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Travel Australia. Ultimate Byron Bay Guide for First-Time Visitors

Everyone needs a little sunshine in their life, especially when the weather turns icy cold and daylight hours dwindle north of the equator. Swimming in the Pacific Ocean, riding down waves (in my case baby ones), and meeting interesting people to talk about creative endeavours, drinking Ginger Necktar. A dense green bush that grows right down into the beach. The sweet smell of frangipanis in the air. In summer the water temperature is at 24 degrees Celsius. A legendary vibe. An iconic lighthouse. Cute wildlife. Talented street buskers. Trendy cafes and restaurants that use single origin coffee and organic products. People who care about their community and the environment. Hang on, where is that place? Book a trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and make your way to Byron Bay, the easternmost point of mainland Australia in the state of New South Wales. A place for dreamers and drifters and for everybody else. I find summer extra sweet when I jump straight in from winter. In Byron Bay you get to live a Bikini kinda life but there are also events like the Bluesfest, the Writers Festival and The Falls Music and Art Festival. This town makes me feel like flying.

Travel Australia. Ultimate Byron Bay Guide for First-Time Visitors


The Ultimate Byron Bay Guide for First-Time Visitors


Visit the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse


Cape Byron, as the most easterly point of the continent, needed a navigational light. The 18 metres high structure, operated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, was constructed from concrete blocks in 1901. From this location on Australia’s eastern coast it flashes white, every 15 seconds with a range of 27 nautical miles (that is 50 kilometres).

Start in the centre of Byron Bay and walk along the beach till you reach Captain Cook Lookout, walk inland along the Tallow Ridge bush track through the rainforest, and further up to the Lighthouse (good chances to see dolphins, leopard sharks and turtles from up here). Visit the little museum and have a drink and a snack at the Lighthouse Café (another to die for view over the bay and Julian Rocks) before you walk on to the easternmost point of the Australian mainland. Swim at little Wategos or Wategos beach and keep on walking till you reach Palm Valley (good chances to see Koalas and Kookaburras). Have a break at The Pass Café and head down to the beach to head back to town after another swim or two.

Please do not drive up to the lighthouse in your car, there is enough traffic already. Walking up here is a fantastic experience. No one needs cars up here. Please consider those around you, who come to this place searching for serenity. For hopening hours and more infos visit the website.








Meet the Wildlife of Byron Bay


Aren’t we all dolphin lovers? Walk through and out of town and see sea turtles, pods of dolphins, manta rays, leopard sharks, koalas, flying foxes and listen to the sound of exotic birds, and the laugh of kookaburras.

Watch out for the 80 centimetres long Eastern Water Dragons, I saw them in the gardens of my hotel. They have spikes that run over their back and head, all the way down to their tails. I watched them every day and saw what amazing jumpers, runners and climbers they are. One day I found one of these backyard buddies sitting on a coffee table on the veranda. I have been told that they love water, can swim and stay underwater for up to an hour. When I spoke to one of them, a male, he gave me a cute look. You can find them in the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.

Look closely and you surely see koalas in the wild. You will almost walk past these cute little fellas, before you can say “Hello mister, pleased to meet ya” (I stole that line, obviously). When you see koalas in the wild, please do not disturb the animal, talk only quietly, keep a distance of ten metres and do not touch the koala. Australia’s koala population faces extinction, the population around Byron Bay is under threat because for example things like people, dogs, cars, food shortages, forest clearing and road construction put their habitats at risk. It is the best feeling to see wildlife in the wild; they don’t belong in a zoo or circus. Let us not harm animals for our entertainment. Together we can change everything. It is so interesting, how visitors from all different parts of the world get excited about the same wonders of nature, and there is this instant camaraderie when people point these out to one another and smile widely.




Surfing is Big in Byron Bay


Old, young, it feels as if almost everybody carries a board. You see tradespeople who have a surfboard in the back of their ute (that is the Australian word for utility car) next to their tools. What a lifestyle. Have you tried surfing? It feels so good to be in the ocean. If you would like to learn to surf, I give you a quick overview of beaches, so you know which ones are suitable for beginners. I went with a surfer friend but recommend you contact surfing schools (try Soul Surf School) in town to book lessons with them, rent a board and ask for weather conditions (they are the experts).

The Wreck Called after a ship wreck that lies here, because of rips not suitable for beginners.

