Byron Bay

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to big Byron up to it’s full potential – the plan was to spend three maybe four nights here, two weeks later we still hadn’t left. This place has to be one of my favourite places so far due to it’s laid back attitude, colourful community, great night life and endless surf.

The past two weeks have consisted of surfing, bodyboarding, eating, drinking, and generally loving life. From the moment we arrived, checked in, ate the best falafel in the country (Orgasmic Falafel – along the street opposite Hogs Breath), bumped into the abundance of hippies who live here, grabbed our friends and headed down the road to watch some live music at Beach Hotel (see Dappled Cities), I have officially fallen in love with the bay.

The only place worth staying in Byron Bay is Aquarius – from $21 a night you get to stay in the most fun hostel in the area which is a mere 2 minutes walk from the Main Beach (a fantastic beach with some super hot surf spots offering swell for beginners right through to the pro’s), you can get a free meal every night if you buy a drink at the bar, plus free bodyboard rentals, plenty of communal space and a swimming pool.

There is also a little surf shop just over the road with the nicest owner and the cutest dog – he (the owner, not the dog) does pretty good deals on board, bike and wetsuit hire and if you keep going back the price will work its way down every time.

If you’re looking for a surf lesson in Byron and are finding yourself overwhelmed with offers from surf schools, I must reccommend Black Dog Surfing (ask for Bex specifically) as they do a cheap introductory rate – around $45-50 for beginners for a 3 hour lesson which will get you up to speed with the ins and outs, technique and lingo of surfing, and get you riding plenty of waves by the end of the sesh. If you check out Byron in Winter you’ll find that there are fewer people surfing so the lessons are far more personal.

If you don’t require a lesson the best surf spot on Byron Main Beach can be found at the lookout, head on to the beach from the car park and walk right as far as the land will take you, once you’ve reached the look out jump into the sea on your right and into the abundance of local and tourist surfers. Alternatively head to The Wreck for some pretty good bodyboarding, and if you happen to be around the look out on an evening try taking the visually stunning two hour walk upto the lighthouse to watch the sunset.

Not only is Byron perfect for water sports and diving, visiting it will immediately fill you with a sense of peace – on every corner you’ll find massage and therapy spa’s right next door to vegan, vegetarian or sushi places. For those not looking for inner peace, bottle-o’s can be found dotted all around the bay with nice cheap goon. Although drinking is not permitted in Aquarius (except for at the bar) you can get away with stashing goon in your rooms and downing a few mugs before heading out. Alternatively head to Nomads just around the corner where they have a huge communal drinking area, indoors and out (great for goon pong – see beer pong), and a jaccuzzi available until 9:00pm.
Note: Nomads is probably the newest hostel in Byron and offer rooms from around $30.
Once you’ve finished drinking in the hostels head out to either Beach Hotel for a young crowd and great live music or to Cheeky Monkeys for late night dancing on tables, terrible music and cheap drink deals. Occassionally they will charge a $5-$10 entrance fee but as we found out, if you head in during a police inspection you can sneak in for free. The Rails is a decent pub just down the road from Cheekys and looks great as it is an old converted railway station, you buy your beer through the ticket booth windows and they often have live folk music blasting into the open air – plenty of locals here and good deals on beer.
One vital tip, don’t forget the bakery on the corner down from Cheekys after a big night out, open 23 hours a day selling the best pastries around.

If you fancy a night in make it a Tuesday night where, as always, Cheap Tuesdays reigns. $2 movie rentals and $6.95 large Pizza’s from Eagle Boys (head up to Woolworths, it’s just past here on the right hand side) are an absolute must.

The shopping in Byron is another bonus – from big brands such as Rip Curl and Billabong right through to local skate and surf shops and of course, the classic Woolworths for all your cheap foody essentials. Byron’s markets are also a must see, head up past the railway tracks on a Thursday for the farmers market to pick up your meat and veg or check it out on a Sunday for the bigger market with live music, endless food stalls and tonnes of tye-dye.

If you fancy taking a day trip out of Byron (not sure why anyone would want to leave, but this is worth a few hours out) try the Magic Bus tour to Nimbin. I’ve never visited anywhere like Nimbin in my life – simply a huge stoner town where the locals are all screwed in the head and the only items for sale are hippy bracelets, tye dye clothing, weed, or cookies (the fun kind). The Magic Bus will ensure your trip to Nimbin is the best it can possibly be, Tim the bus driver (it’s his business) is the best guy and will even pop your ipod on the sound system if you ask nicely. He’ll give you good advice regarding what to buy and what not to buy when in Nimbin, he’ll take you for breakfast and even toast marshmallows over a campfire with you after rope swinging into a secluded lake.

Tip: Another bonus of the Magic Bus is that as soon as you hop off in Nimbin, the lady who owns the shop at the first bus stop will give you a few dollars discount on anything you buy as she’s good friends with Tim.

Before you leave Nimbin grab a slice of Hemp Cake and a coffee at the tiny shop next to The Hemp Embassy – you can’t miss it, and the cake is to die for.

I’ll leave Byron on that ‘high’ note, all I can say is this may be the first time I visit the bay but it certainly will not be the last.

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