Byron Bay is a place deeply set in the hearts of many. From the local surfers who understand the magic of the surrounding waters; tourists who flock to this beacon of natural wonders; alternative lifestyle lovers who want to embrace the laid back philosophy; or the families that crave an escape from the routines of home, the appreciation may be varied but the depth is equal – Byron Bay is a truly sensational destination.
World renowned for its quintessential vibe of relaxation, new age appreciation and chilled out attitude, Byron has always been the home of all things free-spirited, from the hinterland to the waves. If it wasn’t the holistic pull of the place that made you want to stay indefinitely, Byron has also evolved to become a zenith for fine food aficionados, bohemian-luxe fashionistas, trendy wedding parties, seasoned marine divers and barefoot-dreaming city slickers. Couples, solos, retirees and families alike are all realising that Byron is so much more than just a schoolies week haven.
HOW TO GET THERE…
Byron Bay is the most easterly point in Australia and is located in New South Wales, close to the border of Queensland. Virgin Australia flies into both Ballina Byron Gateway Airport and Gold Coast Airport. Ballina is only a 31 minute drive to Byron, but there may be a stop over in Sydney. Flights direct to the Gold Coast are more convenient, as there are no stops, but has a drive time of over an hour to Byron. Mind you, the drive along the coast is a lovely one. Opt for a rental car, not only to get you to Byron but to use throughout your stay, as taxis are not super reliable and public transport is non-existent. Europcar Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is highly recommended, with friendly and helpful staff that will ensure you want for nothing when it comes to the type of vehicle and any extras you may actually need, without trying to sting you for anything unnecessary. For families traveling with little ones, they will fit high-quality baby and child seats. We were very impressed with the quality and cleanliness of our vehicle, so make sure you give Angie a call to organise your car rental.
WHERE TO STAY…
Elements of Byron is the first beachfront resort in Byron, and recently opened its doors in early 2016. Check out our review here – https://pentopapermedia.com.au/2016/10/10/resort-review-elements-of-byron-byron-bay-australia/
If you’re traveling with babies or toddlers then you can hire all of your bub needs from the family owned and operated Byron Baby Shop, located just down the road from Elements of Byron. They have everything from baby carriers to porta-cots, and prams to comforters – all you need for a holidays with the little ones, without the need to bring your entire house with you! The Byron Baby Shop aims to provide convenient and friendly business that aims to help parents enjoy an easy and hassle-free holiday. Check them out here: http://www.byronbabyshop.com.au/
WHAT TO DO…
CAPE BYRON LIGHTHOUSE AT SUNRISE
This popular destination is famous for being the most easterly point of Australia, and many early risers will travel up to Cape Byron Lighthouse to catch the magnificent sunrise over the bay. Not only is this one of the most magical and life-affirming of experiences, but you’ll be among the first people on the globe to see (and feel) the rays of the sun as Byron is the first part of Australia to glimpse the sunrise and the second country in the world, after New Zealand. Cape Byron Lighthouse (built in 1901) is also a terrific vantage point to do a spot of whale-watching. With waters so rich of wildlife that many come to witness the majesty of the humpback whales and schools of dolphins that come to play in the bay, the Lighthouse gives you a vista out past Julian Rocks towards Mount Warning and back the other way down along the coast and out towards the Pacific Ocean.
WHALE WATCHING BOAT TOUR with BLUE BAY DIVERS
This has got to be one for the bucket list – sailing along the pristine waters of Byron to spot Humpbacks Whales in their natural environment. We recommend Blue Bay Divers, not only for their well-equipped, 8.5m Cougar Cat vessel with protection from the elements and ample seating for guests, with a toilet on board, but because for those more adventurous whale watchers, you can sit up front on the elevated deck to catch a 360 degree view of the bay and surrounding ocean. There is a true feeling of freedom out on the water, with excitement building as you scan the waters for the tell-tale spray flume or splash from a tail. Christina and Roundy were our fantastic hosts – both are experienced divers and whale spotters, as well as Roundy having been a skipper for nearly a decade. As you can imagine, Humpbacks do not work to a schedule, and nor should they, so the vessel has a keen watcher on land to radio in point you in the right direction of where pods or individual whales may be. It’s super exciting as you head towards a possible whale, and the reward is immense. Seeing a Humpback mother and calf rise to the surface to greet you, their massive white underbellies exposed as they playfully breach the surface to slap a tail or flipper, watching you with their wise eyes, so curious about what all the fuss is about, is amazing. Or when a bull breaks the water with an all mighty snort of his blowhole – it’s a noise you’ll always remember.
