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Travel Tale: My Visit to Byron Bay Australia

Byron Bay beach - Australia

Byron Bay beach – Australia

Travel Tale: My Visit to Byron Bay Australia

I’d been exploring Australia by caravan for three months with my then German boyfriend, Denis. He’d bought a truck and luxurious caravan before my arrival in the country. I’d joined him at Christmas in Sydney.

From there we’d driven all over New South Wales and Victoria, visiting national parks, living in our caravan at Australia’s plentiful caravan parks, and exploring areas that visitors to Australia can only reach with their own transportation.

Lash with Denis in Sydney- Australia

Lash with Denis in Sydney before starting our caravan journey

Traveling by caravan around Australia was dreamy. Denis had purchased an extremely luxurious model, complete with a large double bed, full kitchen, sitting area, and full bathroom with shower. Wherever we went, we had our home with us.

With the fridge we could stock up on food and travel for several days self-sufficiently. With the stove and oven I could cook, bake and eat whenever, wherever I pleased. It was great to be independent from towns and restaurants.

caravan park - Australia

typical shady caravan park in Australia

Best of all, we could stay at a variety of beautiful caravan parks where we were shaded by fluffy eucalyptus trees, serenaded by amusing kookaburras and raucous cockatoos. Simply put, we were immersed in nature. We found lovely caravan parks beside lakes and rivers, over-looking long beaches, and tucked back in narrow canyons.

But after three months of living, eating and traveling together non-stop, we decided to take a break from each other to enjoy some solitude and solo travels. At that point, we’d been following Australia’s gorgeous southern coast and had begun turning northward towards Sydney.

So Denis dropped me off at my friend’s place near Sydney. He continued northward along the coast in the luxurious caravan. I stayed with my friend for two weeks before heading up the coast by train and bicycle. Denis and I met up again in Byron Bay, some 800 km from Sydney, two weeks later.

alternative lifestyle travelers - Australia

alternative lifestyle travelers I met in Oz

I’d heard a lot about Byron Bay. It’s famous in Australia as the country’s long-standing center for alternative culture: full of hippies, organic food practitioners, yoga enthusiasts, quaint shops, weekend markets with organic produce, alternative music, music festivals and  all night dance parties.

Quite unfortunately, by the time I arrived in 2003, Byron had already been taken over by generic commercial enterprises, upscale bars, expensive fashion boutiques and LOADS of tourists. All the former hippies and alternative lifestyle people had escaped into the interior hills, scattered about in several tiny villages and farmlands. Byron had sadly been transformed into just another mainstream tourist trap.

Cape Byron Lighthouse - Australia

Cape Byron Lighthouse

But aside from the ‘degeneration’ of Byron Bay town, the area was still an outdoor paradise. At the edge of town a long sweeping beach stretches southward, punctuated at the end by Cape Byron, a dramatic rocky headland topped by Cape Byron Lighthouse. Pods of dolphins often swim just offshore. Colorful hang-gliders soar high above the lighthouse and along the coast.

South of town the coast unfolds in rolling hills and stark cliffs, affording gorgeous views. Several national parks are situated along the coast and inland. A few quaint, undeveloped towns are also located along the coast, some offering small handicraft shops or restaurants with home-cooked fare.

So with my great disappointment in Byron Bay town, I turned my attention to the great outdoors.

hang gliding - Australia

hang gliding along the coast near Byron Bay

Most notable, I took my very first hang-gliding lesson. I met my instructor on top of a tall cliff. After he explained the safety features and hang-gliding procedures, we promptly jumped off the cliff. We soared out over the long beach-lined coast for 10 minutes.

What an amazing sensation soaring through the sky, open-aired, the wind flying past my face, no engine noise to mar the silence. And what views! All too soon, we had to descend. We made a perfect landing on soft sand.

I also made several short cycling excursions along the coast.

caravan park- beach - Australia

caravan park overlooking the beach

Denis was settled in his caravan at a lovely spacious camper-van park perched above the beach with gorgeous views over the coast. After my arrival, we spent a lot of time there enjoying the views, cooking and dining in the caravan kitchen, and strolling along the beach.

But I also set up my own tent camp at a big cool youth hostel/campground. All the hip travelers passing through Byron stayed there, so I made many new friends. The campground had 2 big kitchens, fully-equipped with pans, dishes, microwave, stove, hot water, and refrigerators. There were many relaxing places to sit and hang out, a quiet reading room , a tour desk and performances several nights per week.

While I was staying there, I also experienced a crazy tent escapade.

Lash - camping

hanging out at my tent while camping

As I later began cycling and camping along Australia’s coast, I discovered that such facilities were standard for campgrounds and backpacker’s places in Oz. I also learned that such backpackers’ and campgrounds are great places to find things for sale, hook up with rides to other places, search for jobs and meet interesting people.

Meanwhile, during my two weeks at Byron Bay, Denis and I had many fun times together. Thank goodness he had a truck and caravan so we could explore the beautiful coast south of Byron and the lush hilly interior. We managed to find a few great outdoor produce markets and two cute alternative communities tucked back in the hills. Without our own transport we would have missed all that.

Gold Coast Cycle- Lash cycling

Australia- setting off on the road cycling

But as two weeks wore on in touristy Byron town, I grew restless to continue traveling. I was eager to cycle Australia’s beautiful eastern coast and to camp on empty beaches and in forested campgrounds. Denis, on the other hand, seemed to be ‘stuck’ in Byron, reluctant to travel further.

So I finally set out on my great solo bicycling travels northward along Australia’s east coast. Denis stayed in Byron. I greatly enjoyed my new-found cycling freedom as well as Australia’s gorgeous coast.

Read more of my Australian adventures:

My Caravan Travel Around Australia

My Gold Coast Cycling Trip

Incidents at Noosa

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If you’re inspired to take your own caravan trip then Caravan Club would like to invite you to visit their website, which has many resources and information about caravan travel.

(* Flckr CC photo credits:  andyhay  /  thinboyfatter  /  sdpitbull *)

(* for more information about this post please read this page *)

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2 comments

  1. Leigh

    I spent 2 weeks at the youth hostel in 1979 – well before Byron Bay was discovered. Absolutely loved the place then and it was one of the highlights of my 5 1/2 month solo trip. I wonder what I’d think of it now if I was to return.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      HI Leigh,

      OH, sounds like I got there way too late!
      Yeah, I bet you wouldn’t like it too much now… though the natural areas are still beautiful and unspoiled.

      thanks for stopping by, as usual. cheers, Lash

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