Byron Bay: Cheer Up, Slow Down, Chill Out

Our family had a wonderful week in the resort town of Byron Bay. It is located in northern New South Wales, near the border with Queensland, just 45 minutes from the Gold Coast airport. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

The town is known for its hippy values and promotes alternative lifestyles. As you can see on the entrance sign, the peace and love movement of the seventies is alive and well in Byron Bay. Most of the restaurants and shops promoted vegan, organic, all-natural, gluten-free products. There were signs advertising yoga classes, new age spirituality conferences, etc. There is a very liberal feel to the town.

The town became popular with tourists due to Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame. He had a vacation home there and opened up a hotel in 1991. Every year, more tourists came and the town developed many hotels and vacation homes for rent and sale. It has managed to keep its hippy vibe, despite the development and is much different than the coastal and inland towns around it. The sub-tropical flora and fauna give the place a Hawaiian look. We were there during the peak summer tourist season and there were long traffic lines into and out of town, but it still felt relaxed. Most of the tourists were Australians with some younger international tourists, backpacking or working their way around Australia.

Byron Bay is also famous for surfing due to the breaking waves on several points in the area. We all took a surfing lesson which gave me a new appreciation for the sport. I learned that rip currents are helpful as escalators to surfers and are not to be feared. Some other fundamentals given to us by our instructor Gaz, were look up at the beach, not at the fish, banana and then build up on the board, and to relax and bend the knees once one is up. The best of us was Ocean and she loved it so much that I bought her a surfboard. We hope to find some surfing spots in Japan. My only complaint about surfing is when there are lots of people waiting for waves. It is better than waiting in lines for downhill skiing however, and there are no costs to use the ocean. I am glad to give our children many different experiences and the chance to surf was one I didn’t have growing up. I think back to scuba diving, skiing, etc. I feel it is important to give our children a good breadth of experiences so they can find what they are passionate about and be aware of what is out there. It will hopefully give them richer, fuller, lives as adults.

We stayed in a luxurious villa ($7 million Aussie dollar list price) near the beach in the Cape Byron Headland Reserve, just outside of town. There was a walking trail through the forest preserve and it allowed me to see lots of different birds, trees, flying foxes, and even wallabies. I did several posts on my nature blog of observations I made on hikes in the local area. There is a scenic lighthouse located on the high cliffs of the peninsula and below lies the eastern most point of the Australian mainland. We walked into town in the evenings for dinner in the local restaurants and were surprised by the huge flying foxes (fruit eating bats) of tropical Australia. I saw these many years ago on a trip to Cairns in the far north of Queensland. I will not likely stay in a nicer place for quite awhile and I would like to thank Jim and Ale for their hospitality and kindness. It was wonderful to share the New Year celebration with family and friends!

We even took a morning to drive inland to see a small preserve of rainforest in the Night Cap National Park. Like almost all places in the developed world, including my home of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it is sad think that 95% of the forests were lost from the time of the early settlers until today. I am quite radical in believing that acreages or small hobby farms should be banned so more land can be devoted to virgin forests.

Owen and Sebey at the Nightcap National Park

As I always say however, it is not important where we are for holidays. As long as I am with my family and can devote most of my energies to my wife and children, I am going to have a wonderful time. I was tempted to work more than I did, but in reflecting on my life, spending time with my family will be more important than getting more done for my job. Finding this balance between my career and family is something that is always challenging for me. The quiet time during the break also got me to reflect on my life. One of my new year’s resolutions will be to focus on my health. One of my enemies is stress and through meditation, exercise, and eating less and more healthy, I want to live better. We will see if I can keep the momentum up as my schedule gets more hectic.

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