The tour was phenomenal and we were lucky to see many whales in the hours we were out at sea, and even some pods of dolphins that I was tremendously excited to see also. It’s good to note that every experience is different, and the crew will endeavor to give you as good an experience as they can offer, based on the temperament and activity of the whales, which is difficult to predict. These guys are pros though, and we doubt you’ll walk away disappointed. On another note, these mammals are very curious, social and playful – we noticed that they approached us more often when we were clapping, singing, cheering and talking, so don’t be afraid to let them know you’re there to say hello. Do take a moment to put the iPhone down and stare into the eye of a whale that has come to check you out – the experience will linger always in your heart and mind, bringing you closer to the magic of nature.
Blue Bay Divers also offer diving and snorkeling tours. Launching from Brunswick Heads, the tours offer a variety of sites, and because Byron Bay is world renowned for its dive sites (such as the extremely diverse and rare ecosystem at Julian Rocks, which boasts more than 500 tropical and temperate fish species alone!) you’ll be sure to have a phenomenal experience. We can’t wait to return and try out the snorkeling at these magical locations!
To book a tour, give the crew at Blue Bay Divers a call. Let Christina know we say hi! http://www.bluebaydivers.com.au/
DOLPHIN KAYAK TOUR with GO SEA KAYAK BYRON BAY
Strap yourself in for one adventurous ride with this group of legends. Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay is headed by one of the top Ocean Kayaking athletes in the world, Kurt ‘Tutty’ Tutt. Tutty, who was born and raised in Byron, is also the area’s champion lifesaver and emergency jet ski responder, so you’re bound to feel super safe when heading out on a kayak into open water with someone whose credentials are that impressive. Other members of the crew include, Matt (Brooksy) who was a brilliant guide, educating us all about “the real Byron Bay” out on the ocean, and Dougy ‘the dolphin whisperer’ Meagher who also doubles as the photographer, so you don’t have to fret about bringing a water-proof camera along on your journey. You’ll have your entire experience photographed and conveniently posted to Facebook so you can boast to your mates about your dolphin adventure.
As the weather was getting a bit sketchy as we neared the end of our Byron trip, Tutty was extremely accommodating, keeping in contact with us about the best morning to go kayaking, and despite the overcast conditions and drizzle, we were not disappointed – it added to the enterprise. You don’t need any prior experience to go out kayaking, but if you’re a tad worried out on the sea you can always buddy with one of the team members. Once out on the water, it’s an adrenaline rush to start spotting dolphins and whales. It’s a bit harder being closer to the water to spot them (as opposed to the bow of a boat) but the crew are masters at recognising pods of dolphins. We encountered a pod as we were rounding the bend past Fisherman’s Lookout, as we paddled towards Cape Byron to view the Lighthouse from this unique perspective on the water and out into the Pacific Ocean (where you are literally out on the open water, in the largest expanse of ocean in the world!). Despite not encountering any Humpback whales, we saw a scattering of more dolphins that came to check us out, and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom, independence and feeling of genuine adventure we felt out on the open water. The crew put us all at ease, educated us about the surrounding area (its history, mythology and ecosystem) and were funny and down-to-earth, making for a very fun and extraordinary morning. We highly recommend getting out on the water with this crew – it’s a very organic, intrepid and enjoyable way to discover Byron, whilst getting to hang out with some amazing dolphins!
To book your kayak tour with Tutty and his crew, head to: http://www.goseakayakbyronbay.com.au/ and let the boys know we sent you.
BEACH HORSE RIDING with ZEPHYR HORSES
Forget those boring, old and tired ‘trail rides’ you’ve experienced in the past. Zephyr Horses, set amongst the lush sub-tropical woodlands of Byron, will breathe new life into your passion for horses and riding in a new and exciting way. The love the Zephyr team have for their herd goes above and beyond, with all members of the Zephyr Horses family a respected and cherished one, well looked after and healthy, which shows in their temperament and happiness when out riding. There is a positive energy and welcoming ambience at the Zephyr stables, a ranch that has only been operating for one year but has already managed to create many magical experiences for horses and riders alike. From the hearty welcome to the ranch by the lovable staffy Brutus to galloping along the shore of Belongil, you’ll want to return to Zephyr again and again.
