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Oceania » Australia » New South Wales » Byron Bay
November 4th 2020
Published: November 10th 2020
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Sunset attempt #2Sunset attempt #2Sunset attempt #2

Byron Bay, New South Wales
I arrived in Byron Bay late on Monday afternoon and ran into the heavy traffic locals complain about. Thankfully, my B&B was on the edge of town, so I didn’t have to spend long stuck in traffic. After squeezing my car into a small parking space, I took my suitcase to my room and had a chat with the owners. A few people had warned me about restaurants in Byron Bay not allowing people from Sydney due to covid, so I asked them. They assured me it wasn’t an issue. In fact, he had just returned from Sydney and they were about to go out for Thai. I felt that wasn’t quite the same, as they are not residents of Sydney but I didn’t press it. I figured I would have to find out for myself.

As night descended, I headed into town to see what Byron was all about. Traffic was not an issue for most of the way, but the centre was very busy, and it took me a while to find a park. Almost immediately after getting out, I had a fellow try to befriend me. As I was alone, he started talking about the adventures two
Waiting for sunriseWaiting for sunriseWaiting for sunrise

Byron Bay, New South Wales
single guys were going to have with so many attractive women around. I’m not sure he was all there, but regardless I was not interested and politely declined. Thankfully, he didn’t complain and we parted ways.

I didn’t walk around long before I found myself deeply uncomfortable. Maybe it was because I was by myself, or maybe I’m just too old, but I did not like the vibe of Byron at night. It had a feel similar to Las Vegas and Amsterdam at night, to me at least. I’m not sure if it was as sleazy, but as I said, it might just be my age. Either way, I just opted for a takeaway kebab and headed back to the B&B.

After an early night, Tuesday morning started very early. As Byron Bay is the most eastern point of mainland Australia, I figured I should make the effort to photograph a sunrise while I was there. I headed out just after 5am and tried to find the iconic Byron Bay lighthouse in the dark. I made one wrong turn, but thankfully it was still early enough that it didn’t matter. Carrying my gear up from the carpark, I
Protestor FallsProtestor FallsProtestor Falls

Nightcap National Park
had my tripod and camera set up just below the lighthouse well before sunrise.

Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t cooperate. The rain clouds from recent days were out to sea and covered the horizon. By the time the sun had risen above the band of cloud, it was already daytime yellow and there had been nothing special to photograph. I decided to try again the next day, but for now, I had to find something to do.

There were many people on early morning runs around the lighthouse and as I went to photograph the lighthouse itself, I saw many were running up and down a path that descended around the headland. I walked down to see if there were any good photo opportunities. The path out to the point was undergoing maintenance, but I still got some photos of the early morning surfers and a wallaby having breakfast. After walking the length of Wategos beach, I turned around and walked back up. While it was a hefty climb, it didn’t turn out to be as bad as I had feared while walking down, but I can see why the exercisers used it.

Returning to my car, I
Sunset attempt #1Sunset attempt #1Sunset attempt #1

Byron Bay, New South Wales
headed into Byron for some breakfast while I planned my day. Thankfully, the town was much quieter and more like the beachside town I had imagined it to be from all I had heard – very different from the night. I found a café and had no problem dining in, so I’m not sure whether the rumours were false or I had just been lucky.

However, my plans for the day were quickly scuttled. Not being a beach person, I had planned to head inland and check out Nightcap National Park. But as I checked the national parks app I discovered my timing was terrible… the main part of the park around Minyon Falls was closed for maintenance since Monday! There were another couple of places open on the far side of the park that I had planned to visit later in the trip, but I started searching for other things to do. There wasn’t much, to be honest. Unless you’re into beaches or crystal healing and yoga, Byron Bay doesn’t seem to be the best place to visit.

After breakfast I went looking for the conservation area near town, hoping it might be a good photography spot.
Byron Bay LighthouseByron Bay LighthouseByron Bay Lighthouse

Byron Bay, New South Wales
I found it but couldn’t find any walking entrances. After a bit of driving around, I decided to bite the bullet and stop by the tourist information centre. The fellow there agreed there wasn’t much for me in town, and we talked about my options for the two days I would be there. I left there with a plan, and a booking for an interesting tour the next afternoon.

Heading inland, I set about exploring the Byron hinterland. The drive took me up amongst the hills, on tight, winding roads that were lined with trees when they weren’t providing beautiful views. The Coolamon Scenic Drive in particular lived up to its name as it drove along a ridge.

