Postcard from Byron Bay : Australia's Sexiest Town?
“Cheer up, slow down, chill out” is the first signpost you see as you cruise into Byron Bay. It used to annoy me when I lived there for 20 years, sounding like an outdated hippie slogan. but now as I drive back into my hometown two years after leaving it for paris, I feel like a happy little hipster for the first time in ages.
Cradled in a north-facing, wine glass-shaped bay is Australia’s most easterly point, where the sun first hits this Great Southern Land when it rises each morning. During my 20 years here I fully embraced it’s luscious lifestyle. I raised my daughter, discovered yoga, learnt to run 5 kilometres around the lighthouse, grew my own organic veggies, imbibed green smoothies and turmeric lattés, swam in the ocean almost every day of the year and probably gave myself skin cancer from the amount of time I spent on the beach.
Now I’m back to see friends and family and once again soak up the sunshine that emanates throughout the region and in the soul of every person that lives and visits here. I’m staying with family on their expansive, lush hinterland property with views to Mount Warning, waking each morning to birdsong, endless green vistas and cups of Rooibos tea overlooking the horizon pool.
What’s so sexy about Byron Bay? It starts when you sink your toes into seductively soft sand. It’s the scented frangipanis, orange jessamine and gardenias perfuming the air. The sounds of crashing surf and squawking seagulls. The hushed, sacred spaces in yoga studios, tarot readers’ suites and wholistic wellness centres. The glimpses of naughty nudists at nearby Kings and Belongil beaches. The limitless vitamin D and vitamin sea. A whole book couldn’t begin to cover the fusion of sexy soulfulness that is, to my mind, one of the most special places on earth.
FOOD LOVES | AMOURS DE LA CUISINE
O Sushi - the first place I go to time after time. Perching on a high table next to the revolving sushi train, I eye off plates of endamame beans, fried lotus roots and green beans topped with crushed peanuts before deciding to stick with my favourite - miso soup, tempura silken tofu, seaweed + daikon salad with miso dressing and a side of brown rice, washed down with earthenware mugs of fragrant green tea.
Ozy Mex - My daughter worked here as a teenager and as a result, I stopped in for many a vegetarian nachos on a Sunday after the beach, so I was very happy this time to buy and take home a bottle of their to-die-for “Fiery Coconut Chili Sauce with Ginger”. Ring sting guaranteed.
Byron Bay Cookies - Oh how I wish they’d open a store in France! The best cookies are the ones covered in Smarties. No wait, the lamington & rosella jelly ones. Hang on, the gluten-free sticky date & ginger … arghhh, the choices! I settle on a big bag of white chocolate + macadamia nut ‘factory seconds’ for a tiny $4.
Want to rub shoulders with the sexiest crowds in Byron? See gaggles of glammed-up girls, celebrities and those-in-the-know in a handful of hip eateries where the music, food and ambience scream sex appeal. Get to Loft early for cocktails and bar food then Bang Bang for luscious, fragrant modern Asian cuisine. As a die-hard local though, I can’t go past elegant tapas at long-standing St Elmo with a chilled glass of Roederer champagne, or my all-time fave Orient Express Eatery for quiet, luxe Asian ambiance and cuisine like works of art.
SHOPPING LOVES | AMOURS DU SHOPPING
Ahoy Trader - artisanal island style décor and artworks. I buy a pretty “Capricorn” hand-made tile from the newest collection to inject a little Byron Bay style into my French abode.
Island Luxe - Over the years I’ve collected quite a few hip yet timeless, quality pieces from this lifestyle shop, all of which have seen me through Byron Bay summers and Parisian winters. A collection of necklaces I bought a few years ago was keenly eyed off by staff at Zadig & Voltaire, Paris when I walked in one day, shop staff swooning over the eclectic, exotic pieces and asking to take photos of them to replicate for their label! Desolée mais non, I said.
Marr-kett - known primarily for their exotic rugs, you can also pick up well-priced goodies such as golden palm tree hooks for your beach towels, sage sticks to clear the chi in your abode, Indian cotton printed cushions and mermaid-style jewellery with which to adorn yourself.
Hope & May - my quintessential Byron Bay shopping experience for pared-back, luxe fashion and homeware pieces such as giant coral, sand coloured silk and linen floaty dresses, raffia totes, straw mules and frangipani scented soaps. I just wish it would all fit in my suitcase to take back to France.
LIFESTYLE LOVES | amours de la vie
Running free and deliriously happy in my bikini on the fine, white sand from The Pass to Main Beach and back, before diving straight into the aqua ocean to refresh.
Wildlife spotting : wandering along the section of Jonson Street closest to the beach to have a gawk and a giggle at the herds of wildlife, including “watermelon carriers” (Gold Coast lads who the local cabbies name as such, with beefed-up torsos and arms, swaggering in their ‘wife-beater’ singlets like they’re carrying watermelons); “Dancing Tommy” who’s public dancing antics make you wish you, too, were able to move like a rubber band; dreadlocked hippies; Hare Krishna devotés weaving through traffic chanting and singing; brazen girls walking straight off the beach in Brazilian bikinis and into restaurants … plus the odd celebrity, too.
Walking the lighthouse route : starting at Captain Cook’s Lookout, through the rainforest overlooking Tallows Beach, down the steep steps to five-star Wategoes Beach and ending at what I believe is the world’s best beach - The Pass - catching glimpses of dolphins and whales while you’re at it.
Driving high up into the hinterland around Bangalow, Possum Creek and Coopers Shoot to stop by roadside market stalls, see plantations of bananas, coffee, avocados and stone fruit plus majestic, sweeping views over the entire Bay all the way north to the Gold Coast.
Visiting the Byron Bay organic farmers markets on a Thursday morning to skull a wheatgrass shot, stock up on tropical blooms and locally grown produce you know is super-fresh, because it was picked at 4am that very morning by the people who sell it to you.
Too hungover to shop or hike the lighthouse walk? Get your lazy ass down to Thai Sabai for a traditional Thai massage. It’s like having yoga performed on your poor, lazy body as you’re gently but firmly pulled and stretched into a state of bliss, while wearing a kimono and using no oil. Expect to hear groans of delight from who you think are others in neighbouring curtain-clad cubicles, but are actually from you.
Byron Bay is a smorgasbord of visual, culinary and sensory delights. It’s also a zoo, full of every species of human on the planet. I am occasionally appalled yet always entranced at the endless discoveries in Australia’s sexiest town. But as they say in the not surprisingly popular AA groups in Byron Bay, “Take what you like and leave the rest”. Namaste, my friends.