There’s something about Byron Bay, something magic. You will only get it once you set foot in this twinkling surfer town, home of the Blues Fest that just hosted Carlos Santana and of Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth.
In Byron, gorgeous men and women tame the waves with their surfboards and jog along the never-ending Main Beach with a smile on their face they bless you with, even if you don’t know them. I don’t know if it’s the air, the sun or the sea, but everybody looks like they’ve just popped out of some health magazine’s photoshoot. I guess if anything it should be called the Thor Factory.
But Byron isn’t only the land of beauty. It seems it’s also the land of happiness and calm. People walk barefoot and talk to you for compliments without an agenda, to wish you a good day or to come to your rescue with unsolicited but thoughtful tips for you to make the best out of the town.
Part Hamptons, part San Diego, part Woodstock, Byron blends tropical sun and a Californian sensibility with an all-Aussie down-to-Earth vibe. I only spent four days in there, but I will always keep its memory with me in my heart. Here’s what to do in this gorgeous ocean side town.
This always jam-packed café features patrons’ pictures on the wall and house-roasted Marvell Street Coffee, one of the best in town. Far from being just a simple small-town caf, the café features an outstanding menu including the must-have dukkah eggs, which might as well be the best egg dish you have in your life: runny poached eggs on a bed of rocket, tomatoes of different colours and a lovely thick toast, accompanied by fresh mozzarella and cooked with honey and lavender. Have them with the naturally sweet cold brew coconut coffee or with one of the café’s lovely kombuchas. The staff are as pretty and sweet as the food on the menu.
This all-vegan café sits right in front of Bayleaf and makes lovely passion fruit cheesecakes and smoothie bowls like no other. I had the I Am Buzzing bowl with coffee and medicinal mushies (which are apparently not drugs), which nursed my hungover like a hug. Plus, as a bonus, the place looks incredibly pretty and calming which makes for a perfect breakfast.
This relaxed BYO eatery serves the best fish and chips in town according to the locals, and I can confirm that the beer battered hoki and its chips didn’t disappoint. Filling and a bargain, too, at only $16 including sauces! No pictures, soz I was drunk when I ate there after the Stone & Wood tour. #professional
Margaritas galore at this cute quirky joint that attracts queues every night. Go upstairs for Mexican Frida Kahlo and Day of The Dead interiors and make sure you order the delicious Mango Margarita with your food.
You’ll be spoilt for choice by Miss Margarita’s menu, but I will pass on the team’s recommendations and suggest you order the chipotle chicken burrito and the crispy snapper and mango tacos. You’re welcome.
With interiors that reminded me of a Sardinian beach bar, The Mez actually features some of the best twists on Turkish tapas I’ve ever tried. The crispy Halloumi is a must – and so is the Prosecco and Turkish Delight liquour based Turkish Princess cocktail!
With oysters at $1 each on Wednesdays and the best Espresso Martinis ever at $12 after 9.30, Balcony is one of the most popular hang-outs in town. Facing one of the main streets with a wrap-around verandah, it’s the best spot to people watch and it has a magic colonial New Orleans/Hamptons vibe with pretty lights and a blend between wood and white interiors.
Things to Do
No Byron stay is complete without a walk up the Byron Bay lighthouse. I chose to do mine at sunset and loved it despite the crowds. The sky really does turn pink and purple and offers breath-taking views over the bay. You’ll be sorry to miss it!
Try and feel at least partly as cool as the locals and try your luck at riding the waves. The team at Let’s Go Surfing, the most central school you’ll find in Byron, really know what they’re doing: I managed to stand up on the board multiple times for $60 thanks to instructor Katie’s personal touch.
Still didn’t get the Byron look but maybe that takes more than two hours.
Pictures: Carolina Are