Compared to my last holiday though, distances were really short and before I knew it, I was at my first destination – Rocky Creek Dam. The fellow at the tourist information centre seemed very keen for me to visit there, so I parked my car and headed out on foot. I opted for the cedar walk, which was a couple of kilometres long as it crossed the dam and spillway before looping back to the main picnic area. By and
Byron Bay LighthouseByron Bay LighthouseByron Bay Lighthouse

Byron Bay, New South Wales
large, it wasn’t really anything special although the spot just after the spillway was quite nice. As I walked up the hill towards the end of the walk, I saw a kookaburra slamming a baby snake on the ground. It was so keen on its meal that I was able to get quite close for a photo. And that was probably the highlight of my visit to Rocky Creek Dam.

From there I drove through some more of the lovely countryside up to Protestor Falls, on the far side of Nightcap National Park. I thought it was a strange name for the falls, but it made sense when I arrived at the picnic spot where the walk began. A sign there told of how the protests that saved the rainforest from logging and led to the creation of Nightcap National Park were the inspiration for other protests in the 70’s and 80’s such as the Franklin Dam in Tasmania.

I grabbed my camera and equipment and headed out on the kilometre walk through the rainforest to the falls. I arrived at what I would have called a cascade more than a waterfall and while it was a nice spot, I was a little underwhelmed. However, I noticed that the path seemed to continue so I figured I should investigate before passing judgement.

After a few more cascades, I arrived at the falls themselves. It was definitely a waterfall and the path nearly led right to the bottom. So close, in fact, that I was unable to get it all in one photo. It wasn’t a big issue though, because the base was deep in the rainforest and was much darker than the bright top of the waterfall. Even if I could have fit it all in, the camera would have struggled with the contrasting light. As I set up my tripod to take photos, I had to wait for a couple who had ignored the signs asking you to stick to the path in order to protect the endangered frogs. They were climbing over the rocks, looking like they wanted to go underneath the waterfall itself. Eventually they left and I was able to take a photo without them in it.

As I was finishing up, another couple arrived, and they sat around until I left. I was just moving down the path a bit to
LighthouseLighthouseLighthouse

Byron Bay, New South Wales
photograph the cascades and I was disappointed to see they were waiting for me to leave so they could get their drone out. That’s not allowed in national parks in NSW, but I guess they have to be seen to be caught. I couldn’t get a photo of them doing it because my camera was set up for long exposures, so hopefully they get caught somewhere else in the future.

I continued back down the path to another spot where I thought I could capture a good photograph of the cascades. There I discovered why the first couple had been climbing around under the waterfall. They were swimming in a pool underneath one of the smaller cascades. Fortunately, they were not in my shot, but I was pretty annoyed at these people breaking the rules just because the park was remote enough and presumably rarely patrolled. It’s not just because it’s the rules, but the rules were there to protect an endangered species of frog. Like the couple with the drones, these two were also international visitors who obviously don’t care about what happens to Australian wildlife after they go home.

With the photos taken, I headed back
Wallaby enjoying breakfastWallaby enjoying breakfastWallaby enjoying breakfast

Byron Bay, New South Wales
to the picnic spot and made some lunch. Sitting in the peace and quiet as I ate, I began to forget the annoying tourists. By the time I was back on the road, I was once again at peace. The drive back to Byron was pleasant as I took a circuitous route through some of the small towns. Once again, I opted for getting takeaway for dinner and had an early night.

I was away again at 5am and headed to the lighthouse. This time the sunrise was better, but still not as spectacular as some photos I’ve seen from Byron Bay. I was glad that at least I tried, as one of my biggest flaws with photography is my laziness about the right light. Usually this means getting up early or coming back at sunset and often I don’t bother. This means that my photos are often not as good as they could be.

After the sun had risen, I decided to follow the walk in the other direction. Like the previous day, the path descended from the headland, but this was through the forest and the path was not paved. It was quite the workout though,
Headland walking trackHeadland walking trackHeadland walking track

Byron Bay, New South Wales
and once again I headed into Byron for breakfast. Unlike the previous day though, I headed back to the B&B for a nap before heading out.

I only had a vague plan of how to fill my day before my tour in the afternoon. The guy at the tourist information had suggested I check out some places to the south, so I got in the car and began driving. I reached Lennox Head in little time, and after taking a couple of photos from the headland I realised it was still early. The walk along the headland was closed, so there wasn’t much else to do there. I decided to just drive south and see what I found.

