I think part of my great experience had to do mainly with my accomodation, The Arts Factory Lodge. My research for this trip has been top notch, with not a single housing accomodation or tour destination being a mistake. The Arts Factory was a bit out from the center of the town, where it was tranquilly placed in the middle of the wetlands. A few buildings, a pool and the rest just pure nature. The Arts Factory is a very fitting name. I stayed in a dorm, but you had the option of staying in a tipee, camp out in a tent, or a mini bungalow in the swamp area. It was a pretty special place.
I had taken an 11 hr overnight bus from Newcastle to Byron Bay. I got in to Byron at around 9 am on Saturday morning. I had some comfort issues on the bus, it was either not enough leg room or a cramped neck, anyhow ended up getting around 3-4 hours of sleep. It was just enough as the rest of my energy came from the pure thought of exploring a new town. The weather as I got off the bus was quite hot...I think for all three days it was around 90 degrees, humid and very sweaty. I quickly checked to my hostel and headed straight into town to give it a gander. Byron is not the largest of towns but its main street sure is packed and can provide entertainment for people of all backgrounds. After strolling the main drag for a bit, I continued onward to the beaches. Ooo the beaches, may be my favorite so far here in Oz...if not a tie with Manly in Sydney. Before even stepping on the sand or feeling the water, I decided to embark on the walk/hike up to Cape Byron and the Lighthouse.
It was about a 4 hour round trip walk and provided great views of several of Byron's beaches. The path eventually started to incline, as the lighthouse is situated on a large hill, and in the intense heat you can imagine the great workout that I endured.
View of Byron's Beaches
Cape Byron Lighthouse
At one point in my trek up to the lighthouse was the most eastern point of the Australia Coast..I was standing right there....felt great.
Cape Byron Lighthouse
After reaching my destination and soaking in the view of Byron (and soaking in my sweat) for several minutes, I started the hike back down with one thing on my mind....get on the beach and in the water. About 40 minutes later, I was there....swimming graciously and gliding with the waves in one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever witnessed. I wish I had a water camera to capture the view I had from in the ocean. It was the closest thing to paradise I think I have seen. Surrounded by turquoise blue water, white sand, and lush green tropical palm trees and flora. The water was also pretty warm. It was great...all that was missing was a 6 pack of Coronas and a swedish super model, but I am quickly working on that.
Not having much sleep I quickly fell asleep on the beach, tough not to in such a relaxing atmosphere. I then headed back to the hostel to clean up and shower. I then headed out back into town to explore the evening night life. Byron is known for having a great music scene, and it sure was evident. Nearly every restauraunt or cafe had life music going on, and every one I enjoyed as I walked past. My favorite was when I got down to the beach end, sunrise had just occured and there were a group of guys in a drum circle. They were absolutely jammin, bongos, djembe drums, and a tambourine. With the great beat to an absolutely stunning background of the beach and ocean, it was hard not to get into it. After that I headed back to the hostel, but stopped at the local favorite Byron Noodle Box before making it back home. It was tasty.
When I got back to the hostel I met Tyson and Shane, two guys from Ireland that were staying in my dorm room. We decided to go accross the street to the hostels bar, The Buddha Bar. There we sat down and enjoyed some great beer, coupled with great live music by this folk/jazz/jam band. I tried 2 new beers that night. Pure Blonde and Byron Bay Premium Ale....both very refreshing after a long day of travelling, sightseeing and beach going. I was pretty tired and headed to bed around 1130.
Day 2 in Byron marked my first adventure tour. The destination....Nimbin. Nimbin is a town about 1.5 hrs into the hills. Basically it was a town that hippies decided to have a large festival, The Aquarius Festival, in 1973. They liked the town so much they decided to stay. The hippie, alternative scene is still very much in tact today. The tour company was called Grasshoppers, and meant for backpackers. It picked me up right at the hostel..it was a huge tour bus...completely filled with around 70 backpackers. It was a Nimbin tour, but there were loads of extras including. The first stop was at the local bottle shop. The driver encouraged everyone to pick out some of their favorite beer and put it in the "esky" (ice cooler) for the remainder of the trip. Ended up splitting a 6 pack of Coopers with a lad from London. Well the first beer was opened around 11am on the bus and the party bus atmosphere came alive. These tours are also known for the great music on the way to Nimbin. We were cruisin to the sounds of Creedence, The Beatles, Sublime, and The Doors..it made the trip all the better. Stop 2 was a secret waterfall/swimming hole somewhere in the hills. It was a great stop. There was a cliff jump but I wasn't feelin it and just hung out down in the pool..which was super warm and refreshing in yet another 90 degree scorching day. On that note, it is always funny to see what some people will go to on group trips to impress other people in the groups. This cliff jump was no exception. There were about 3 to 4 guys that thought they were so cool doing backflips and acrobatics off the cliff jump. There is always those type of people. Anyhow, they had some pretty bad landings in the water, I can immagine they stung a bit and I got a laugh from down below.
