Our final stop before crossing the border into Queensland was Byron Bay. This well-known beach town is a popular spot for tourists, backpackers and hippies. A pristine beach where surfers and dolphins take it in turns to ride the waves makes this stop a must.
When we stayed at Byron Bay we split up our accommodation – spending 3 nights in the first hostel and 2 in another. This was due to a deal we had on accommodation with Nomads (a chain of hostels all over Australia).
Arts Factory Lodge
Our first 3 nights were spent at the Arts Factory Lodge. This hostel is owned by Nomads and featured in The Inbetweeners 2 movie. Although it’s about a 15-minute walk out of the town centre, there is a free bus that takes guests there regularly. There is also a beach volleyball court on site, a swimming pool as well as surfboard and bike hire. If you don’t fancy staying in a standard dorm room you can choose from a teepee, an ‘island retreat’ and a private room just to name a few. There is also camping facilities here as well as the option to park your campervan in the car park and use the hostel’s facilities.
This hostel attracts a wide variety of people and the herbal smells only add to the character of the relaxed, surfer meets hippy clientele. You definitely won’t get bored here. With free activities as well as paid massages, palm readings and lessons in didgeridoo making. Whether you’re weaving your own dream catcher or taking part in the weekly talent show you’re sure to make friends and memories at this one of a kind hostel.
Nomads: Byron Bay
Our last 2 nights in Byron Bay were spent in the other Nomads hostel this town has to offer. This time we were in a prime location, right in the centre of the town and only a few minutes from the beach. This hostel is a lot more simple with generic dorm rooms, a standard kitchen area and shared bathrooms.
But, there are still plenty of opportunities to save money and make friends. Most days there was some kind of meal offer on, including a weekly BBQ. As well as this there was a movie night. The facilities at this hostel included a small swimming pool with a hot tub, some hammocks and surfboard rental.
What we got up to
The Lighthouse Walk
During our 5 days in Byron Bay, we managed to see most of the main tourist attractions. On our first day, we headed straight for the lighthouse walk which takes you to the most Easterly point of Australia’s Mainlland. It also follows the coast and runs alongside the beach, ending with the perfect vantage point to watch the sunrise or set. This walk is well paved and not too steep, with stairs and handrails provided. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, it is also a great opportunity to spot dolphins and whales.
If like me, you love everything bohemian and the overpowering smell of incense sticks then you should try and set aside a day for shopping. Rummage through friendship bracelets, locally made jewellery and hareem pants until you feel at home in this hippy town. Or, check out the surf shops to feel like one of the locals when you head to the beach. The surf shops also offer surfboard hire, so if testing your skills in Byron Bay is on your todo list then shop around for the best rates. If like Sam you have no interest in shopping, then find a quirky bar or set up your towel on the beach and relax.
One of my favourite moments from our time in Australia was sitting in a kayak, less than a metre away from a pod of at least 15 dolphins. Our tour company (Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay) picked us up from our hostel and drove us to the beach. We were all given wetsuits, lifejackets and helmets along with a safety brief. After carrying our kayaks to the water’s edge we learnt the basics of kayaking and were pushed off into the waves. We quickly paddled out to the ocean, eager to spot fins emerging from the water. As well as keeping an eye out for dolphins we often saw whales along the horizon. It is also common to see sea turtles, stingrays and small sharks while on this tour! Not long into the 3-hour tour, someone spotted a dolphin. We waited for the dolphins to approach us, not wanting to frighten them away. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins, swimming and jumping around our group.
It was amazing to see so many wild dolphins come up close to the kayaks and definitely a unique experience. But, after around 2 hours of paddling through the wavey ocean, we were all aching and ready to make our way back to shore.
Australia is known for having pristine beaches and Byron Bay certainly doesn’t disappoint. Stroll along the white sand and cool off in the waves which are patrolled by lifeguards. As well as the perfect beach, there is also ideal surfing waves, so grab a board and try and catch a few back to shore. If sand and surf isn’t your style then take a seat on the grass along the front. Here you can work on your tan while listening to buskers and sipping on fresh coconut water. Every evening this area comes alive with fire breathers, drummers and other entertainers.
Check out the local farmer’s markets that happen each week in Byron Bay. Find fresh, local produce and gifts just a short walk away from the centre of Byron Bay. You can also expect live music, spontaneous dancing and happy people. Although we ran out of time to explore many of the markets, I believe they are all slightly different, some selling souvenirs, clothing and locally made gifts. Find out more about the markets here.
It’s hard not to love this chilled out beach town. Whether you want adventure, relaxation, a good atmosphere or great company you can find it all here. With great places to eat, including lots of vegetarian and vegan options and cool cocktail bars you can leave Byron Bay feeling refreshed.