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Town Profile : Byron Bay

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Byron Bay sits on the easternmost point of Australia about 165km south of Brisbane.  It has a permanent population of around 5,000 people but during the peak season, it can triple as tourists and holiday makers flood in to enjoy the laid back atmosphere, great surfing and various alternative gatherings, music festivals and beautiful hinterland amongst sub-tropical rainforest, which are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.  Byron Bay gets around 1.7 million visitors a year, with many of those people returning to make their experience more permanent.


The streets of Byron were a little more commercial than what we were expecting.  There were trendy clothing shops on most streets, and a great selection of cafes and burger joints.  This meant that amongst the hippies, surfers and backpackers, which are part of the scenery, you also had a population of trendies – beautiful people in their expensive clothes who come to Byron because it’s cool.  For us, it was this element of Byron that destroyed our romantic idea of the place.


While in Byron, we stayed with some friends we made in Cairns.  Jill & Phillip were a wealth of knowledge about the unspoken rules of the town.  Pedestrians and cyclists reign, and any hint of arrogant driving or road rage was expected to be countered with a tirade of slurs, so we were always careful when driving through town to avoid disturbing the peace.  We also made a trip out into the Hinterland to stay with Dave’s cousin Melinda and her housemate.  They lived on a farm with an incredible view of the valley.  Their little portion of the property included a wonderful edible garden and chickens, which we got to meet in the morning.


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Lieutenant James Cook named Byron Bay in 1770 after John Byron, a Royal Navy officer that was also known as Foul-weather Jack due to his frequent run-ins with bad weather.  The first industry of the area was cedar logging, with gold mining on the beach to follow in the 1870s.  By 1876, cattle grazing was also established, contributing to dairy products and abattoirs, and they even hunted whales until 1963.


With the arrival of longboard surfers in the 1960s, Byron Bay’s tourism industry took off.  In 1973, the nearby town of Nimbin held the Aquarius Festival and that’s when hippies and alternative people came to the area and decided to stay.


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Things to Do and See

Cape Byron Headland Reserve

This is a must do for anyone visiting Byron Bay.  Apart from being the easternmost point of Australia, the reserve is reputed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It features rainforest, rugged cliffs, beautiful beaches and lookouts that are perfect for whale watching.  Atop the headland is Cape Byron Lighthouse, a frensel lens lighthouse that was erected in 1901 and is the first of its kind in Australia.


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Because Jill and Philip were staying close to the Cape, we frequently rose to catch sunrise from one of the lookouts.  Fisherman’s lookout was a great spot that overlooks Watego Beach, so it’s great for watching surfers as well.  The Eastern Lookout at the easternmost point of Australia is the real treat though.


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The Wreck & Main Beach

The Wreck is a surf spot on Belongil Beach of Byron Bay, named after the Wollongbar wreck that sank during a cyclone in 1922.  It’s best to see the wreck at low tide as it’s 30 metres from the shore, but if you’re surfing, wait for high tide.


Main Beach is a great swimming beach that is patrolled during the summer.  When we visited, a crowd had gathered to watch an artist rake pretty patterns in the sand.


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Food & Drink

Beloporto Burgers

We’d heard about this place online but weren’t expecting much until we were starving one night.  The place isn’t flash – it’s just a vendor out of a window in an arcade, but they sure know how to make a chicken burger at the right price.


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Stone & Wood Brewery

This place brews some of the yummiest beer we’ve tasted on our travels.  We were stoked to get a tasting paddle of five beers for $10 – what a bargain.  Juz’s favourites were the Lager, with its bready flavours and fruity hops, and the Hefeweizen, a delicious yeasty beer with great fruit flavours.  Dave was keen on the Garden Ale, a darker beer with coffee and toffee flavours, a subtle hint of stone fruit and a rich malt aftertaste.


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While we visited the original brewery in Byron Bay, a place saved for small batch brews and limited releases, most of the beers are produced in their new brewery in Murwillumbah.


Byron Bay Brewery

The Byron Bay Brewery is located in a building that used to be a piggery back in 1898.  During the 1970s, the place was purchased by a musician and renovated to be a cool venue for live music called the Piggery, hosting the first three East Coast Blues festivals. The Brewery is also home to the Pighouse Flicks, a lounge cinema that shows classic and art house films.


We paid a visit just in time for lunch and ordered a tasting paddle with the Tuesday meal special – chicken schnitzel with chips and salad for $9.50.  Juz splashed out and got the parma toppings for an additional $3.  The value was pretty good, with a decent sized schnitzel and beautiful chips, but the parma was stacked poorly and the tomato sauce wasn’t great.  On the other hand, the tasting paddle was great, but because they were out of one of the brews, we got two Pale Ales to make up the six.  This worked out well because the Pale Ale was Dave’s favourite while Juz preferred the Pale Lager.


