Friday: drinks and dancing
Arrive into Byron Bay, NSW, Australia late afternoon, get showered and ready for a night out. Start off in The Rails listening to a live band, but don’t make it too late, they’re done by 10:00pm.
If you want some $2 bubbly, head towards LALA LAND and pick up a promotional wristband on the way. If it’s still smelling a bit funky, you may want to move on pretty quickly. Pop into the Hotel Great Northern for a boogie with a mixed crowd or head over to Woody’s Surf Shack, a cool little place in the square next to Woolworths. ‘Woody’s is full of eighteen year olds’ said one older guy in The Northern, ‘this place is a bit of a better mix’.
If you’re still keen to party to some bad music, wander over to Cocomangas or dance on the tables at Cheeky Monkeys with hoards of horny backpackers. Ensure that you get in before 02:00am lockout and last drinks. ‘Cheeky Monkeys’, said Canadian Aaron, ‘is the place to pick up girls’. Thanks Aaron.
By 03:00am everything is pretty much done, so after you’ve joined the queues at Hot Bread Kitchen, enjoy munching your pastry whilst watching some impromptu beat box busking.
Saturday: walks, surfing and crafts
After a breakfast coffee (because everywhere here does coffee), recover from any bad head symptoms by taking a walk around Cape Byron, the most easterly point in Australia, and up to the Lighthouse,. A good place to watch sunrise, apparently.
Get back to Byron and rent yourself a surfboard, run down to the Pass and jump into warm waters. Take a surf lesson if you need, but otherwise just join the crowds as they try to catch waves and wobble up to their feet.
Keep an eye out for sharks. ‘Aren’t you worried about being eaten?’ an old boy asked me one day. ‘Nope’, I said, ‘there are so many people out there, I’d be lucky if they picked me’. Relax post surf in tree shade up in the park that runs above Byron main beach.
After grabbing an early bite in town, head over to the Railway Park between 5:00pm and 9:00pm for the weekly Artisans Market where you can pick up some locally crafted gifts for family and friends.
Finish off the day by hanging out with friends on the grassy areas by the beach. Make some new friends: foreigners, locals, musicians, creative types, crazy types and the odd I’ve-taken-too-many-drugs-in-my-life types.
Sunday: markets and music
If you’ve timed your trip at the beginning of the month, you could visit the cheery affair of the Byron Markets. Enjoy the bright colours, the pretty outfits of floaty summer dresses, strappy sandals and funky sunglasses and sunhats, the tie-dye and hippy prints scattered about the place.
Brunch on a Mexican breakfast burrito ($10) or a pizza slice ($3.50) or a couple of wholemeal spinach, feta and macadamia rolls ($3). Or, go healthy with raw food options or frozen fruit bars ($3). And organic coffee. Kinda healthy.
If you’re entertaining kids, there’s a bouncy castle slide, balloon shaping stilt walkers and a man with a fiddling, dancing cat puppet. I wondered if the guy ever got bored of holding a puppet all day. He seemed content, a little zoned out.
Otherwise, listen out for musicians, particularly the guitar duo where a guy with great bone structure sings smoothly in Spanish. Choose whether to stand around with others, bop along with the kids, dance freely with the liberated hippy or to simply fall in love with the piercing blueness of the singer’s eyes. Later in the day, join in the drum circle jam session or dance along to the hypnotic rhythms.
Move back into the town and head to the Beach Hotel for the Sunday afternoon live music sessions. Drink a cold schooner of Coopers and, together with a totally diverse crowd (old, young, pregnant, babies, kids, rastas, surfers, skaters, preppy boys and girls and travellers), dance the weekend out of your system to the likes of local reggaemeisters Fyah Walk.
Finish off your stay with a trip down Bay Street to get some food from one of the takeout places, such as Fishmongers where the tender BBQ baby octopus and the vegetable tempura are both pretty special. Find a spot on or by the beach and enjoy your dinner as the sun sets over a faintly misted ocean.