It’s almost six months since we made the move to Brisbane from our beachside home of many years.
Whenever I meet someone new or catch up with an old friend, the first question I’m usually asked is, “do you miss the Sunshine Coast?”.
I do. And I don’t.
This move of ours was a long time coming. It had been carefully timed and planned around the big “kids” finishing school and it signalled an end to our commuting family life.
I can tell you that I don’t miss not having a husband around all week. And he can tell you he doesn’t miss driving that highway either.
Ironically we ended up on that highway – the famous Bruce Highway (only in Australia!) – last Friday on our way to Byron Bay. No, that’s not a typo, that’s just what happened.
My Nan passed away last week and her funeral was scheduled for Friday so with surf boards strapped to the roof of the car we headed an hour and a half north before turning around and heading south to our original destination.
About three and a half hours later we arrived. Peak hour through Brisbane and at the back of the Gold Coast (where road works are ongoing) contributed to adding an extra hour to the normal journey time.
But it was worth it in the end. It always is, don’t you think?
That moment when you arrive at your planned destination and you hear the sound of the waves crashing on to the beach and see those waves under the glow of a very full moon … that’s the moment when you acknowledge to yourself that, yes, you do miss the “coast” part of our residential equation.
We also acknowledged that our former lifestyle meant we rarely ventured further afield on a weekend – particularly if it involved driving – so for both of us it had been a very long time between Byron Bay visits.
I’d last been in town about three years ago for a hen’s night (anything group partying related is very big in Byron – as are the weddings themselves) and stayed in the centre of town with a bunch of my girls at one of the backpackers’ hostels.
Let’s just say at the outset, this weekend past was a few (hundred) notches up from that bunk room I shared with six others.
We were still very much in the centre of town – across the road from the main beach. So close we could seed the waves breaking. All the shops and restaurants were short walks away. But should we choose to escape from it all, we very easily could. And did.
Where we stayed
Luxury accommodation booking site Alluxia had invited us to Bryon Bay to experience one of the properties they recommend – Beach Suites.
Never one to knock back a challenge to spend a couple of nights in luxe surrounds, I took all of 20 seconds to say yes.
And when we finally walked through the doors to our two-bedroom penthouse apartment that Friday evening, I was so glad I did.
A huge living, dining and kitchen area greats you. Massive sofas that invite you to lounge around, poor a glass of wine and settle in for the evening. Balcony sliding doors fully pulled back to let in the sound of the surf (or as on Saturday night, the sound of the wedding DJ at the surf club offering up everything from Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time to B52’s Love Shack).
Bedroom-wise, this apartment came with two generous king-size rooms, each with bathroom-sized ensuites and positioned at the back of the apartment, away from most night-time noise.
The set up was perfect for two couples, a group of of girls or a family of four – for a special occasion getaway. We were a family of three with just the eight-year-old in tow and very grateful for the opportunity.
The stand-out feature of this apartment was the private roof-top deck area, complete with heated plunge pool (water for the pools is collected via the roof and stored in an underground tank) and even more expansive views – across to the beach, up to the lighthouse and out to the hinterland.
Beach Suites is about five years young – built by local craft and trades people. It’s built in a prime location that offers the convenience of parking your car and exploring Byron Bay on foot but also a sense of luxury and escape once you’re inside.
What to do in Byron Bay
Our late arrival Friday evening meant essentially we had one full day and two nights in town. We wanted to maximise our time doing the stuff we wanted to do but also find time to generally do not much at all.
1. Surfing. Mr SY was keen to re-acquaint himself with his longboard which had been gathering dust underneath our city home. And re-acquaint he did, surfing Clarke’s Beach and The Pass and taking the eight-year-old out on his foam board at Main Beach. The conditions were clean and the water was clear – ideal for rusty old and not-so-old sea arms and legs. Never surfed? There are plenty of surf school options to learn at one of the most beautiful breaks in Australia.
2. Massage and meditation. This was my idea. HAH! I always like to book in some kind of pampering when away on a break. This was my Byron Bay spin on that. Instead of heading to a spa, I had Katie Connolly from Byron Bay Massage (pictured below) come to our apartment for an intuitive massage (yes – very Byron Bay and spiritual-ish but oh, so what I needed). When I was looking through her website and discovered she gave meditation lessons as well, I was on to that quick smart. There may have been eye rolls from the male members of my family but they humoured me and joined in. The biggest mistake I’ve been making with mastering meditation is that I’ve been lying down. I fall asleep too easily for that. So upright it is for me now and I’m aiming to make it a daily practice. Even if it’s just for five minutes.
3. Walking. Up until a year ago I never bothered taking my sneakers on holidays with me. Now, I don’t know who I am but I do know that I not only pack my sneakers but I use them. This weekend it wasn’t a super long walk – but one that was good to do with Mr 8 on Sunday morning while Mr SY was having a final surf – from the town centre up to The Pass. The track from there continues around and up to the lighthouse so definitely worth exploring if you’re staying longer.
