After a long overnight bus ride - the longest I had been on since that horrible crash in Cambodia - I was exhausted from being unable to sleep and glad to arrive in Byron Bay. As we arrived in the seaside town, the sun was rising over the ocean and gave us a stunning first look at the place that would be our home for the next few days. After a few hours passed out and recovering at our hostel, Backpackers Inn, we hit the beach and wandered up to the town. There are many great hostels to choose from in Byron, and so many go for Arts Factory or Aquarius, but to be honest, I loved our little hostel - it was the only one that led straight to the beach and it was small and cosy. The others were much further back in the town and meant a bit of a trek to see the beach or visit the lighthouse. It was great to be a two minute walk from the beach and we spent many hours laying out down there, sunbathing and swimming in the chilly waters. We even spotted dolphins right by the shore on our very first day there - I swear my heart stopped for a second when I realised what I was seeing and how close they were.There was so much to do in Byron, we had about four or five days which allowed us plenty of chill time and plenty of activities. My favourite day was when we did the walk up to the lighthouse and spotted countless dolphins playing in the surf, it was amazing and so beautiful up there. It's about a two hour walk to the top, but we took our time and stopped off a lot to watch the dolphins. When facing the ocean, you head as far down the beach to the right as possible then check out the first viewpoint and watch the body boarders and surfers for a bit. After, head up the path and keep on going through the woods, past Watego's Beach and up towards the lighthouse. There are lots of smaller beaches to check out along the way so take a towel and a book if you fancy stopping. You'll also want to take water, and we took a picnic for when we reached the top. We went back in July and if was still pretty windy and chilly at the top so you might want to take a jumper like I did, but also pack on the sunscreen as it does get hot. My favourite part was a path that led off the easterly point of Australia where you could go right down to the sea - this is where we sat and watched the dolphins at sunset.Another day was spent taking to the waves and attempting to stand up in our first surf lesson - it was booked through Backpacker's Inn and cost around $60 each - a bit pricey but worth it as we were really taught how to master the waves and could all stand up by the end of it. We had a great group and spent about three hours out in the water with wetsuits and surfboards included. Being a small group of eight, we had plenty of one-to-one coaching from the two teachers and were given loads of help and support along the way. We did our lesson in the afternoon which I was glad about as the sun had warmed the sea slightly - I was dreading getting in the water but it was much warmer in there than on the beach. After a 15 minute water break, we were begging to get back in the ocean to warm up! Don't expect to come back with no injuries - my whole body was aching the next day and I had bruises all over my legs and elbows from breaking my fall each time the waves knocked me down, but it was a fantastic workout and lots of fun. Especially when we got to watch the sunset from the ocean.We were both very keen to spot more wildlife after seeing so many dolphins, so we decided to go on a Go Sea Kayak trip which promised we would spot dolphins, whales or turtles or our money back. It was a great trip, despite us being very hungover, and we spotted so many more dolphins which swam just metres away from us. It was a great few hours spent out on the water and was so easy to paddle the kayaks - anyone could do it. Unfortunately, despite staring at the horizon we didn't see any whales and only one of the group spotted a sea turtle, but it was still worth the $60-odd dollars for the day, especially knowing that we had been on such an ecologically sound tour. Byron Bay is all about protecting the environment and the animals within it which I love. The town of Byron is beautiful - a great place filled with live music, great food and a fantastic chilled out atmosphere. It's not a party place which is nice, as it was so cold going out at night when we were there, but we still made it out for dinner and some fun. I loved going to the edge of town for the sunset drumming circle in the evenings, it sounds a but hippy dippy but it was great watching the beautiful sunsets with this musical background. We ate out a few times, at a cafe in the town, a Thai restaurant and a tapas restaurant - all delicious and I would highly recommend - especially the Thai restaurant which I believe was called Lucy's. It was definitely one of those places where there is so much more to do in the day and the nights are spent chilling and recovering. But one of my great memories from the nights had to be sitting with an aboriginal guy on the pavement at 3am, peeling oranges for him as he played me the guitar. Definitely not a place to be missed on your East Coast trip!
What was your favourite activity in Byron Bay? Where did you stay?
One of my favourite places in Sydney was Manly - I only went there twice in the month I spent in the city, but both times I fell in love with the seaside town. It's one of the places you could just see yourself living long-term, and I know many backpackers who moved there despite working in the city and facing a bit of a commute every day. My first time there was actually the first Sunday I spent in Australia, just two days after I arrived. A group of us caught the ferry over from Circular Quay (an easy free bus ride on the 555 from the top of the CBD, and just $2.50 on the ferry as all travel prices are capped on Sunday's) and after just 30 minutes we arrived at the small harbour there. As you walk out, you come to a little Boardwalk that takes you past a selection of bars and restaurants which look out right across the water. Don't be put off thinking they are really expensive, actually a couple are really well priced and I had a lovely meal in one of them. Once you get to the road, it's just a short walk through the town centre towards the main beach, with lots of places to eat, drink and shop along the way.The main beach is heavenly - the golden sand goes on for miles and as far as the eye can see there are surfers riding the waves. Up and down the beach you can see groups playing volleyball or runners making their way along the sand, picnics and children playing. It's just perfect, although be sure to get there in the morning or early afternoon because the sun actually sets on the harbour side and the beach is cast in shadow from the late afternoon thanks to the buildings. But I'm sure the sunrise is gorgeous there, and I know the sunsets are absolutely stunning over on the harbour side. There are lots of walks for those who want to explore further along the coastline, or to find somewhere a bit more secluded. I think what I loved most about Manly was that the beach and town felt like a place where people live, not just where people go on holiday or visit to pose like they do at Bondi and some of the others along the East Coast.Another beach I visited, which is definitely worth a visit, was Maroubra. Sadly the day I went it was absolutely chucking it down and I got soaked through, but even then the surfers were out in full force and you could tell it would be a beautiful beach on a sunny day. Even in the rain it was pretty awesome, just miles of open sand and more of a deserted feel than the others. If there's one thing Sydney boasts a lot of, it's miles of gorgeous coastline with endless sandy beaches, waves packed with surfers and that beachy Aussie lifestyle we all come here looking for. Definitely try and fit a visit into some of the beaches into your stay. I'm already looking forward to heading back when the weather is better for a chance to sun myself on that golden sand.
Have you checked out Sydney's beaches - which is your favourite? Are you a beach bum, or do you prefer city life?