Byron Bay. It’s the place the cool collective heads when looking for some down time. Offering an unsurpassed chilled-out beach vibe, matched with a plethora of places to eat set against a village atmosphere, Byron Bay holds a special place in many hearts, and it’s not difficult to see why, as Jessica Jane Sammut discovers.
Byron Bay is a magical place with a bewitching effect on even the hardest of hearts. It’s disarming charm, carefree atmosphere and breath taking scenery make it the perfect place for a family getaway or romantic break, soothing the soul like nowhere else.
WHERE TO STAY
Byron Bay offers accommodation to suit every budget. From cheap hostel-style rooms to the more high-end luxury escapes, Byron has it all. Self-catering apartments can often be the most family friendly way of enjoying some time-out without rules and time frames, with Alluxia an awesome place to start when searching for somewhere that little bit spesh. With a host of handpicked holiday houses and boutique hotels, you always know you are going to get something of quality when booking with them, which is so reassuring when choosing accommodation on the web. The Byron Bay Tourist Board is also a good place to have a look.
Byron Bay options are plentiful at Alluxia, with a personal favourite the Beach Suites, right in town opposite the beach, offering huge apartment-style accommodation with all the mod cons (including two spa baths) and the view-of-all-views of the beach. The ocean actually feels like it is beaming itself into the unit through the wall-to-wall glass frontage, while the iconic lighthouse twinkles on the hill in the distance. Having stayed in the penthouse of the Beach Suites, with the private rooftop pool, I can certainly recommend it. With two very young children, the place is ideal and nothing is any trouble, with cots and high chairs appearing with ease. The proximity to town (you are in the thick of it) is ideal also, as once you have parked the car in the apartment’s lock-up car park, you need not climb into it again until you go home, unless you choose to go exploring. Walk to the beach, meander to the coffee shop, saunter out for dinner – it’s all on your doorstep.
Talking of eats, Byron Bay is brimming with cafes, bakeries and gorgeous little eateries, which could have you dining out every night of the week. And if you have young children who won’t sit still in a restaurant for too long? Grab a takeaway and a spot in the park next to the beach near the kid’s playground, and you can dine and relax to your heart’s content while the littlies contentedly play.
A must if you are looking for something super romantic is Rae’s on Watergo’s, a beautiful intimate restaurant set by the ocean which serves the most sublime cocktails, with a first-class menu to match. Other goodies include St Elmo Dining Room & Bar, a firm favourite which plates up modern Spanish tapas and share plates in a cool and relaxed setting, pouring wines by the glass from a global list of over 100 bottles, while Italian at the Pacific dishes up classic modern Italian cuisine in a warm and inviting surround, with impeccable service. If it is pizza you are after, Il Buco is a dream come true, while Top Shop is the coolest place to be seen for surfers and hipsters – a cafe serving single origin Roasters coffee, burgers, house-made pastries and fresh granitas. As for French fare, The Petit Snail has won several awards, as has Manna Haven, a vegetarian delight offering wholesome food using the freshest ingredients.
Really, a saunter through town in Byron provides ample opportunity for finding yourself a little nook within which to take the weight off your feet and enjoy some cuisine made with love.
WHAT TO DO
Byron Bay is the place to go to waste time. No itineraries, no schedules, no school hours, no sports – just time to chill. The moment you set foot in Byron, you will understand why, such is the hippy feel of the place.
However, if you did wish to explore, the Cape Byron Lighthouse has to be at the top of the list, marking the most Eastern point of the Australian mainland, with a daily tour of the building a must. It is also the perfect spot to spy wales migrating between June and November. Bring your camera! Bangalow is a great village to explore in addition, with a thriving local creative community, while the local Byron markets are plentiful and certainly worth a visit.
As a former resident, Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar, has also put together an awesome local’s guide to her favourite Byron pastimes, which is well worth a read.
However you spend your time in Byron – you can guarantee you’ll come back a little more surfy and a lot more relaxed than when you arrived. You might even be planning on quitting your job and moving there permanently, as many do, for once this place is under your skin, as you’ll see, it’s a feeling that’s hard to shake.