(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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
6 thoughts on “Day 18-19 – Impressions of Byron Bay”
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.
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.
We’re going to watch it again when we get back to Sydney. It’s an odd movie from memory, but fun.
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!