Main Beach Ideal for beginners and everybody who wants to learn to surf. This stretch of beach is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.

Clarke’s Beach Ideal for beginners and everybody who wants to learn to surf. This stretch of beach is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.

The Pass This beach is beloved by everybody and popular all over the country. There is parking, but not many spaces. Carry your board the short walk from the town centre, it is roughly a walk of 20 minutes.



Swimming in Byron Bay


All beaches in and around Byron Bay are of, it sounds dramatic, extreme beauty. The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water that spans three third of the surface of the globe. To give you an idea of its vastness, if you stand on the beach in Byron Bay and you face the ocean, you would have to swim 11,660 kilometres to reach Valparaiso in Argentina. I picked that place since it is sort of directly opposite. A day on the beach make your heart and eyes sparkle.

The Wreck - Main Beach - Clarke’s – Beach - The Pass 


The four beaches the Wreck, Main Beach, Clarke’s Beach, The Pass are one long stretch of beach. Walk along the water’s edge from one end to the other, it is a beautiful walk of roughly 4.5 kilometres, and stop a few times to go for a swim.

Wategos and Little Wategos Beach 


These are the most easterly ones in the bay, wait they are actually the easternmost beaches on the Australian mainland. Little Wategos Beach is to be reached over a narrow walking track. In this area they used to grow bananas and vegetables in the 1930s. When swimming, stay close inshore to not get carried out to the ocean by currents.

Cosy Corner and Tallow Beach 


These two beaches are on the southern side of the Byron Bay lighthouse. This beach is a long stretch of 6.5 kilometres; you can walk all the way to Broken Head.

Before you go swimming in Byron Bay


Watch the sea and look out for rips, prevention is the best option to not get caught in one. From what I have been told one can swim parallel to the beach out of a rip. Obey shark or bluebottle warnings. It is best to ask lifesavers on the beach, they will explain this far better.

When you head to the beach think of these few things to have the best day. Search for the red/yellow flags, and swim between them, so that lifeguards can look after you. Swim during the day and in daylight only. Eat light before you go swimming; jumping into the ocean with a full tummy is bad when you already have e.g. cardiovascular problems. Swim only when you are sober, drinking alcohol on the beach in the heat is awful anyway. Swim or surf with another person nearby, that way you can both look after each other. Listen to local advice. Wear sunscreen and a hat.

In Europe topless sunbathing and swimming is no big deal. In Australia, things are slightly different. Some get upset when they see women’s nipples on the beach, especially if you go topless in front of children. I find that very strange, sunbathing or swimming topless is a sign of equality and not about trying to be a Porno star on the beach. Never mind, it is what it is. Anyway, the danger of cancer is real, so better wear your bikini top.

Clarkes Beach

Cosy Corner

Main Beach Byron Bay

Tallow Beach

Blue Bottle on Tallow Beach

Watego Beach

Dance on the Beach and Listen to Street Buskers in Byron Bay


And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music (Friedrich Nietzsche). Have you ever been to a silent disco? People wear wireless headphones and dance to music that only they can hear. In Byron Bay the beach under the starry night sky became a dance floor. There were three different types of music to choose from, organised by a colour code, dancers could switch between green, blue and red. Despite the fact that all were wearing different colours and with that dancing to different tunes, the crowd got on beautifully and everybody had fun. Proof that people of different colours and backgrounds can live together in harmony. To announce the end of the night, all headphones were switched to blue and Men at Work - Down Under was played. Everybody kept dancing. Tolerant enough to accept a different style.

In the most easterly point of Australia, sunsets look good anyway, but especially so when they come with music. While buskers play at main beach often hundreds of locals and tourists are dancing to it with a view over the Pacific Ocean. Shine on crazy diamond. You will find street buskers all over town, on any given day. Just take your time and listen, and never forget to give them a cold coin donation (or more). On most nights in summer there are drumming sessions at the main beach car park during sunset, everybody can join.



Swim in a Tea-Tree Stained Lake in Lennox Head


There is this lake, a tea-tree stained lake, where you can swim between the ocean, a skip and a jump from Seven Mile Beach and a fresh water lake. Go in the late afternoons, with the sun shining it is like swimming in a glistening cup of tea, without the milk. Since the water is coloured by tea tree tannins, originating from the trees that surround the lake, it is exactly the colour of tea. A swim is a wonderful experience and a refreshing one, and the tea tree water has apparently rejuvenating properties for the skin and hair. I happily confirm that skin feels soft like silk after a good long soak in the lake.