Swimming Hole and Falls
Next stop on the tour were the markets. These markets take place every week but vary location. For example, next week they are in Byron Bay. On this sunday they were in a town called Channon, up in the hills somewhere. It felt like being in the middle of nowhere but were amazed at the amount of people that were there in attendance. The stalls consisted of kid entertainment, arts and crafts, great food and other specialties.
After the markets we stopped at the local Channon pub where we were given our free bbq lunch. The aussie burgers, sausages and salad never tasted so good.
After our lunch we finally made way to Nimbin. When we arrived I was amazed how small the town was. I think I covered the entire downtown in 5 minutes walking town. That was something that was not expected. Anyhow, we headed into the Nimbin museum were we were given a history of the town, and info on the hippie and the legalization movements. We were offered weed several times throughout the streets as Nimbin is also known for its marijuana market, even though it is illegal in New South Wales and has been the main attention of several large drug raids in the past several years.
After about an hour in the small town and one great chocolate shake at the rainbow cafe later, we were back on the bus headed back to Byron Bay. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the remainder of their beers as we rolled to the music and had one quick stop on the way back to lookout over Byron Bay.
When I got back into town it was around 7 oclock. Not being in the water all day and it still being really hot, I headed for the beach to hit the waves for a sunset sesh. It was great. Rested on the beach a bit rocking out to some tunes and decided to head back. On my way back, little did I know there was going to be a firedance show. Right place at the right time. The fire dancers were real good and they were backed up with the best didgeridoo player I have heard thus far in Sydney. It was quite enjoyable.
Exhausted from the day, I headed back to the hostel and just hung out near the swamp and called it a night
My last full day in Byron, I was going to take advantage of every minute of it...because I knew the second I left the town I would miss it. I woke up pretty early and headed out. I made way for one of Byron's best kept secrets, Cumbebin Wetlands. Once again my superb travel research came into play. I did have quite the adventure finding the place but finally did about 40 minutes later. When I found the entrance, I could tell why it was a hidden secret. I felt pretty special because I honestly think I was one of the few backpackers that had ever entered the wetlands, not even sure if all the locals have heard of this place. Yes i didn't see the bats, fish or tropical snails as I was supposed to but it was still pretty sweet. One of my first wilderness walks here and it was quite eerie. It was a shorter walk than expected but glad I checked it out.
After the wetlands adventure, headed right for the beach where I stayed for the next 5 hours. I was blessed with another great day of beach weather and soaked in the rays and ocean.
Closest Thing to Paradise, Stoked !
Well the beach day came to an end and headed back to the hostel for what I wanted to be one last great night in Byron. There was a ping pong tournament going on at the Buddha Bar so I decided to go check it out. It also conveniently was happy hour were they had 3 dollar schooners of Byron Bay Ale. The pong tourney was pretty official and I didnt want to waste an entire night playin pong but was able to play a few pick up games against a guy. He was decent ill admit, lost to him 2 games to 1. All very close tho. Anyway, once happy hour ended I headed back to the hostel. There I met Sam, great guy from England and informed him I was looking to split a box of goon with someone and hit the town. The Arts Factory was putting on a talent show as well, it was great. Live acts from the hostel residents...people of all talents and it was a great way to start the night, great friends and goon. From there I got in contact with two girlfriends that I had met in Sydney, Olivia and Lindsay. They were in Byron and were also looking to go out. My buddy Sam never made it out after the talent show so I headed out solo to meet up with the girls. We ended up meeting on the beach and I had brought the remainder of my goon. I knew about a possible meteor shower that was going to take place so we went on the sand and looked up at the beautiful stars. Well no meteor shower happened, think we missed it. Anyway the view was still amazing. We originally had the intention to head to Cheeky Monkeys, the main backpacker bar in town, well after 3 or 4 hours drinkin on the beach and enjoying the surroundings, its was safe to say we weren't going out to any big nightclub. Having heard mixed reviews of cheekys and there being long lines to get in, staying on the beach was a memorable night and would never take it away. I had a great time with my old Sydney friends and took in what Byron Bay was really all about, relaxing, being on the beach, and L.I.V.I.N. the good life.