Arrived into Brisbane International Airport around 6:00 am. Rented a car (agh! First time driving on the opposite side of the road! No biggie! Caught on after the first roundabout), and hit the highway heading south toward Byron Bay, about a 2 hour drive.
Revisited Burleigh Head on my way down the coast, where I had my first international solo travel experience after graduating high school. I’d camped at the grounds across from the beach park for a month, surfed and made friends who took me to surf spots up and down the coast. That experience changed the course of my life. A rush of memories flooded in.
My prAna ambassador sister, Anna Ehrgott, flew into the Gold Coast Airport earlier than the rest of the crew so I swooped by to pick her up, then we headed to Burleigh for a short, fun surf session in some waist-high biters. Washed the airplane funk off in the cool water, under a bright blue sky. No wetsuit needed. Water against skin.
We took the long route down to Byron Bay, taking coastal roads as much as possible. With the idea that if we go to the house too early, we would fall right to sleep. We had to stay in motion to beat that jet-lag. Met up with “the boys” at a sweet little Thai food restaurant in Byron town for dinner.
WAKE UP! FUEL UP: MORNING RITUALS
We made sure to stock up on groceries on arrival, so we always had snacks to bring with us throughout our adventures every day. Most mornings we’d wake up and make our own tea or coffee, whip up some fried eggs on toasted sourdough with an avocado smear. You can always tell when the Cali boys are in the house because there’s no shortage of hot sauce. Hot sauce on EVERYTHING! Which I was quite happy with.
Some mornings we’d head to Morgan Massen’s favorite local brekkie café (soon turned all our favorite brekkie café), The Top Shop, with delightful acai bowls, fresh baked breads and muffins, mega breakfast sandwiches, the works! Flat whites and chai lattes were ordered a-plenty.
Every morning starts with the same ritual: Wake up, make coffee or tea, and check the surf, which was just a short minute walk from our house’s backyard along a small, yet popular, trail to the beach. Depending on the conditions out back (Ha! Pun intended), and the weather forecast, we would make our plans for the day.
If the wind was down, and there were any signs of waves, we would make sure surfing was our top priority (My kind of people!). The dream was to score (score: to win, to receive a gift) “The Pass,” a famous, long right-hand point-break, that I’ve heard, can break for over a mile on its good day. Just taking a look at the point I could see the potential, and knew it was no myth.
Each day was a new adventure: hiking, swimming in waterfalls, Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP), yoga on a beautiful bluff, exploring the countryside in a borrowed Kombi, and house lounging during the intermittent squalls that Byron is known for that time of year (their spring, our fall).
COOKING UP SOME FUN
Staying in Byron, we got to try the different tastes in and around Byron town. The famous Australian sausage rolls and meat pies were a part of my daily diet, since I don’t know anywhere in the US that makes them. I’d eat them for every meal if I didn’t need to worry about my womanly physique! Ha!
I felt spoiled on my trip, not just because we were staying in this beautiful home close to the beach, traveling around with some of the greatest folks, and eating like royalty, but also because most meals that were made at our house, “the boys” made! I felt like I was going to get into trouble if I tried stepping into the kitchen while the guys were whipping up a meal. Anna, Brooke, and I just sat back and enjoyed the show. Clean-up duty was delightful!
Most evenings we ate from our house, and all the dinners that were made at the house were made by the guys. It was awesome and so delicious! Good job guys!
My favorite dinner was at this beautiful countryside restaurant called Three Blue Ducks. It was a farm-to-table style meal, with all local, fresh ingredients prepared by gourmet chefs. The setting was gorgeous, the vibe was sweet, the service delightful. We ooo-ed and ahhh-ed over our courses. Yum! Can’t wait to get back there!
LITTLE SLICE OF BYRON
Byron Bay is pretty much the perfect town. There are beautiful, happy, healthy soulful, adventurous people everywhere you look. Yoga and surfing seem to be the common activities that everyone relates to. Being in this place makes you want to eat healthy, since that is mostly the dining option around town. The views are breathtaking. There is an unlimited amount of outdoor activities. It doesn’t take very long to feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road, or on the barely beaten path. The country drives are something out of a movie, and so are the people.
I call it Pa’ia, Maui meets Encinitas, CA, with the hippie vibe and high-end boutiques.
One of my most memorable experiences was getting to SUP and surf the pass when there was a decent little swell. (We had waited the whole trip for that day.) It was a little squally, but I landed some seriously nice long rides. At one point, I felt like I was in a surfing film because all the local pros were out there showing us how it’s done. They were so phenomenal to watch, and watching was just about all that could be done, since they took every rideable wave that came through. I enjoyed being a spectator!
Another sweet memory was driving through the countryside. Within five minutes drive out of Byron Bay, we could be on a dirt road feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere. Brilliant green rolling farmlands everywhere, and at a particular time in the evening, when the light shone just right through the pastures, I really did feel like I was in a movie.
Something that I thought was interesting was the amount of white people that dominate Australia, and wondering, where are all the aboriginals? Next time I go back I’d like to meet up with indigenous peoples and hear their ancestors’ stories of this place.
BYRON TRAVEL TIPS
Rent a car if you like to explore. Australia is so big and there is so much to see and do. Get out there and enjoy the views!
The hostels in Byron seemed like a cool place to stay. They were close to town and not a far walk to most beaches.
Try chatting it up with some locals to see where the secret good spots to eat are. We went to some places that I never would have thought to go.
Make no plans. Take everyday as it comes. The weather changes up fast, and it’s no fun being let down on your previous plans. Wake up, enjoy your morning ritual, and see what the day holds!
Must see: The Pass Beach in Byron Bay. It’s beautiful!
Must drive: the countryside anywhere in Australia.
Must eat: The Top Shop for breakfast and/or lunch, and Three Blue Ducks for dinner.
PACKING ADVICE FOR BYRON BAY
Bring clothes for all types of weather. Bring your beach-going bikinis, sarongs, and sun hats for those hot and sunny Australian days. BUT, also bring your nano puffy, raincoat or cute town coat for those squally cool days. The weather and temperature change so often that it’s nice to come prepared for anything. Bring a big ol beach bag to bring your options with you everywhere so you’ll never have to worry.
As for surfing, a little of the same. Bring your cute beach bikini, or sporty suit for warm days, but also bring your 3-2 full suit if you like to stay super warm. A long-sleeved spring suit is what I would recommend for most days.
Bring a small board and a longboard so you’re prepared for a range of conditions.
Two surf straps are all you need to tighten those boards to the top of your rental car. And off you go to adventure town! Have fun and be safe!