TOP 5 For The B’s:
- Byron Bay Lighthouse Walk – fantastic.
- Soak up the cha-cha bar and restaurant scene in Brisbane.
- Get a vegan brownie, a green smoothie, or a coconut water from a dreadlocked server in Byron Bay. You can get this pretty much anywhere. Just don’t mention cars or oil or the new dress you bought. You overspending materialistic soul-sucking person, you.
- Take a dip at Byron Bay Beach.
- Enjoy the sunshine EVERYWHERE!
Oz. Where do I even start? This vast land, perceived by many as much smaller than it is, is absolutely packed full of beautiful things. Every beach is a postcard, every drive is the roadtrip you’ve always wanted to take, every bar is that neighbourhood pub you wish was around the corner from YOUR house. To say the least, I really enjoyed it.
I flew into Brisbane on a smoking hot day in December – an odd concept for a Canadian. My fellow Canadian travelmate was little later than I, so I set out to find breakfast solo. The hotel recommended a place around the corner called The Little Larder – a quaint hipster joint where I enjoyed some lovely poached eggs on toast, and had my first experience with a “Long Black” coffee. I also had my introduction to Australian prices – terrifying! $18 for eggs and $4 for a coffee. Ok ok ok, you have a nice country, we get it. You can charge $18 for two eggs.
I wandered the city, namely the CBD (Central Business District, new lingo for me), the main shopping street, which eventually spills across the bridge over the river to a bar/restaurant area on the other side. By this time it was mid-afternoon – high time for a local brewsky at The Charming Squire. I tried a half-pint of the IPA – delicious. Back at the hotel, my jet-lagged companion had arrived and we were ready for an early dinner – and then our beds! Our guidebook recommended a Vietnamese restaurant just a 20 minute walk away – literally called The Vietnamese Restaurant.*
* Note to lovers of various Asian cuisine- due to its proximity to Asia (I assume), you can get fabulous Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. in Australia. We had some really fantastic meals to this end, and best of all it’s one of the cheaper options.
Anyways, we had a noodle soup and Pho bowl respectively and both didn’t disappoint. AND, as we discovered is the case with many restaurants, it’s BYO for FREE! Or in some cases a very nominal corkage fee. Things were looking grand as we went home to bed.
The second day in Brisbane brought continued wandering around the city, enjoying the city parks, museums, and shopping. While I can easily say Brisbane is the bottom of my list from the places we visited, that’s not saying it’s not a nice place to spend a day or two. That evening we met an old mutual friend who took us to the “bar scene” on the other side of the river- we started at Ole – a Spanish-style tapas restaurant. We decided to share a bunch of things and ordered Empanadas, fried stuffed olives, calamari, Paella, jamon and cheese plate, bread, and sangria. The three of us left stuffed and unable to finish, but everything was great.
The final morning brought us the daunting task of picking up our rental car. Or more importantly, beginning our drive on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD. Once we confirmed that my friend’s insurance covered both of us, I grabbed the bull by the horns and decided to take the first turn, driving back to the hotel to grab our bags and then heading out of the city. It’s a surreal feeling to have every driving instinct you know be precisely wrong, but surprisingly the human mind adapts quickly and after a day of practise it felt pretty much routine. We drove the three hours to Byron Bay, sharing the task. As we drove into Byron, a beach town known for its relaxed hippie culture and stellar beaches, we had definitely left the city behind. Hordes of dreadlocked, tan, grimy-ish surfers wandered down the streets, picking up cases of beer for an evening of partying after a day in the sun. Shops lined the streets, and alternating mix of (1) Vegan/specialty bakeries, (2) Overpriced coffee shops, (3) Bars, (4) Juice and/or FroYo joints, and (5) surfer or hippie-style clothing store. I think there was also a tattoo shop or two. That evening we went out to The Lazy Italian, a well-rated restaurant up a side street from the main drag. Once again BYO (rejoice!) we took along a bottle of Australian Sauvignon Blanc, and sampled pasta and a schnitzel. Both were wonderful. Still tired from the long journey, we hit the hay early anticipating a long beach day the next morning.
And boy, the beach did not disappoint. Crystal clear blue waters, intense sunshine, lush green vegetation, white sand, and a cool breeze. Outfitted with hats, towels, sunglasses, and books, we parked on the sand and unwound. The pictures speak for themselves.