Byron Bay, where people don’t wear shoes

First thoughts of Byron Bay, as we arrived early afternoon, were ‘what is this place’ closely followed by ‘why don’t people have shoes on’ and ‘that’s a lot of crusty looking dreadlocked hair’. 

We tried getting into the Arts Factory hostel to camp in their car park. They charge $7.50 for Jucy camper vans to camp and use their facilities. Unfortunately it was full, probably due to the impending Australia Day and the popularity of the hostel thanks to the Inbetweeners movie being filmed there. Obtaining a spot was on a first come first serve basis so we decided to come back early the next day. 

As it was getting late in the day we headed to a different campsite and had a chilled evening. 

Awaking to rain the following day was not enjoyable but we quickly packed up and headed to the hostel. Full again, we were told. Our dampened spirits matched the damp weather so we trudged round the town popping our heads into the surf shops to admire the bikinis and hippie accessories. Still people didn’t have shoes on. 

That evening the boys went out to see what the night life had to offer and I decided to have an evening to myself. I watched a film and it was nice to have some time alone. 

Up early again only to be told the hostel was still full. The boys were very hungover so we headed back to the other campsite and had a lazy day watching films and lying by the pool. 

At long last our efforts of waking up early yet again were not wasted as we managed to obtain a spot at the hostel. After checking in the boys headed to Nimbin, a small town known for its acceptance of weed and mushrooms, whilst I stayed behind. 

I had a wonderful day doing as I pleased. I found a shop that sold beads so decided to make my own anklet. It took me a couple of hours and by the time I had finished it was time to find somewhere to have a bite to eat. 

On the Main Street there were many cafes and coffee shops to choose from. I walked nearly to the end before finding the perfect place, Byron Fresh Cafe. I read the menu and was immediately drawn to the halloumi on offer. The salty cheese is a recent obsession and I can’t help but order some if I see it on a menu. I ended up having a side of halloumi with some chips and alioli. After finishing my food (which was delicious) I sat and read my book for a while. The cafe was relatively quiet at this point, the lull in between lunch and dinner, so I didn’t feel like I needed to rush. 

The comfy seats, cold water and slight breeze were difficult to ditch but I finally walked out and headed for the beach. Here I sat and watched the waves roll in and the surfers bob in the water waiting for that perfect ride. 

It was peaceful and the first enjoyable day that I’d spent in Byron. I guess you could say that I finally realised what all the fuss was about. The size of the place is just big enough to offer a variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife so you don’t get bored but small enough that you can walk everywhere. 

On returning to the hostel I read the rest of my book before the boys returned. For dinner it was my turn to be chef. I cooked savoury mince and potatoes. The hostel kitchen was jam packed which made the cooking experience stressful but the boys seemed to enjoy my meal. 

My first taste of what living in a hostel is like. Loud, hectic and sociable. 

The following day I was awoken to the sound of a guy telling another guy that he should already have a beer in his hand. Australia Day was upon us and also Kieren’s birthday. He had birthday pancakes and we spent the day sat round a wooden table chatting, feeding dragons beans on toast and avoiding the rain (until the sun came out later in the day). 

That evening we all headed for a bar called Cheeky Monkeys. It was quiet to begin with but we were told to get there before 9pm to avoid paying entry fees. It soon picked up and after 10pm I was dancing on the tables with the rest of the travellers. It was a good night and the drinks were cheap during happy hour. 

The heat the following morning woke me up. I couldn’t stay in the camper van for long so I went and had a shower and waited for George to emerge. We decided to have a day to ourselves and do the coastal walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. 

We walked along the main beach, flip flops in hand and waves tempting our toes, before we found sign posts directing us up towards the lighthouse. The views as we climbed the stairs were incredible. We stopped off and enjoyed the welcome breeze from the most easterly point of mainland Australia. A little further upwards we arrived at the lighthouse. It was very white and looked as though it had been very well looked after. 

Tours to the top of the building are available but unfortunately they were all full for that day. We therefore decided to head back down to get some lunch. I took George to Byron Fresh and we shared a pulled pork sandwich, some chips and (of course) some halloumi. They certainly didn’t scrimp on the pork, another great meal here. 

The following day was to be our last spent in Byron. With plans to surf on the beach ruined due to the weather we ended up spending the day at the hostel, charging our phones and reading our books. In the evening we treated ourselves to steak and chips that was being served across the road. It was steak night so the $9.95 price tag was what attracted us. 

As we drove through Byron Bay for the final time (on this trip) I realised that I’d actually come to like the place. Perhaps it was the laid back attitude that everyone, even the tourists, seemed to adopt or maybe the beachfront with its sand drawings, that reminded me of home. Byron Bay, you will be missed. 

Campsite: Byron Holiday Park, $16.50 pppn | Arts Factory Lodge $7.50 pppn because we had a Jucy camper van. 

Recommendations: Coastal walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse | Cheeky Monkeys for a night out 

Eating: Byron Fresh restaurant/cafe

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