Owner, Kate Noller, is a true horse woman to her core, and her devotion and passion for the connection between horses, humans and the environment is clear and lasting. The uniqueness of Zephyr lies not only in its beautiful herd and amazing team (the other Kate on the team was a phenomenal leader for our beach ride), but with the exquisite surroundings that you get to enjoy whilst on horseback. The true spirit of adventure is best embraced whilst horse riding, and even those most intrepid of riders will be very satisfied with the beach or Tea Tree forest riding options. The Zephyr team are trusting of your experience with horses, and adapt each ride to every riders’ ability, allowing more experienced riders to gallop when able to, whilst helping more inexperienced riders gain confidence to trust their horse and their instincts. It was the most pleasurable experience I have had with horses and I cannot recommend Zephyr enough!
You can even ask to ride Queen Zola, the magnificent Clydesdale who is a celebrity in her own right, being featured in magazine shoots and weddings. She is a gentle soul and a very special horse indeed.
To book a ride with the girls at Zephyr Horses, head to: http://www.zephyrhorses.com/
If you are staying at Elements of Byron, reception can book on your behalf, or you can book direct via the above website. And as always, say hi to Kate and Kate (and Zola!) from us.
FIND SERENITY at CRYSTAL CASTLE
Crystal Castle is located in the hinterland just out of Byron Bay in Mullumbimby (approx. 20 minutes drive from the centre of Byron). This world renowned botanical Shambhala garden (‘Shambhala’ meaning mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu traditions) boasts rare and amazing giant crystals and fossils throughout, dating back 500 million years. Spread across 5 hectares of lush gardens which include sculptures, deities, contemplation spaces, a sacred labyrinth and the largest stone Blessing Buddha in Australia. Crystal Castle is celebrating its thirtieth year in 2016, so it’s a perfect opportunity to visit and gaze upon the ‘Kalachakra Stupa’ (a type of Buddhist monument, which expresses the nature of the mind in a perfect way), which has been blessed by the Dalai Lama and is the only Buddhist Stupa of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Crystal Castle is a very special place and is magical for adults and children alike. You will be mesmerized by the impressive Blessing Buddha, sitting aloft a pool of water, gazing over a gastropod shaped assortment of giant rose quartz boulders. A wave of serenity will wash over you as you stand before the Buddha, close your eyes, offer up a flower and ask for protection (if you so wish!). Discover deities along the path and read about the mythology and beliefs of how they came to be and how they impact upon the world today. Marvel at the twin colossal crystals that creep skywards, as they have for hundreds of millions of years. Not only is their size unique, but also their composition of five crystals – Smoky Quartz, Amethyst, Clear Quartz, Calcite and Agate – which makes them extremely rare.
Be enticed by the three-dimensional ‘trompe l’oeil’ mural by award-winning local artist Peta Laurisen (assisted by Tiffany Calder Kingston). It features a grand archway inspired by the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, complete with a guarding tigress and two real ten million year old Amethyst geodes (originally discovered in Brazil).
Save some time for crystal shopping, as you have a plethora of beautiful stones and their properties to choose from. From Orange Calcite with its powers of creativity, and the peace of Amethyst, to the healing lore of Agate and prosperity of Aventurine.
To view other activities and events on at Crystal Castle, head to: http://www.crystalcastle.com.au/. Tickets can be purchased on the day of your visit but many experiences need to be booked in advance.
NATURE HIKE at MINYON FALLS
Minyon Falls is a glorious and breathtaking plunge waterfall found in Nightcap National Park, just 55 minutes drive from Byron. The waterfall descends more than 100 metres over the huge rhyolite cliffs which were once part of the Tweed Volcano. This stunning area offers amazing views over the waterfall which flows from the crystal clear Repentance Creek, with opportunities to sit and relax or hike along the paths on either side of the falls. Local flora includes the strangler fig, rusty rose walnut, blue quandong, and sweet smelling wild lemon tea trees. Fauna include the lace monitor and kookaburra (both of which we got to witness). A truly beautiful and pristine place to absorb nature.
