A restorative, turmeric-filled week in Byron Bay

I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy an entire week in Byron Bay recently, with my Mum. When we initially chatted about travelling somewhere together a few years ago, we settled on three weeks in Spain for her sixtieth birthday, which was in April. The reality of my budget caught up with me and we ‘downgraded’ to a week in Byron – which I think I enjoyed more, to be honest! Spain is still on my wish list for another time. It was the type of holiday that only she and I could have had: My kids would have been terribly bored by the slow afternoons, my husband would have been appalled by the lack of red meat, and my dad would have been horrified at the number of turmeric lattes consumed.

It was a particularly restorative week away. I very quickly got over my mum-guilt when I realised how much better I felt after an uninterrupted night of sleep. We loosely structured our days to include one or two walks, visited the various wholefood cafes and restaurants, and scheduled in time for reading, writing, rest and meditation. I have started working my way through the 12 week program, The Artist’s Way, which promotes creativity. Each week includes an Artist Date; time dedicated to a new activity, experience or excursion – something to ‘fill the well’ with visual ideas. The week in Byron felt like one long Artist Date. Climbing up to the small beach look-out to watch the surfers jostle for space near the rocks (some wearing helmets!), driving through the lush green hinterland. Seeing a Monday afternoon movie in the tiny eclectic cinema with its wide green seats. Exploring the quiet suburban roads on foot, and gawking at the houses – some very expensive ones there!

My personal favourite was watching the sunset from the Lighthouse, the most Eastern point in Australia. With a clear view over the bay, we watched the sun drop behind the mountains in a blaze of pink and gold. It was a popular past-time: the best bit was watching the hordes of other tourists who streamed up to watch the sunset too – and then turned their backs to watch it on their iPhones, seeking the perfect sunset selfie. From my vantage point on the brick wall, I watched one guy stride up the hill on his own, quickly snap a selfie with the sunset, and promptly head back down again, all in the space of twenty seconds. “They’re all missing the sunset!” I kept saying to my mum, and then I realised I was spending just as much time watching all of them, as they were themselves, while the sun silently dropped past in the background.

I highly recommend it.

The Byron Bay Lighthouse by sunset

The Byron Bay Lighthouse by sunset

Byron Bay is a small but busy hive of activity, reflected in the steady traffic on the roads, which seems to revolve around one tiny round-about. The small size of the place makes their wholefood culture even more impressive to me – correct me if I’m wrong – seriously, because I’d like to visit – but I can’t think of another place in Australia that has the same concentration of wholefood cafes and shops. Thanks to Sarah Wilson for her recently updated Byron Bay guide, to Marisa Marzipan who also visited recently for their thoughts on the place, and also those of you who shared your recommendations with me!

Please forgive my fairly awful photos – I never have mastered the art of taking photos of food in a restaurant. Or mastered the art of anything, actually.

My two favourite places to eat were Three Blue Ducks at the Farm, and the Roadhouse. We went to both places twice. The Farm is a stunning venue about ten minutes drive away from central Byron, and sits adjacent to the Pacific Highway. Perfect for a lunch stop if you’re just travelling past, especially to let the kids loose for a bit. I love their breakfast menu in particular. The restaurant is mostly outside, overlooking the farm, and very family-friendly. There’s a playground, pigs, and a nearly secret macadamia and pecan orchard which is a cool, calm area to visit. Search for nuts on the ground. We stocked up on a few goodies at the store as well.

The Roadhouse is a busy stop on the opposite end of town, serving a different menu each day. Their magic mushroom hot chocolate is sensational – I’m still thinking about it and wondering how I can recreate it at home! Anyone have any ‘mushroom tincture’ on hand? The kimchi fried rice with the crispy egg was my favourite meal of the week. We ate at the window bar and made up histories for the locals, many of whom were there both times we visited. Although I know nothing about him, the elderly Bill Nighy-like man in the cream linen suit, who dearly loved his dog, is burned into my memory forever.

We loved Folk, a delightful vegetarian joint tucked away outside of town, which served up the most beautiful hot drinks and delicious vegetarian food, by the friendliest staff in the area. It was such a novelty to have so many lovely caffeine-free hot drinks available. I’m stoked to find the odd golden latte in Canberra, so I was spoiled for choice in Byron Bay.

We also went to the Bayleaf Cafe twice, after a slightly unsatisfying first visit. We first visited on a busy Sunday morning and shared a communal table with a pair of young guys who had diligently researched the best time of day to go fishing, down to the minute. I was a little disappointed by the avo on toast, which required me to actually put the avo on the toast myself. I’m glad we went back – our second visit, during a quieter patch during the week, was much better. The falafel and eggs were superb.

These were our favourite four places, but there were a number of other very deserving mentions: the fish tacos at Fish Mongers are lovely and incredible value for money; as was the shared Mediterranean vegetarian platter at The Cyprus Tree. We ate dinner at Byron Fresh a couple of times, which was perfectly nice, and Elixiba is a new plant-based restaurant tucked away down an alley – it’s currently serving a limited but delicious vegan menu, and hopes to expand to the full menu soon. Mum and I both had the best night’s sleep of the week, after our meal at Elixiba.

We ate more than our fair share of treats from Naked Treaties. The smoothies are expensive but enormous. We also enjoyed the eclectic mix of shops at Bangalow, the Harvest Deli in Newrybar (unfortunately we were still so full from breakfast we couldn’t even squeeze in a coffee!), and a thai massage at Thai Sabai on the main street of Byron. I loved the little bookshop, Mary Ryan’s Books, Music and Coffee.

Over the week I gradually unwound and eased into the slow pace. It was the kind of pace that makes the hours feel round and full and appreciated. I felt rested. The one saving grace about having to pack up and go back home to winter, was the cuddly reunion I had with my little boys and husband at the airport. I feel very grateful to my husband who didn’t mind me going away in the slightest – he even suggested that my Mum and I make it annual trip! Meanwhile, the boys enjoyed their dad time. And having pizza night, hotdog night, Ikea meatball night… 😉

As I was in the midst of making these memories, I knew they would be ones that I would revisit and cherish in the years to come, and they already are. Thanks Mum for sharing this holiday with me, that I’ll fondly remember forever.

2 Comments

  1. what a fabulous sounding break 🙂 I have a weekend away each year with girlfriends, but a week with just mum sounds blissful…otherwise when they visit it’s all about the grandchildren!

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Beck! I do the weekend away with a group of mum friends too each year too, which is always lots of fun. A different kind of break! It was very nice to have the time with mum 🙂

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