Rediscovering Byron Bay after 15 years was an unforeseen revelation.
The only reason I went to Byron Bay (NSW, Australia) more than a decade ago was as a spontaneous romantic breakfast with my husband. Even then I wouldn’t stay for more than couple of hours. My general perception on the place then was associated with “…you’re spinning me out, man…” type of people. It wasn’t my honest opinion from experience, rather a perception gained from a collection of many comments by the respectable Gold Coast crowd. I took it as a warning: “Murky place with unstable people.”
But last Thursday, I received a short note invitation from my friend who flew from LA to relax at Byron Bay for a week. “Relax?” – thought I to myself. I was sure that she had no idea of what she was talking about. However, seeing her was more important than worrying about the place or my peace of mind. The very next day, Friday afternoon, I threw my swimming gear into the car and approximately one and a half hours later I parked in front of the two story boutique hotel “FRIDAY ON THE BEACH”.
Her room #9 was on the second floor with an attached private balcony that had a heart warming view of lush greenery surrounds and the ocean in front, just fifty meters away. “Wow!” “Marvelous!” “Simply, breath taking” – All my worries disappeared for the moment and I immediately promised to stay for two extra days. “Who cares!” “This is worth the risk” – I said to myself. After quickly catching up with the latest gossip from Hollywood, we changed for the evening activities – champagne, dinner, and possibly dancing.
At The Owl & Pussycat ‘Tapas Bar’ we had champagne. The bar was almost full but remained reasonably quiet and cosy. I felt safe and relaxed after casting my watchful eye around. Little chattering groups, affectionate couples and some families with small kids, who were trying to dance under the spell of jovial music, were evidently very relaxed and happy. Soon we were walking along Jonson Street towards the ocean to choose our place for dinner. At the front of Byron Fresh café we stopped because it seemed like a good idea to sit outside, basically on the street, and watch all sorts of colorful characters strolling by. Also, in front of this place, two young musicians were playing and singing, creating quite a cheerful atmosphere.
Our tasty dinner was accompanied by a talkative couple from Norway sitting next to us. We didn’t mind. It feels nice when someone from oversees gushes about how much they love Australia. To my surprise, they associated our country with only Byron Bay. It was their fourth visit and they were planning to come back again the very next year, to simply relax. At this stage, I started to suspect that I was missing something here and I had to put away my perception and start to listen to myself of how I now felt about this place without my earlier assumptions and prejudiced attitude. From that moment I felt I had to investigate, observe and re-discover Byron Bay as much as I could.
Our next destination, the “Beach Hotel” pub with plenty of music and people was literally 10 steps away. We talked, we danced and we definitely had a good time. Later, I found out that some locals call it the “Top Pub” and for good reason. I have full assurance of its popularity, as over the next two days I observed it was full of visitors, from the very early morning to the very late night. Hotel Beach pub is the most popular venue in Byron Bay – the “Top Pub” is really the top place to visit.
After sleeping sweetly to the whisper of gently breaking waves I woke up easily and after a refreshing shower, haltingly sipped my first morning coffee. Magnetized by watching the tops of the unimposing waves magically turning from turquoise to fluffy white, just few meters before the shore line, I felt paralyzed. I have experienced this many times. The power of watching rolling waves or flaring fire, as an alternative, is so strong that you can be lost in nature’s cinematography for hours, till somebody brings you back to reality. In my case it was my friend with a delicious proposal – almond croissants from the French bakery ‘L’Ultime Patisserie’ at 5 Lawson St, only a comfortable 5 minutes morning stroll away. At that very moment I felt I was already falling in love with Byron Bay.
I enjoyed the fact that here I can avoid the necessity to walk through huge shopping centres with the majority of the same brand-shops; or to easily find the sky between non-existing sky-rises, and feel liberated from the feeling of being mummified in a concrete sarcophagus. Yet, I can buy all the essentials from the numerous small cosy shops, eclectic boutiques and galleries, cafes and restaurants randomly nestled just around a few streets. Walking here was a pleasure. It was entertaining, relaxing and therapeutic. Something did click in my mind that day – Byron Bay is not just about relaxation, it is about health. It looks more like a health-farm with so many people walking on the beach, alongside the beach, taking a hike to the Light House, or participating in many other activities.
People were swimming, surfing and diving, kayaking, bush-walking, cycling, playing tennis and playing golf; and even gliding above. They were doing massage therapy, attending facials and beauty treatments in dozen of local salons or spas that are all located within less than 5 minutes walking distance. They were doing something very important for themselves – they were improving their well-being. So did my friend and I, we went for a walk to the iconic Light House built by Charles Harding in the beginning of the 19th century. We wanted to feel good.