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After our lunch, we got to meet the new brewer, Alistair, who was ploughing through his second day at the brewery.  We had a chat about the operations at the brewery – the hot side is where the brewing starts, and the goods usually stay there for around a day before it’s moved to the fermentation centre, where the beer brews for between 10 days to three weeks.  The brewery has a capacity of about 8000L and a variety of hops are used for different beers to provide a broad range of flavours.  Alistair had come from a brewery in South Africa, and had exciting plans for the Byron Bay Brewery – we look forward to see how he makes his mark at the brewery.


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Bayleaf Café

We unexpectedly got a visit from Lucy in Ipswich as she was road tripping with her army friends down the coast.  We stopped in at Bayleaf Café for a coffee and found their jar glassware adorable.


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Byron Bay Hinterland


We felt a little bit uncomfortable in Nimbin.  We knew it was the alternative living, pot-smoking hippie capital of Australia, but we never imagined it would be so in your face!  Yes, it was colourful – every shop was painted with a mural and sold rainbow coloured clothing – but the sweet smell of incense hid nothing.


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The drug dealing was blatant, as if they were trying to sell oranges at the fresh food market – “Marijjuanaaa! Are you right for marijuanaaa?!” Even if we were going to buy weed, it wouldn’t be from the deros calling out to us from across the street.


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We did one quick lap of town, ducked into the Hemp Embassy and browsed through the scratchy clothing and colourful paraphernalia, then left.  The coolest thing we saw was a python slithering across the road – completely unfazed by a big Troopy roaring up the road towards it.


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Lismore’s history dates as far back as 1843, and it’s the regional centre of the Northern Rivers region.  There is a lot of heritage in the town, like the Queen Victoria Fountain of 1898.  It originally stood outside the Gollan Hotel but was moved after WW1 and fully restored as a drinking fountain in 2004.  The Post Office across the road is also from 1898, and was a functioning post office until 1992.


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While we were in town, we also visited the Rainforest Gardens near the town’s poop factory.  While it didn’t smell great and seemed like a work in progress, we were fascinated with the “useful plants” section, which featured various native medicinal plants and foods.


Information & Accommodation

The Byron Bay Information Centre is located on Jonson Street in front of the Railway Friendly Bar.


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A great accommodation choice is the Byron Bay YHA on Carlisle Street.  It’s centrally located and conveniently close to the supermarket, beach and various eateries and pubs.  For more information, visit their website. There is also the Nimbin Rox YHA in the Byron Hinterland.  It is located in the bush near Nimbin – for more information, visit the website.


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Explore : The Gold Coast

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The Gold Coast is about 40 kilometres south of Brisbane and it is the most populated non-capital metropolitan area in Australia.  It covers from Ormeau in the north to Tweed Heads in the south, and stretches west to the Great Dividing Range, including Lamington National Park.


Despite starting out as a penal colony at Redcliffe, the Gold Coast soon developed a reputation as a great holiday destination for upper class Brisbanites.  However, back then it was known as the South Coast, but due to inflated prices for real estate during the 1950s, it earned its golden name.  These days, the Gold Coast continues to be a great place for a holiday, with its gorgeous beaches, high rise apartment blocks, theme parks, and a rainforest hinterland.


In fact, tourism is the biggest industry of the area, with around 10 million visitors every year contributing $4.4 billion to the economy annually.  The Gold Coast is also the third largest film production centre in Australia, behind Sydney and Melbourne.  Films such as House of Wax (2005), the Scooby Doo films, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Big Brother reality TV series were shot on the Gold Coast.  Also, the surf beaches are so popular that the Gold Coast has the largest professional surf lifesaving service in Australia.


Along the Coast

Our first day on the Gold Coast was cold, wet and windswept.  We went out for a rapid walk along the edge of the Gold Coast Seaway that lead into the Broadwater and watched the waves crash around the rocks.


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We stayed at the Surfers Paradise YHA and in the morning, the weather was much calmer so Juz got up early and went out onto Main Beach for a walk to watch the sunrise.


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Surfers Paradise

The commercial centre of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is a cluster of high rise buildings, shops and eateries, and an incredible beach.


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Burleigh Heads & Miami

This was a nice area that wasn’t as busy or touristy as up north.  We’d heard rumours that it was becoming “the new Byron Bay” but after visiting Byron Bay, we’re not sure we see it.  There was a great lookout on the headland just before Burleigh Heads that gave great views of the beaches on either side.


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We watched surfers elegantly ride the waves before checking out the Elephant Rock Lookout.


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This is the southernmost town of the Gold Coast and is the twin city of Tweed Heads, the town on the NSW side of the border.  We went to Point Danger and the Captain Cook Memorial before heading towards the Hinterland.


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Known as the green behind the gold, the Gold Coast Hinterland features lush rainforest, walks and lookouts, wineries and various fresh produce like avocados, kiwifruits and macadamia nuts.  We loved our time in Queensland’s own Emerald City and it was through this area that we crossed the border into New South Wales for good.


