Our journey from the Gold Coast wasn’t long; we headed south towards the surfer town of Byron Bay. Byron gets a lot of hype, it’s very touristy and I didn’t know quite what to expect. It’s tricky with places like that because it’s easy to be let down when people big up a place so much. Byron is a massive cliché, it’s full of people in bare feet with dreadlocks wearing tie dye. At first we just thought it was ridiculously touristy, but once you accept that it’s all part of the surf culture, and just because it’s a bit of a stereotype it doesn’t mean it’s rubbish, you start to really enjoy yourself. Embrace the hippy-vibe, kick off your shoes (who needs those on the beach anyway?) and just have a good time. That’s what Byron Bay is all about.
We spent a lot of time on the beach, of course. The weather was warm, so we sunbathed on the beach and splashed around in the waves in the sea. We walked the length of the beach every day to get to and from the town centre, which was lovely. One night Zoe and I made falafel wraps for dinner and we all went and sat on the beach to eat. We stargazed, drank cheap wine and played silly games. The beach was just across the road from our hostel, so we tried to make the most of it.
Byron Bay’s town has also got lots of quirky shops and restaurants, and on one of the days we left the boys on the beach and decided to have a look around. We each got a few little things, but none of us had the budget to buy all the pretty things we found. It was a nice change to look around some independent shops that are more unusual than our average fare. In the evening we went to one of the pubs which had a large outdoor beer garden. It had set up an outdoor cinema and was showing the documentary, Amy, a terribly sad but really interesting documentation of the life of Amy Winehouse. Although enjoyable isn’t the right word, as the film was pretty tragic, we had a really good evening. I got the impression that there were always things going on in the town, whether it was food deals, film showings or live music.
One morning we also woke before dawn and went to the lighthouse for sunrise. The Byron Bay lighthouse is the most eastern point of Australia, so we were first to see in the new day! It was really pretty and afterwards we wandered back into the town to get a much needed coffee, which we drank on the beach.
We all thought that we ought to do a proper water based activity while we were in the bay; when in Rome, and all that. Zoe had a gift voucher for sea kayaking, so we thought we’d all join her for a few hours paddling at sea. When we were reading all about it, it sounded very pleasant indeed. You paddled along leisurely, stopping every now and again to look at turtles, dolphins and interesting coral below. Well, our experience was quite different due to the storms that had worked their way down from the Gold Coast the previous week. The water was too murky to see down to the coral and we didn’t see any wildlife! It wasn’t a dull few hours, however. The storms meant that the waves were a lot bigger than usual, so before we had even begun, it was a huge challenge to even get out far enough to paddle about. The guides advised us to start paddling out, and then as a wave approaches, looming terrifyingly in front of you, to keep paddling as hard as you possibly can. Sounds pretty simple, we thought. Well, Toby and I were flung from our boat three times before we managed to get out past the breaking waves! It was exhausting, and actually quite scary, but we kept on struggling until we finally got out. We then had a few hours paddling around, with the guides telling us about the area and the marine wildlife that you can usually see. When it was time to head back to shore one of the guides told us to listen really carefully as it could be a bit tricky getting back to shore with the waves being as big as they were. He told us to ‘surf’ the waves back to the beach, which is easier than it sounds! Toby and I began paddling, looking behind us and seeing no big waves threatening to throw us out of our boat again. But of course, we were not that lucky and a huge wave came and swept us up high. We leaned back and rode the wave as far as we could until we were once again thrown out of the kayak. The instructors all congratulated us on catching the biggest wave and one of them even told us that he couldn’t watch and closed his eyes when he saw it coming! It was great fun and although we didn’t see turtles or dolphins, it was much more exciting than we had expected!
We had a great time in Byron Bay, and I can see why it’s such a tourist magnet. The people are relaxed and friendly, the beaches are beautiful and there’s plenty to do (when in doubt enjoy brunch in the sun – see the picture below). I’m sure we could’ve stayed there a lot longer than the four days we did, but our journey south had to continue!