It is also an ideal spot for stand up paddling and kayaking. Please check with the council and ask locals before you take the plunge, at times this lake can be contaminated with blue-green algae (cyanobaterial algal blooms) and not be suitable for swimming.

Information: Lake Ainsworth, Lennox Head NSW 2478, Australia. Tickets: Free. There is free parking as well as paid parking in front of the caravan park next door to the lake at Pacific Parade. It is a 22 kilometres drive from Byron Bay via Broken Head Road.


Go On a Road Trip Through the Hinterland


Bangalow, a small town full of white painted weatherboard homes and verandahed properties on the main road, only a few minutes’ drive from Byron Bay surrounded by mainly farmland, lush and green, and the ocean in the not so far distance. When I bought a magazine and stood in line to pay, an old guy, weathered skin, sort of jumped to the front, put his money on the counter, wordless, and left the store, newspaper under his arm. All these eccentric characters one meets along the way. Drive 20 kilometres to Newrybar, where you find the small foodie heaven Harvest. To experience hippie flair drive the 67 kilometres from Byron Bay to Nimbin. In Alstonville, which is 40 kilometres from Byron Bay you can buy fresh Macadamia nuts and avocados.






Visit a Waterfall in the Nightcap National Park


The lookout in the World-Heritage listed rainforest is surrounded by eucalypts. Look down 100m below onto the gorge full of palm trees. If the conditions permit, walk along the Minyon Falls path down to the base of the waterfall and jump into the pool. Go for bushwalks, have a picnic, inhale the fresh air and enjoy the tranquillity.

Info: Minyon Falls lookout, Minyon Platform Track, Whian Whian NSW 2480, Australia. 30 kilometres from Byron Bay. Tickets: Free. For more info please visit the website.




Visit the Farmer’s Market in Byron Bay


The stallholders, who are local farmers and producers, guaranty freshness. Ask them everything about their product, they are happy to help. This is a good place to buy fruit and goodies for a sumptuous and healthy picnic. Information: Butler Street Reserve. Hours 8am to 11am.



The Atlantic - Favourite Hotel in Byron Bay


Over the years I stayed three times at The Atlantic, in always different room categories. I loved all of them. It is a little piece of paradise in the paradise that Byron Bay is. You feel the love that has been put into this to make it this special place. Good-looking bright rooms and stylish communal spaces. Sit on the veranda and enjoy the lush and green tropical gardens. Free use of surfboards and bikes, beach towels and sun umbrellas, some rooms have an outdoor shower, what more does one need, when in Byron Bay? It is only a short minutes’ walk to the best cafes and restaurants and the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Visit The Atlantic Byron Bay.

For all glamping lovers, there is an Airstream in the garden. To me they are a synonym for the great outdoors and road trips. Have you heard of the tiny house movement? It advocates living a simpler life in small homes.




The Atlantic Byron Bay
Hotel address
13 Marvel Street, 2481 Byron Bay.
Price
From AUD 395 to AUD 530, inclusive free rental of surfboards, beach towels, sun umbrellas and bikes, free Wi-Fi, use of the guest laundry and the communal kitchen.
Type of Hotel
Tropical lifestyle hideaway.
Type of break
Romantic getaway, wellness, hiking, nature, foodie experience.
Open fire place
Yes, there is a communal fire place in the gardens.
Wi-Fi
Yes, ask for the password at reception.
Swimming pool
Yes, outdoor.
Restaurant
No.




Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Byron Bay


Food, food, and food, and coffee. In Australia there is so much talk about food; breakfast for example is a true lifestyle in Australia. It is heaven. Cafés create ever fresh ideas; I would go so far to say that many places are better to be described as breakfast restaurants. The most amazing breakfast dishes are to be had in this country. In Byron Bay no one raises an eyebrow if you ask whether the food is organic or locally sourced.