4. Visit the Cape Byron lighthouse. In another “I don’t know who I am” moment, I suggested we set the alarm and get up early to see the sun rise at Australia’s most easterly point. Totally worth it. Even though by 11am, it felt like it was time for afternoon cocktails.
Where to eat in Byron Bay
There are so many options when it comes to dining out in Byron Bay. We took a few recommendations from friends, ruled out some venues on account of dining with an eight-year-old, and ended up experiencing good food and excellent service at just a handful of fabulous Byron Bay eateries across the weekend. Here’s what I recommend.
1. Pizza Bar Byron. There are quite a few pizza restaurants and takeaway places in Byron. This one caught my attention because the toppings were more on the Italian than Aussie side. And they offered gluten-free bases. The base on my pizza was so good I was actually scared that they’d given me a regular base by accident. You are spared any toilet talk because it WAS gluten free and my stomach remained in normal condition overnight and the next day.
2. Dip cafe. This was the scene of my breakfast date with Mr 8 while Mr SY was out surfing. The place was buzzing (always a good sign) and service was quick. My breakfast of truffled mushrooms on goat’s cheese, baby spinach and smashed potatoes with a tasty addition of diced bacon, well and truly set me up for the day.
3. Blue Olive Delicatessen. This deli was just around the corner from Beach Suites. It doesn’t seem to have a website or Facebook page but it’s at 27 Lawson Street and you need to find it if you’re in town. You’ll find all the usual deli suspects – perfect for wine time poolside – but also a very good range of salads, meals and side dishes made on site that you can easily serve up in your apartment.
4. Miss Margarita. Coming up with a dinner time venue that was fun for all three of us – and offered food that we all loved – lead us to Miss Margarita and I’m so glad it did. We arrived on sun-down – just after 5pm – and in time for happy hour $10 classic margaritas. The place was already full but staff have a great system whereby you can wait on the lounge outside (with your drinks) until a table is available. In our case this took all of five minutes! Food service was quick and I’m still dreaming about the snapper fajitas.
5. The Pass Cafe. Breakfast on Day 2 did not disappoint. Plentiful and tasty servings ensured that I did not need lunch that day either. The Pass sits in the trees just behind the beach of the same name. Loved the humour of the owner or manager who handed Mr 8 a huge water pistol for scaring away the resident kookaburra who happily swoops and takes advantage of any stray pieces of bacon or sausage should you look away for a second. Mr SY did and lost a slice of Bangalow sausage.
Where to shop in Byron Bay
Mr SY is fond of shopping. I know. Lucky me. When in Byron though, I knew that his version of shopping and mine would be worlds apart. His would involve anything surf related. Mine would not. We went our separate ways (him with the boy in tow) and both had an enjoyable couple of hours. For me, it was about discovering and browsing through the beautiful independent lifestyle and fashion boutiques – mostly in Fletcher Street. The boho vibe is all pervading. Yes, if Nina was looking for a shopping holiday destination, Byron Bay is it. Here’s what I found and loved.
1. Phyllis and Mimosa. I only knew this store via its online shopping site until last weekend. The owner invited me in and kindly gave me this fabulous denim dress (which I’ll also wear as a coat). You’ll find plenty of individual pieces, jewellery and accessories inside. The overall look is one of relaxed by sophisticated elegance.
2. Hope an May. Right next door is a coastal boho heaven of fashion and interior pieces. The emphasis is on neutral shades and plenty of texture. The was something to like at every turn. So much so, I only bought a scarf. Thankfully I can get future fixes online.
3. Enzo and Toto. The emphasis here is on quality pieces aimed at women who are not interested in fast fashion but want pieces that are relaxed with a European-type edge to them. You can also buy online.
5. Spell. I first discovered this store via Instagram, falling for the beautiful imagery and way they showcase their gypset designs. It’s boho with an edge and also available online.
6. Sweet Papillon. Just loved the crocheted white hammock hanging outside. Inside was a treasure trove of boho dresses and tunics including its own label and an extensive collection of One Season designs. You can also buy online.
The time to return home came all too soon. We did make a quick detour into the hinterland town of Bangalow. It was the annual Billy Cart Derby. Such a busy and buzzy vibe in the main street that day but not really conducive to wandering and exploring the shops in a leisurely manner (check out my blogging friend Vanessa’s post about her recent trip to Byron Bay that included a fun day out shopping in Bangalow).
But that’s ok. It very much leaves this for our next visit. One I hope won’t be too far away.
We were hosted by online luxury escape booking specialists Alluxia for our accommodation at Beach Suites Byron Bay. All other food, shopping and activities were at our own expense.
Accommodation: Accommodation at Beach Suites is priced from $350 per room per night. The two-bedroom apartment (sleeps four in two king rooms with large ensuites and roof top pool) is priced from $1500 per night. For alternative Byron Bay accommodation through Alluxia, click here.
Special offer: Book Beach Suites, Byron Bay and stay for three nights or more (between now and September 18, 2014) and mention “Styling You” in the booking comments to receive a Byron Bay gift box.
Over to you. Have you been to Byron Bay recently? What stores, restaurants and activities can you recommend?