Mount Tamborine

There is heaps to see and do in Mount Tamborine.  As you head south from Brisbane, your first stop will be The Bearded Dragon for a free reptile show, a taste of some very hoppy beers and looky-loo around the pub.



Once you get to the Gallery Walk, your tastebuds can really go wild.  The Fortitude Brewery offers tasting paddles and food while the nearby Witches Chase Cheese Company has the most delectable triple cream brie, ‘Tamembert’ and Misty Mountain blue cheese you will ever taste!


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There are also a few wineries, including the Mount Tambourine Winery with a fabulous chardonnay and rum port.  Don’t forget to visit the Tamborine Mountain Distillery.  It’s been around since 1998 and they have a massive range of spirits and liqueurs.  Their post popular flavour is the Wattle Toffee Liqueur, but if drinking isn’t your thing, the cellar door is full of colourful Russian knick-knacks and there’s some very pretty statues and fountains outside.


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Amongst all the cafes and fudge shops, there are also souvenir shops, art galleries and the Cuckoo Clock Nest, a store with walls covered in cuckoo clocks and tall grandfather clocks.  It’s definitely worth a visit.


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Natural wonders include Cedar Creek Falls and the enchanting Curtis Falls, but if you really want to get close to nature, check out Thunderbird Park.  This place combines adventure with nature by offering horse riding, a tree top challenge, mini golf, thunderegg fossicking and laser skirmish.  They also do awesome pizzas.


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Springbrook National Park

Located in the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, Springbrook National Park is full of waterfalls, lookouts and trees with both ecological and historical significance.  While the weather wasn’t great for us, the winding drive through the lush green forest was lovely.  Purlingbrook Falls had a great lookout that showcased the waterfall beautifully, while the Best of All Lookout gave us a great view from inside a cloud!  Sure, we didn’t get to see the actual view, but we really enjoyed the walk to the lookout and marvelled at the ancient Antarctic Beech Trees.



Natural Bridge

Part of Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge is a beautiful rock feature that was formed over millions of years by water eroding rock.  It is certainly worth the trip, especially if you visit late in the day to spy the glow worm colony illuminated after sunset.


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Information & Accommodation

Trams run along the Gold Coast and are a great way to get around.  For more information, visit the Translink website.


For the budget conscious, Surfers Paradise YHA is a great place to base yourself as you explore the Gold Coast. For more information, visit their website.   There is also a Coolangatta YHA if you need to be closer to the Gold Coast Airport.


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For accommodation in the Hinterland, check out the Cedar Creek Lodges.  They are on the higher end of the scale, but if you’re visiting for a long weekend or a romantic getaway, it’s totally worth it. For more information, check out the website.


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Ping pong anyone? - Lancelin Lodge YHA

Lancelin Lodge YHA

Lancelin Lodge became a YHA in 1997 and is a clean and comfortable choice for accommodation in Lancelin.  In fact, this brilliant, 4-star hostel has been voted the best YHA hostel in Western Australia three times!  The owners, Trish and Trev, are super friendly and there is also a resident cat that won’t hesitate to cuddle up next to you on the couch.




With a variety of options from double, twin and family rooms to shared dorms, the capacity of the hostel is about 60 people.  There is a fully equipped kitchen with heaps of storage space and utensils, a spacious dining area and lounge with TV and DVD hire, hummocks, board games, books and a courtyard with a wood fire pizza oven.



If you prefer to be more active, there is a 15m swimming pool, ping pong table and beach volleyball court, as well as bikes and gear for hire if you want to spend some time in the surf.




The beach is a quick 300m walk from the hostel so you have fishing, windsurfing, snorkelling, surfing, and SUPing right at your finger tips.  There is a café about 250m up the road if you fancy a coffee and cooked breakfast and the shops with a bakery, surf shop, pharmacy, pizza shop and supermarket is a 10 minute walk up the road.  If you like a bit of offroad action, there are some great sand dunes just outside of town.


Endeavour Tavern – about 5 minutes to drive or 20 minutes to walk, this is the closest pub to the hostel.  A pint of Carlton Draught is about $9 and there is an awesome beer garden that overlooks the ocean, Lancelin Island and the town jetty.  There is an outdoor stage for live music on the weekend and inside are two pool tables.



Moore River – if you prefer fresh water, about 30 minutes south is Moore River.  Guilderton is the town where the mouth of Moore River meets the sea and while there isn’t much in town other than a roadhouse and a community of holiday houses, there is always the river for swimming, fishing and picnicking.   We checked out the rest area further upstream next to Indian Ocean Drive and it was fully equipped with toilets, picnic benches, BBQs and bins and the clear, fresh water is a great way to cool off in the summer sun.



The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park – this is a great attraction about 45 minutes north of Lancelin.  There is a great walking track that gives you a great opportunity to marvel at these mysterious limestone pillars.  The national park also has beaches and is covered in pretty flowers during the springtime.


Check out our post on The Pinnacles.


Lancelin Lodge YHA

10 Hopkins Street, Lancelin

Phone: 08 9655 2020



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