Byron Fresh Café 


Take a seat in this space decorated in industrial chic with wooden tables, subway tiles and brass. There is often life music on the pavement in front of the café. I visited several times for breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake and dinner. They use organic and local produce where possible. I recommend: House made Chia Pudding with coconuts and strawberries for breakfast. Frangipani and Fresh Strawberry Tart in the afternoon. Balinese vegan curry, roasted eggplant, chickpeas, sweet potato, green beans, Nimbin Valley brown rice, herbs and peanut crumble for dinner. As if our day wouldn’t be bright enough already after a visit, they also sell fresh flowers by the entrance. If you bring your re-usable coffee cup, you get an AUD 1 discount. Before you leave, take a photo at the Byron Love Booth.

Info: Byron Fresh Café. 7 Jonson Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

The Balcony Bar 


Lovely place to grab a few drinks, sitting on the balcony overlooking Byron Bay.

Info: The Balcony Bar. Jonson Street and Lawson Lane, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.


Combi 


I first went to Combi at their cafe in Elwood, a suburb of Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria. Here it is all about a healthy lifestyle, which is organic vegetarian or vegan. Dishes are as tasty as they are fit for a photo. If you aren’t into coffee (that would be a complete waste in Australia), order a Beetroot Latte. I recommend the organic Bircher Musli. Oats soaked for 24 hours in coconut milk. Sweetened with Canadian Maple Syrup and lemon rind, topped with a blueberry chia jam and coconuts and crushed pistachios, served with vegan cashew yoghurt, strawberries and apple. The portion size is too large; I imagine they have to throw away a lot of food. The friendly waiter said they are aware that this is a problem but then there are others who enjoy eating the whole portion.

Info: Combi Byron Bay. Shop 5b 21-25 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.



Folk Café  


This beautiful mid-century decorated café is a little bit out of town. Their motto is “organic, ethical, and plant based” and I would walk miles for that. Smashed avocado on sourdough is my all-time favourite ever since I moved to Australia all these years ago. This is one dish everybody needs to try at least once when in Australia. It is a massive hit. Financial advisers have been saying for years that kids should stop having these, since they otherwise will never get a foot into the property market. The café is beautiful inside and out.

Info: Folk Café. 1/399 Ewingsdale Rd, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.





Top Shop 


A popular and friendly café somehow off the beaten track (location wise) that has been around in this form for a decade. Great coffee, beans from Single Origin Roasters from Sydney, delicious breakfast in the residential part of town. Sit on the lawn and relax.

Info: Top Shop. 65 Carlyle Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.


Byron General Store 


Newly opened café, in the completely refurbished town’s general store which has been at this site since 1947. The cafe is owned by Phil Taylor and Ben Gordon, a drummer of metalcore band Parkway Drive. They try to be as sustainable as possible. There is a filtered drinking water system for customers (check out the sink, so pretty) and the café waters plants with excess water. Speaking of pretty, also check out the floorboards on the veranda please. I recommend the Avo Alfalfa Toast for breakfast. There is also a Community Book Exchange, where one can leave a book, and take a book. If you’d like to donate books to help them get their library full, bring them. Furthermore you can buy organic succulents and other green plants and some other local produce.

Info: The Byron Bay General Store. 26 Bangalow Road, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website. Ride your bike, walk or skate and you get 10% off. Bring your own coffee cup and you get 50 cents off your coffee.


Safya 


Middle Eastern food with an Australian twist made from organic locally sourced ingredients where possible. For dinner I recommend the watermelon fingers sprinkled with pistachios, sesame, dates, feta cheese and drizzled with rosewater, Australian finger lime (also known as lime caviar) and sumac. Grilled local haloumi marinated in mint with pomegranate molasses. Vine Leaves. Oven baked beetroot slices.

Info: Safya. 8 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

Espressohead Café 


Locally sourced organic products. The Gluten Free French Toast with fresh fruit, coconut cream and nuts is just as perfect as the coffee they serve. They seem very passionate about coffee here. From all coffees I drank in Byron Bay this is the best one. If you start the day with a coffee that tastes like vanilla and blueberry nothing can go wrong.

Info: Espressohead Café. 7 Middleton Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.





Light Years 


Vietnamese food at an intimate little café with a neon rose on pink painted walls and white wooden shutters. Eat fresh food in tropical style. I recommend: Crispy spring rolls. Salt and pepper tofu, sweet chilly and Szechuan. Fried Eggplant, sticky caramel, Thai basil, kaffir lime.

Info: Light Years. 3/17 Lawson Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.


