New South Wales Stories and Tips

Stop #6: Byron Bay & Going Home

Byron Bay Photo, Byron Bay, Australia

We took a chance and decided that, at noon, Byron wouldn’t be too far into its New Year’s Eve celebrations, so it might be safe to go into town. Byron Bay has a not undeserved reputation of being the home of hippies, stoners, and surfers, and it attracts more of the same and lots of backpackers on New Year’s Eve, which would assuredly leave the entire town over a cloud of smoke by the morning. You could definitely tell what was coming that evening, with the heavy traffic and temporary traffic signs warning about penalties for “Alcahole” consumption in public. Perhaps this is just a normal day for Byron, but I just hoped that someone, somewhere in Byron is not stoned enough on a normal day to realize alcohol is not spelled “Alcahole.”

Before heading to the beach, we wound around and up the roads to the Byron lighthouse. To park here, we had to pay a steep $7, but this was better than driving all the way back down again and then walking, so we forked the money over. After a quick stop at the decently-kept toilets, we made our way past the lighthouse and down the spit of land that is Australia’s easternmost.

The walk, downhill with lots of steps, was not a long one. I kept stopping to take pictures of everything—the view, the beaches, the clear blue water—which I think drove James a little nuts. We finally made it to the easternmost point, at least on the path—the actual easternmost point is a bunch of rocks sticking out into the water which you can walk on, if you go down more stairs and across a stretch of beach. Since we didn’t have a whole lot of time, we didn’t make it that far, instead settling for the very end of the lookout, labeled with a sign, unfortunately graffitied, that designated the point’s significance.

After walking back up to the lighthouse, I went into the tiny gift shop and bought a few postcards and a drink, and then we sat down to lunch in a nice air-conditioned car, which was overlooking a great view of Byron and Queensland beyond. After lunch, we went down to the closest beach we could find to the lighthouse, which happened to be just inside the crescent of Byron Bay. It was a beautiful stretch of sand, which continued down towards the town of Byron, and the water was almost as clear as that at Newcastle.

We got in the water for awhile, with James body surfing on a lot of waves and me generally just watching. The only problem I really had with swimming there was the number of surfers constantly coming at me. I was paranoid that I was going to get knocked over by one, so I ended up staying in the fairly shallow water. The current was pretty cool, though, since we were pretty much perpendicular to the actual coast. If you just sat in the water, it ended up taking you nearly to the patrolled beach closer to Byron itself.

After spending much longer than our allotted time at the beach, we finally tore ourselves away from Byron. I would have loved to stay for longer—it's definitely a great spot.

Our next stop was home, the end of our road trip, and 2006. Luckily, James’ family managed to make it home before the new year—two minutes before, in fact. They came honking down the street, ran in the door as the fireworks started going off on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (which had actually happened the hour before because of daylight savings time), and demanded cold beer. They had a wonderful, tiny car for the long drive from Dubbo, and their 14-hour trip had turned into a 27-hour one. Needless to say, the beers were well-deserved. Their car ended up being towed to Queensland and eventually, 2 or so months later, was decided to be not totaled. Next time, I think everyone will take more heed to any furry animals with long ears, sitting like a hare in the headlights in the middle of the highway.

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