By far the most coveted location for many backpackers travelling the East Coast; Byron Bay was the favourite place I visited. You’ll hear it being described as really ‘calm and chilled’ yet Byron is actually really small and with so many tourists that it’s very busy and cramped. I’d say the relaxed vibe comes from its hippy aesthetic and atmosphere- even the 7 Eleven burns incense.
Me and my friends got to Byron Bay from Surfer’s Paradise using the Greyhound bus service. Up to this point I had actually been avoiding using Greyhound as I knew the journeys could take such a long time and it sometimes works out cheaper to fly. But, with Byron only being about an hours distance from Gold Coast it made sense to get the bus. Booking with Greyhound was really easy, you just had to buy the type of ticket you want and book onto a bus. I believe my return ticket Surfer’s- Byron cost about $16. With wifi, reclining seats and air-con on the bus it was completely comfortable.
Upon arriving into Byron Bay we had a bit of a nightmare. The hostel we had wanted to stay at was fully booked for the first night of our stay, so we had to stay at Nomads. We didn’t realise this until we got there, but apparently Nomads in Byron is notorious for being the go-to hostel for Australian rugby boys on holiday…you can’t even imagine the amount of drunken guys everywhere. This was the first hostel I stayed at where I honestly didn’t feel that safe. Thankfully we were up to check out at 10 am the next morning to go to our hostel for the next few nights: Aquarius.
Aquarius Backpackers was absolutely incredible. I would honestly happily have a 33 hour flight back to Australia just to go to Byron Bay again and stay at Aquarius. The downstairs area was absolutely beautiful with a bar, games and the pool. It felt less like a hostel and more like just a really sociable hotel. The effort of the staff is what I really loved. The reps were so kind and talkative, and the games nights were hilarious. From jelly wrestling to drinking bingo everyone dressed up and went downstairs to the bar to join in. It was ideal for someone like me that didn’t want to go out clubbing but still wanted to have a fun night.
Despite the fact that wifi cost about $5 per day and there was no air conditioning or de-humidifiers in the rooms which went up to 10 beds (it got extremely stuffy, we also only had one very small ensuite to share with 9 other male and female roommates) there were other facilities that made up for it. The cafe which was next door and open to the public as well was a great chance for lovely but cheap food. My favourite was the fruit toast for breakfast with a coffee that I would get for just $5. You would also be welcomed by the iguana that would just chill out by your feet while you sipped coffee. Inside the hostel would also get a free dinner every night which was the best food I had my whole month in Australia- better than sachets of cup-a-soup!
Byron Bay was for me a perfect blend between a beach town and city. It wasn’t too vast that you would feel overwhelmed alone, but you could never get bored. The town has the best style and design I’ve ever seen; every shop is so stunning and has the most unique clothes. There’s definitely a certain dress code to Byron that I feel most people pick up on when they visit. Regardless of how pricey the shopping in Byron is, it was the only place I went to that I couldn’t resist buying from. I got a lovely top and two handmade rings (the jewellery and bead shops were insane!).
The homeliness of Byron Bay was essentially what I loved most. The streets had the hustle and bustle of holidayers during the day but due to the strict laws on drinking, at night it was so peaceful and tranquil to walk through while feeling completely safe. It was also the only place I met so many Australians. As you may guess, when you go backpacking and stay in hostels you don’t really get to immerse yourself into the ‘way of life’ of a place as you’re surrounded by other travellers. However, Byron Bay is actually the ‘weekend away’ destination of Australians themselves.
In terms of things to do in Byron, the main attraction for most people is to walk up to the lighthouse just before sunset to watch it happening. Although it was a much longer trek than I had anticipated and I definitely just wanted to turn back and go get dinner, the view was so beautiful and I loved being there with my friends. I even saw my first kangaroo while on the walk up which was so cute.
At the end of my stay in Byron Bay I was beginning my journey back home in England. So from Byron I got the bus back to Surfer’s Paradise for a day then flew back to Sydney for one more day before I headed back home for the Christmas season with my lovely family. I was so unbelievably happy to be home and now that it’s almost five months on and I’m re-telling a few details of my trip I can’t get over how much of an interesting month it was. It takes a lot to handle being so far away from your home entirely on your own but I’m so glad I did it!