The Mez Club 


The almost all white interior somehow reminds me of salt, sand and sea and a never ending summer day. As I stepped in, this typical “wish-this-was-my-house-envy” washed over me like a giant wave. I had the Green Bean and Spiced Pumpkin Salad with dried figs, toasted walnuts, balsamic, goat cheese, mint, pickled onion and dukkha for lunch.

Info: The Mez Club. 4/85-87 Jonson Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.




Beach Byron Bay 


Location. Location. Location. If you love your breakfast, lunch or dinner with a view of the beach this is your place. The view of Clarkes Beach and the Pacific Ocean has never been prettier. For breakfast, I recommend the Chia, vanilla and almond pudding, with fresh mango and rainforest honey and also the Ciabatta French toast, goat cheese and berries. There is also a kiosk, and if you are on the beach and feel like something sweet, I recommend you try the cherry cake.

Info: Beach Byron Bay. 2 Massinger Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.




Three Blue Ducks Restaurant and Produce Store at The Farm 


The focus at this place lies on sustainable and organic food. If you are into locally sourced products, it won’t get better than this; this is a farm-based restaurant. Vegetable and fruits get cooked and served when they are ripe, and the rest is sourced from nearby producers and growers. It is an open farm where people can see where their food is grown. The motto of the farm is ‘Grow, Feed, Educate. Visitors are invited to stroll through fields of flowers and rows of lush vegetables. All produce, 100% spray and chemical free, get either used or sold on-site.

Info: Three Blue Ducks at The Farm. 11 Ewingsdale Road, Ewingsdale, New South Wales. Opening hours: Visit the website.




The End - Toughts on Byron Bay


There are lots of tourists, especially over New Year. This town is still relatively affordable if you compare it with other Australian places, that and the positive vibe makes it popular with backpackers, but then there are all these locals who make an effort to collect rubbish on the beach and in the dunes and who discuss and campaign for social justice and climate change. Cafés and restaurants that serve fair-trade coffee and vegetarian food are almost normal. Gentrification is in full swing. There surely are Byron Bay residents who had to move away, since they can no longer afford to live in this town. The same goes for the Hinterland where young city people seeking a change of scenery buy farms from locals to pursue their dreams of freedom. The climate is mild all year round; the blue Pacific and lush rolling green hills of the hinterland make one cheerful, day after day after day. It is in each visitor's hands to cherish and protect what nature and locals created here. We as tourists are responsible to respect the nature as well as the locals. This goes for travels all over the world of course.


Top Tips Byron Bay and Hinterland


Rent a car to get to see all there is in this area. You won’t need a car in Byron Bay, all beaches, restaurants and cafes are easy to reach by foot.

Take your entire litter home with you, especially from remote beaches and forests. Do not buy and use plastic (in general), it all ends up in the ocean.

Put on sunscreen and wear a hat. Bring a jacket or jumper, in the winter months.

Credit cards are generally widely accepted in Australia.

Book stays at hotels, guest houses, campgrounds well in advance during peak season from November to March. All places can be busy during peak season, especially during the Christmas break. Visit in February for a more relaxed experience.


Best time to visit Byron Bay


There is a subtropical climate, so the weather is sort of perfect for the whole year. Spring days are bright and blue. Summers are hot with chances of rain from January to March, and high levels of humidity in February. Autumns are mild and sunny. Winter is whale watching season and the temperature hardly ever gets below 20 degrees Celsius during the day whereas in the Hinterland it can go towards zero degrees Celsius during the night.

How to get to Byron Bay

Flights from Europe are long, travel time between 24 to 36 hours depending on the connection, but manageable. Stop-over in Singapore or Dubai if you can’t do it in one trip. You fly to Melbourne, Tullamarine Airport; or to Brisbane, or Sydney and travel on to Byron Bay. By car, it is roughly nine hours from Sydney and from Brisbane only one hour and a half. You would need to fly from Melbourne to Ballina Byron Gateway Airport if you haven’t enough time to drive the 1,700 kilometres (I have done it once, and it is a rather lovely road trip though).

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From Berlin with love

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Greetings stranger. I always try to be myself and to be a tourist as often as I can. I would love to get in contact with lots of hard travelling tourists who love to be out and about as much as I do. I am looking forward to all your comments. Thanks so much in advance.