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Day 18-19 – Impressions of Byron Bay

(June 29, 2020 – written by Dave)

Byron oh Byron, what to make of you? (hipsters don’t say Byron Bay, it’s just Byron)

The official Byron Bay tourist website states the following:

Byron Bay is a coastal town located on the far-north coast of NSW, Australia. Home to Australia’s most easterly point and the iconic Cape Byron lighthouse, the region is known for its spectacular beaches, unique shopping and dining experiences, world-class festivals, and vibrant community spirit. Beyond the township of Byron Bay, the region includes many seaside villages, quaint hinterland towns, and large regional centres, all with their own unique character.

For us, Byron Bay is sort of this mythical place up the coast that we’ve heard lots about but never had the time to visit. Some would say that it is the perfect beach town. Others say that 20 or 30 years ago, it was the perfect beach town. After two days here (and now that the sun has come out a bit), we are leaning towards it being just fine now. Perhaps it was better before but we weren’t here then…

Peace out Byron

Byron oh Byron – it’s known for a hippy culture of sorts

Captain Neptoon

And the sea with Captain Neptune

Byron-001

With a little Bali thrown in for good measure

The main street is lined with a mix of big international branded shops, local one-off shops and yes shops selling crystals. There are a lot of funky looking restaurants and a few good looking pubs. There are several organic whole food grocery stores but there is also a Woolworths (biggest Aussie food store). I’m sure that 20 years ago the international brands wouldn’t have yet arrived and the vibe would have been different but mostly it still feels pretty casual and relaxed.

Byron sauce

Byron Bay hot sauce is one of our favourites – we’ve been eating it for years, now we’ve been to the spiritual home

We are staying right in town and people-watching has been fascinating. About every fourth person is a surfer, or at least looks like a surfer. One in ten people don’t wear shoes. There are a good deal of folks with dreadlocks but also a fair number of high-end European branded cars and moms with fancy prams. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a surfer and a homeless person. Spending all day on the water can give anyone a rather rough appearance.

To demonstrate this point, yesterday we watched what looked like a homeless person approach a table full of young folks sitting outside a Japanese restaurant. The person had dishevelled hair, dodgy baggy pants and no shoes. We moved past with haste. Later when we stopped at the same restaurant to inquire about dinner, a Japanese restaurant employee who’s English wasn’t perfect asked the owner to help him answer our questions. The owner turned out to be none other than the very person we thought was the homeless earlier. His hair was supposed to look that way, his pants were those “looks like an upside down shirt” designer baggy pants and bare feet, well it is just Byron. We got a chuckle out of our misconceptions.

Been here to long maybe

Not “our homeless guy” but same idea. Designer hat CHECK. Designer coat CHECK. Shirt worn as pants CHECK. Bare feet CHECK. It ain’t over!

Bad hoiday idea

Oh no, a queue at Sharky’s Tatoo – somethings you shouldn’t probably do when you are in Byron

It was raining most of the day yesterday which will always colour how you feel about a place. We went to bed last night thinking two days here might be one day too many. But then today, we had mostly clear skies and were able to walk around Cape Byron and to the eastern most point of the Australian mainland.

Waves 1

Brooding skies yesterday at the beach

Captain Cook

Poor old Captain Cook. He risks his life in a leaky 1770’s wooden ship, crosses vast oceans, discovers Australia and gets killed in Hawaii. Then in Byron Bay, they name a car park after him!

Surfers 3

Surfs not really up today, there were all beginners – but still fun to watch

Surfers 2

Funniest thing – these gulls were all looking at the tennis ball. Reminds me of the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy” – about a group of African tribesmen who found a coke bottle in the desert.

Surfers 1 (2)

Byron Bay surf break

Byron Beach launch

Surf launching a boat for the kayak groups

East point 1

The tip of Cape Byron – the eastern most point of mainland Australia

Kayaks 2

Group kayak tour heading to where the whales were – fun, maybe…

We arrived here right in the middle of the east coast Australia whale migration and we were treated to quite a show off the coast. Cape Byron is up pretty high and with sunny skies we could see way out to sea both up and down the coast. We were entertained by several groups of whales, some close in, some pretty far out. There was lots of breaching and big splashes. We only have a little point and shoot camera but we managed to capture a few fuzzy images.

Whales 7 (2)

Lucky

Whales 3

Double lucky

So, after two days in Byron Bay, we’ve yet again only scratched the surface of a place we visit in our travels. At least now, Byron is more than just a dot on a map. We’ve missed more than we’ve seen but at least feel comfortable to score Byron on a few key points of ours.

Good Coffee – check – they have many, many good coffee places here

Good Food – check – though, way more study is needed

Good Beer – check – NSW microbrewery reach extends to Byron

Nightlife – haha, for us, that’s funny – we did not make it to the Cheeky Monkey

Outdoors – Check – nice beaches, hikes and intriguing mountains to the west

Cycling – check – better than we thought it would be, not too much traffic

Is it an overrated, tourist trap that we’d never come back to – No way. It looks like a nice place to hang out for a couple weeks, or even longer. It could get really busy once Covid is over but who knows what the post-Covid new normal will look like anywhere.

Tomorrow we head west, with two days to reach Casino. It’s only about 80k but we’ve mapped out a longer circuitous ride through those previously mentioned “interesting looking mountains”. Here in Byron, the mountains are called “the hinterlands”. If nothing else, riding through the Byron hinterlands holds some intrigue – what is a hinterland anyway? We should make it as far as Lismore tomorrow, then we’ll ride onto Casino on Wednesday.

And oh yeah, we are planning on going to “that” Japanese restaurant tonight for dinner. If a scruffy looking man wearing his shirt like a pair of pants approaches us, we’ll see if he can’t shout us a free side of edamami or miso soup. You never know, it is Byron after all…

Cape Byron Lighthouse 5

Cape Byron – clouds coming in

Cape Byron Lighthouse 6

Cape Byron Lighthouse

6 responses to “Day 18-19 – Impressions of Byron Bay

  1. I love whale watching! How nice to do that from shore. Lucky you! After seeing all these new fabulous places that I didn’t know existed, I think another trip to Australia will have to happen some day…

    • Come anytime – but know that currently, your first 14 days will be as a 24 hour guest of the Australian government – city hotel and room service included. But you can’t leave the room for 14 days.

  2. I like your reference to the sea gulls watching the tennis ball and thinking back to The Gods Must Be Crazy, one of my favorite movies which may have to be put on the playlist. What a treat to see the whales breaching.

  3. Loving your observations of northern NSW, and esp your impressions of Byron Bay. I grew up in Byron Bay in the 70’s and 80’s and it was definitely better then (even if you weren’t there). When I left to attend university in the mid-80’s, no one had heard of Byron Bay, then Paul Hogan came along and it all changed ….
    My family are still there and tell me it’s much quieter at the moment due to COVID, so you may be seeing some of the “old” Byron instead of the ultra-trendy, congested town it’s become.
    And if you liked the NSW north coast, you definitely need to visit North Qld. Airlie Beach feels like old-time Byron Bay, and is surrounded by national parks (with awesome bike trails and views), the Whitsunday Islands, stunning beaches (including Whitehaven Beach), and endless miles of sugar cane.
    Hope we’ll see you both sometime soon!

    • Thanks for the Airlie Beach tip Deanne. We were tempted by Byron until we started listening to the podcast Lighthouse. Now, we are looking for the next Byron before it becomes Byron – We haven’t been north of Rocky so now we have a reason to go there!

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