attached to the hostel has incredible breakfasts and offers a discount to guests. This is the place I called home for my 3 months in Byron and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Overall if you are planning a trip to Australia, or even if you live there, when you go to Byron be prepared to want to extend your stay. I find myself dreaming going back to this magical place every day since I left. From the wild nights of dancing on the beach, the hot days spent in the sea, morning walks and sunsets at the lighthouse, the hours I spent sitting on the street mesmerized by some local talent, the nightly skinny dips in the ocean, the people watching, it is safe to say that I found an overall sense of belonging in Byron Bay. I hope that everyone who reads this and finds them self in the bay have as an amazing experience as I did. I left a piece of my soul in in Byron and I can not wait for the day I can officially call that place my home.