48 Hours in Byron Bay is not quite a lot of time to experience the advantages of eastern Australia. No sooner had I landed in Gold Coast in Queensland after a sleepless night on the plane, was I whisked off on a whirlwind tour of beautiful rivers teeming with fish, sandy beaches with perfect surfing conditions and lively farmers markets offering a feast for all senses – and a glimpse of the outdoor life that Byron Bay offers. A rather intense glimpse, as it should turn out.
Taking an overnight flight only ever seems a good idea on paper and after hours of watching strangers in thongs sleep (that’s flip flops for all of you non-Australians in case you wondered about the state of travel attire in Oz) I arrived in my usual slightly detached and bleary-eyed 'another day, another airport' condition. All that is gone and forgotten the moment I locate Ben: not only does he greet me bearing coffee (instant brownie points!) but radiates positive energy and a level of happiness that is infectious. Ben Adams is a surfer, spearfisher, diver and genuine all round outdoorsy adventurer with model looks and endless knowledge about every local plant, animal and location there is. He is also the owner of newly founded Kahai Byron Bay and offers what is essentially an exclusive 48-hour crash course of Byron Bay filled with more activities and experiences than the ordinary person fits into a fortnight.
After a quick stop at Ocean Shore Lookout with breath-taking views across the sea, we head into town. A sign fittingly reads: 'Welcome to Byron Bay – cheer up, slow down, chill out.' On the beach there is an addition to this painted on the ground: 'Lose the ego – this is Byron Bay'. It feels like everyone is living by these principles. There is an evident lack of people rushing around with miserable faces and everyone seems to know everyone – in fact, Ben seems to know everyone – and is happy to stop and chat. And it’s not even the weekend. And we’re only warming up for what’s to come.
Wednesday: Arrive for my first ever scuba diving session with instructor Kaz at Byron Bay Dive Centre at 6:30. Kaz is a pro and instantly recognises breathing difficulties and about-to-bolt-behaviour. He doesn’t let me get away and in retrospect I am grateful. Julian Rocks, which is an unassuming looking pile of rocks just 2,5 kilometres off the shore is one of the best dive spots in Australia and boasts a huge diversity of wildlife. Humpback whales pass through here at certain times of the year and everything from lemon sharks to turtles and rays makes an appearance on a daily basis. Back into town, we buy delicious raw food treats at Naked Treaties and a bottle of champagne for our picnic. Climbing down from the headland, Ben takes us to the most beautiful, secluded beach – and here my willingness to share ends as I have been sworn to secrecy as to its location. At yet another deserted beach we surf until it is dark and I disregard my fear of sharks. If I die here, I die happy at least.
For lack of better words I will conclude with what someone else wrote on Byron Bay blog and that struck a chord with me: 'Byron Bay is the Hotel California of the Far North Coast - you know: you can check out, but you can never leave.' I will be checking back in very soon.
Read the whole story and get more travelling details here on the mb! magazine homepage.