Holidays should be for relaxing and recharging, but often we try too hard to cram as much as possible into the smallest window of time. At the end of a challenging six months, all Michelle Jones wanted to do was escape. Travelling solo also meant she could do as much or as little as she fancied. Here are a few of her favourite places, in and around Bryon Bay.
Do things at your own pace
A cosy loft apartment in Bryon Bay’s arts and industrial zone was the ideal mid-winter abode. With contemporary retailers, funky cafes and the Stone and Wood Brewing Co all within walking or cycling distance – and a well-equipped kitchen for rustling something up after a trip to one of the local markets – the choice each day was mine.
There’s a farmer’s market within a 25 minute drive of Byron Bay every day, Tuesday through Saturday. With local producers attending several markets each week there’s no need to visit them all, but be prepared for an early start as most open at 7am and are over by eleven, allowing growers to maximise their day. My favourite was Friday morning’s Mullumbimby Farmers Market with its stalls set beneath magnificent fig trees. At the heart of the community, this bustling market provides a meeting place for locals to gather and fill their baskets, enjoy a leisurely breakfast or simply to chat over coffee with family, friends and yes, visitors too.
Dining Out in Brunswick Heads
One place stands out from the crowd – Fleet Restaurant in Brunswick Heads. Mention it to anyone and it was followed quickly by, “you won’t get a booking you need to book three months in advance”. But when Josh’s infamous chips and dip starred back at me in the Gourmet Traveller on the flight over, I decided to cheekily call in. As fate would have it, a Friday night booking for three had just turned into two. With only fourteen seats – ten at a large shared table – it wasn’t really what I’d call solo dining! The clever nine-course degustation left plenty of time to converse with fellow food lovers. If you can’t get a booking at Fleet, try La Casita their Mexican place close by, you won’t be disappointed, but yes you need to book there too.
Rent a Car
To explore the surrounding countryside where you’ll find small towns with surprisingly fabulous eateries within 45 minutes drive, you need a car. Wandering Bangalow, I loitered in Town Restaurant and Cafe’s delightfully sunny courtyard with the weekend paper and a strong coffee, before meandering further up the main street to stop at Butcher Baker Bangalow for one of their ‘must-have’ custard donuts, which have people queuing out the door.
Newrybar’s quaint general store doubles as the local petrol station too, but it’s Harvest Newrybar that pulls in the weekend crowds with its restaurant, sourdough bakery, deli and garden. I loved that locals talked up a storm as they queued for Allpress coffee – which they raved about by the way – after grabbing a sourdough loaf from the bakery down the drive. Open 8-10am Saturdays and Sundays, you need to get in quick as the sourdough sells out fast! Don’t forget to pop into the deli for cheeses, charcuterie, cakes and more. Of course you could simply book a table for breakfast or lunch (dinners available over the summer months) and let someone else do the work.
Cape Byron Lighthouse
A trip to Byron Bay wouldn’t be complete without a walk – it’s a 4km loop – to the Bryon Bay Lighthouse on the most easterly tip of Australia. It’s steep in parts so take time to enjoy the views and you might just be lucky enough to spot a humpback whale or two. Then cool off with a swim at Wategos beach on the way back into town.
On the outskirts of Bryon Bay set in 80 acres is Three Blue Ducks at The Farm, a fantastic opportunity for people to learn something about where their food comes from. You can dine in – their spicy spanner crab scramble was divine – grab local produce to take home, purchase plants for your garden, watch the guys in the bakery and see a working farm in action, with plenty to keep everyone in the family entertained.
Next time… Cape Byron Distillery
Heading into the Northern Rivers hinterland just beyond Bryon Bay, I was keen to experience a guided tour through the subtropical rainforest where 17 of the 25 botanicals for Brookie’s award-winning Bryon Dry Gin are found. And to learn more about how the Brooks turned a rundown dairy farm into a sustainable rainforest and a thriving business, and not forgetting the chance to indulge in the tastings at Cape Bryon Distillery, but battling a full blown head cold with my taste buds absolutely shot, I guess that will have to wait until next time… I’ll definitely be back, there is so much more to explore.