Sunday, 16 March 2014

Days 353 to 357: Holiday in Byron Bay

Travelling can be hard work: we need a holiday. Byron Bay is it.

At the very top of New South Wales, Byron Bay is a small town of around 6000 people, entirely dominated by the tourism and travelling industry. Traditionally more of a hippy town, it's developed into a kind of gentrified post-hippy paradise, retaining its laid back vibe despite having certainly become more commercialised. It works. It's fun to be in, pleasant to walk around, awfully pretty to look at, and relaxing to spend time in. Rare in a beach town - have I mentioned that I don't like beaches? - I really enjoyed myself. Byron Bay is terrific.

Danielle and I arrived there early on Monday morning, accompanied by Matt and Xavier, who was very well behaved on the hour-long flight after being consistently bribed with sweets and kids' TV. Xavier behaved himself too. Emma arrived from Melbourne a few hours later. We checked into our house for the week (two other couples joining us the following day), a deluxe four-bedroom house with a swimming pool, right by the beach.

The wedding was on Friday, so what did we do on the four days before? Um... nothing. Ok, almost nothing. We sat about, played with Xavier, drank Prosecco, and wandered about the town. We relaxed. Sure, I won't pretend the last three months have been too stress-inducing - we've seen wonderful things and been to wonderful places - but there is a degree of stress in the constant moving from unknown place to unknown place. Suddenly we were in a very comfortable fixed place for almost a week, surrounded either by familiar faces or faces that soon became familiar. Indeed, it was a holiday.

Let it not be said that Byron Bay is all beaches and bars though. Byron Bay and its surrounds have their very own mini Wonders. These were tip-offs from Matt's to-be father-in-law, Kerry, and his partner, Miren. Upon hearing about my Wonder project, they were awfully keen to uncover some potential World Wonders that Byron Bay and the surrounding area might have. The nearby larger town of Ballina, which contains the airport, might seem at first glance to be a fairly anonymous stretch of retail, but look further and you see this:

A giant prawn! First built in 1989 but heavily refurbished just last year (the old one was apparently looking very sorry), the Big Prawn of Ballina is 9 metres tall and weighs 35 tonnes. It's one of Australia's legion of "big things", over-sized versions of innocuous items as roadside attractions. There is no doubt in my mind that the Big Prawn is right up there, to rival the Taj Mahal and Pyramids.

Less irregular and a very pleasant hour's walk from our house was the lighthouse. Sitting on top of a jutting peninsula flanked by two long arcing beaches, the lighthouse is a cute and still-functioning construction from 1901. The views are spectacular, and the walk along the beach and small woods awfully charming.

Just a few hundred metres from the lighthouse is Australia's most easterly point. Look, they've even put a sign to show you.

Some places click and some places don't. Byron Bay, with its beaches and hippy vibe and hunky bronzed surfers (Danielle, look away!) shouldn't have clicked with me. But it did. For Danielle likewise. It helps when you're staying in a nice place, with a ready-made group of friends, and with perfect weather, but even so Byron Bay had a likeable quality. So when Danielle, having to visit a solicitor's for work-related reasons, was casually offered a job then, well... well, we think it was done in jest. Both times...

There are worse fates than living and working in Byron Bay I suspect. Our fate of being there for leisure wasn't too grim either. The week went on, the sun shone, more and more friends and family descended on the town for the wedding, and then it was Friday. Wedding time.


  1. Bill Bryson wrote about the Giant Prawn in his book Down Under. He says that he was just standing there, marvelling at it, when a stranger walked up to him and said "That's the biggest Giant Prawn in the southern hemisphere, you know", to which Bryson replied with astonishment "You mean there are more?".

    1. Good old Bryson. I think it was that book I first heard about the concept of giant Australian roadside landmarks. Apparently the first one was a 5-metre Scotsman playing bagpipes.


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