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK…
THE BALCONY (Bar + Oyster Co.) – Corner of Lawson Street & Jonson Street, Byron Bay
Located at the most ideal central spot, situated above the hum-drum of Lawson and Jonson Streets in a heritage listed building with wrap-around verandah, The Balcony is where you can experience excellent cocktails, good seasonal and local food, and relaxed yet refined vibes, all whilst catching the sea breeze. Kitted out in a very tropical Cuba-meets-the-Hamptons type interior, The Balcony’s white wooden walls, palm print lamp shades and maritime artwork makes it a very easy place to sit and sink cocktails and tapas plates in. The friendly staff also make it an enjoyable experience, whether you’re after a feed post-swim, or suave Saturday night date, this place is by far the perfect perch to sip a lychee martini or classic sour and watch the world go by. We recommend Sean’s Chicken Lollipops (yep, you read right), the Crispy Skinned Ocean Trout, Crab + Lettuce Tacos and Grass Fed Eye Fillet. It’s also baby/kid friendly with high chairs and very accommodating staff.
The Balcony offers a private dining room as well, which I quite frankly cannot wait to organise a function in….
BAYLEAF – Marvell Street, Byron Bay
Ah, Bayleaf. What a dream of a cafe. With the tastiest menu I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in recent times, Bayleaf prides itself on offering organic and locally grown produce. Emanating a cool, relaxed and mellow vibe, Bayleaf is the type of place you could hang out in all day. From the psychedelic 70’s rock and alfresco table set-up, to the friendly staff and killer Marvell Street coffee, this place has a trendy yet welcoming vibe to it. Clearly a local fave, Bayleaf will not disappoint with its fresh, tasty and wholesome menu. You’ll feel good for having eaten here. We ate at Bayleaf three times in nine days, so didn’t quite get to enjoy everything off the menu (although we did try). We reckon the entire menu looked bloody delicious, so go for gold and try anything. There are also amazing cold-pressed juices and a delectable sweets display to choose from. Bayleaf is also super baby and dog friendly too. High chairs and kids menu available. Top spot – enjoy!
FOLK – 1/399 Ewingsdale Road, Byron Bay
FOLK is a breath of fresh air, offering vego, paleo, organic, and gluten-free options. If there aren’t any tables available, then pull up a picnic rug and enjoy some chill out time on the grass in the sunshine. This place is super laid-back, so don’t think you can grab a fast take-away. Just take a seat and chill out as you sip on a hibiscus iced tea and let your worries wash away. And I’m pretty sure shoes are optional, like most places in Byron. This is a stellar one for kids as they can play in the grass and you won’t have to wrestle with high chairs.
THE FARM + THREE BLUE DUCKS – 11 Ewingsdale Road, Ewingsdale
The Farm is an incredible concept and an utterly joyful place to visit. Whether you have little ones that will be beyond excited when they see the array of farm animals they can play with – from gorgeous chickens to snortingly adorable piglets (I’ll be honest, the piglets made my day!) – or if you’ve come to delight in the fine food and wine on offer, The Farm has everything you didn’t even now you could want. The Farm includes restaurant/cafe/bar Three Blue Ducks, bakery The Bread Social and grocer’s corner The Produce Store, as well as a flower shop. Whether you opt to chill out on the grass amongst the hens, or sit at one of the tables on the verandah overlooking the herb garden, every spot at The Farm is enjoyable. The food is delicious, and the desserts are to-die-for. There are beers on tap, uniquely mixed cocktails and a variety of wines. Just chat to your friendly waiter or head up to the bar where staff will let you sample the brew before deciding, if you ask them nicely. This is a place you don’t want to leave in a hurry, so plan to spend a day here enjoying the lovely vibes and yummy treats The Farm has to offer.
DOMA CAFE – 3-6 Albert Street, Federal
This little gem of a cafe was one we sought out on the way to Minyon Falls. It is a rare but eloquently executed example of Australian local produce with a Japanese infusion. The crew at Doma do it superbly. We had the most spectacular Brekkie Burger here; even passers by were complimenting how good our food looked! Try the lemon myrtle and ginger tea too. Ample space to sit outside on the side of the cafe, or pull up a stool and sit in the morning sun by the side of the road like we did.
Want more info on Byron Bay or help organising your holiday? Then send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org