It was a pleasant drive, but nothing special. I did stop at the big prawn in Ballina, not because I especially wanted to, but because it is in the carpark of a Bunnings and I wanted to buy some electrical tape to wrap around the power chord of my fridge. Although it was still intact, I could see that it has been damaged by some rubbing so I wanted to protect it before it got any worse. While there, I
Early morning surfEarly morning surfEarly morning surf

Byron Bay, New South Wales
had to take a selfie, but I’m still confused why the big prawn is in the carparks of Bunnings.

From Ballina, I took the ferry across to south Ballina and continued driving through Broadwater National Park to Evans Head. There wasn’t much to see there, but I stopped and had some lunch at a picnic spot in the park before making my way back to Byron. Not an amazing drive by any stretch, but it was nice enough.

Back in Byron, I followed the advice of the tourist information fellow and parked my car in a street about 20 minutes’ walk away from the meeting spot for my tour. This was a good idea as the Palm Valley carpark was at a standstill due to all the cars trying to park there.

The tour was a walk and talk about the indigenous history and culture of Byron Bay. Our guide, Delta, was from the Arakwal tribe of the Bundjulung nation who lived in Byron Bay before colonisation of the area. We started with a walk towards the headland where the lighthouse sits and she explained that it sits on what was the meeting point for the various
Wategos beachWategos beachWategos beach

Byron Bay, New South Wales
tribes of the Bundjulung nation.

We then headed back down towards the beach where Delta showed us one of the few surviving middens. Only a small part remains of what was once a square kilometre in size! I always thought they were just a dumping ground for the shells after their owners were eaten, but it turns out they were much more important than that. Archaeological surveys had found artifacts such as spear points and grind stones, as well as the shells and fishbones. I asked Delta why they would dump useful items there as well, and she explained that they were left there for others to use when they visited the area. I realised a fundamental difference between our cultures – I was thinking the items had been thrown away, but in fact her people did not own the items for themselves. An interesting lesson.

We finished off with a talk about bush tucker and medicines found around Byron Bay. We got to taste a few bits and had some tea. As we drank our tea, Delta showed us how to make string using one of the native plants. We each made ourselves a wristband and although
Early morning surfEarly morning surfEarly morning surf

Byron Bay, New South Wales
I was a bit slow to pick it up, even I managed to do a half-decent job. All in all, the tour was the highlight of my stay in Byron. The tours are relatively new, they were only in their second week. I hope they are successful, and I recommend checking them out if you visit Byron Bay.

And with that, my visit to Byron Bay was finished. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t think I will be rushing back. It’s a nice spot, but it’s not for me. Although many of the locals I spoke with were really friendly, the town is full of tourists, many of who are posers that are there to be seen. And the vibe at night is really different from the day, and I just was not comfortable. The hinterland was definitely of more interest to me, and if I ever do go back, I look forward to visiting Nightcap National Park when the other areas are opened again.


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Early morning surfEarly morning surf
Early morning surf

Byron Bay, New South Wales
Early morning surfEarly morning surf
Early morning surf

Byron Bay, New South Wales
Coolamon Scenic DriveCoolamon Scenic Drive
Coolamon Scenic Drive

Byron Hinterland, NSW
Coolamon Scenic DriveCoolamon Scenic Drive
Coolamon Scenic Drive

Byron Hinterland, NSW
Path to Protestor FallsPath to Protestor Falls
Path to Protestor Falls

Nightcap National Park


10th November 2020

Saved!
I don't remember ever having been in that part of Oz but Lennox Head and Evans Head are both familiar names from my childhood. Not sure why but I think Mum and Dad may have lived there at some time - perhaps during the war years when he was in the Air Force. In any event, your writing makes it an easy and interesting read but I'm not inspired to visit anytime soon. Seems it might be a bit bland if your not into surfing.
10th November 2020

I don't mean to be harsh
The places look quite nice, if you are into beaches. It's just I'm not.
12th November 2020

Byron is Beachy
We enjoyed our time in Byron Bay but we are beach people. We enjoyed watching the surfers. We would have enjoyed the indigenous tour. I hope they make a success of it. We follow the rules and can be annoyed when others don't. I do hope those selfish people didn't do any damage to the frogs. Keep traveling.

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