Where do I start?! Perhaps there was a small misconception on my part of what exactly Byron Bay was going to be like, probably because I had done little to no research, I prefer it that way. I had heard loads of great reviews and lots of people had said how chilled out the vibe here is and they certainly hadn’t got that wrong.
Having worked pretty consistently for the last 3 and a half months I was more than ready to get on the road, relax, meet people and party, so that is exactly what we have done.
We were dropped off at what we could only assume was the town centre, clambered off the bus fully laden with all the accumulated crap from Sydney and within a single glance at my surroundings I knew this was going to be an awesome place. Casual/scruffy dressed shoeless people walking the streets, buskers playing all manners of instruments and every other person carrying a surfboard, quite a different sight from the CDB of any of the other places we have been in Australia so far.
Not to differ from our usual style we felt it best to look for a bar first but somehow in our search stumbled upon the Aquarius Backpacker Hostel. Walking into reception you will be greeted with scantily dressed people, the sight of a fully stocked bar, a swimming pool and an instant friendly chilled out atmosphere. Prices vary depending on the dorm size you take; we opted for the cheapest available which at the time which was a 12 bed dorm costing $31 a night, with the cheapest being around $3 dollars cheaper. As with any hostel you just need to fill out a small form and give them your passport details and your away.
The rooms in Aquarius are actually really nice, consisting of decent bunk beds, their own individual bathrooms with showers, a small kitchen sink, wood cladding on the walls and fans. As with anywhere is pot luck as to who you end up with in your room and we were very lucky with ours, having a good group of people from a variety of countries who like to have a good time. Another plus point for Aquarius is that you get a free dinner every day, with the restriction that you have to purchase a drink to get a token but it’s still a small price to pay for a meal and let’s face it you were only going to get a drink at the bar anyway!
So after dropping our stuff off in what at the time was an empty room upstairs (the room was split into 2 levels) we headed out for a wonder around and a few cheeky drinks. Byron is a pretty small place and you can more or less walk right across the town part of it in 15 minutes and from our hostel the beach was less than 5 minutes way. We found ourselves walking into the information point, located near the main bus top and Woolworths and asking for a bit of information regarding the local nightlife and bars. The lady was really helpful and gave us a local free newspaper with a list of all the bars and what was on each night that week. We settled into a bar called The Junction for a few happy hour ciders at $5 a schooner and had a skim through the newspaper, tearing out the ‘what’s on’ guide before heading to another place called the Balcony as a stop off point back to the hostel. On arrival at Aquarius we were each given a token for one free drink between 6pm and 6:30pm as a kind of meet and great for all those new to the place, a very cunning tactic as the food will be served 30 minutes later so you end up just staying in the bar. There is some sort of activity on every night here and tonight’s was a pool competition, so after consuming our free dinner of goulash (seriously I didn’t even know people served goulash, it was almost like some sort of mythical meal to me), we showered up and hit the bar ready for the pool competition. By the time this started its fair to say we were half cut and this made it all the more fun as were weren’t the only ones, so there was a load of great banter and before you know it you are talking to everyone and having a great night. Somehow me and Ian made it to the semi finals (I’m pretty sure I had been knocked out by this point but I wasn’t arguing) and we were up against each other with a bar tab on the line. Now I’m not going to go into detail here but cheating is cheating, so as long as Ian can live with his cheating ways then that’s fine…..so yes, he made it to the final and actually managed to win that without cheating so the drinks were on him.
Stumbling from the bar at the closing time of 12am we headed to another bar called Woody’s, which was actually pretty empty and somehow we all ended up playing pool again, everyone except for Ian that was. In classic Thomo style his cod eyed drunken appearance didn’t get him let in and instead he hung around outside before be groomed by a random who took him to another bar and paid for the rest of his night. To me this is true Thomson spawn at its best, but to others it my look a bit suspicious and perhaps he was one drink away from being dragged out the back of a club into Ford Transit, but either way his night was free and he got home ok. After the realisation that Woody’s sucked, a few of us made our way to a bar called Cheeky Monkeys where dancing on the tables is encouraged, so it’s fair to say we had a pretty cool time and saw it out until close before heading home to hit the sack.
Day two started as it should, getting up late and desperately searching for some food with one of our new companions Canada (a very creative nick name, can you guess where she was from?) After much procrastination we ended up in a small bar restaurant near the beach front where we tucked into a burger and hair of the dog in the form of a corona. Not the cheapest breakfast at around $26 dollars each but it was only the start of our time in Byron so we thought why not. The next step was to check out the seafront which was a mere 50m away and consisted of a grassy area for chilling out on before making your way down to the sand and finally into the sea. Today we just opted for the grassy area and chilled in the sunshine with a couple of beers for a couple of hours, you can’t argue with that for a life. The sun is ridiculously hot and sometimes you find yourself begging for a bit of cloud to come along and give you a reprieve from the direct onslaught of heat, which to my joy it was doing today. After Ian having to listen to me talking crap for the entire 2 hours (I like to fill time playing the ‘would you rather game’ with the most twisted, disturbing things I can think of) we headed back to the hostel via a local bottleo for a $15 box of Goon…..so classy.
Chilling in the room we became more acquainted with our rooms mates and before you know it everyone is ‘enjoying’ the Goon ready to get showered up and hit the bar and free dinner. Thank goodness tonight wasn’t goulash but instead chicken curry or the vegetarian option of Pad Thai. Just a quick note here, if you are staying in the Aquarius hostel be sure to get up for your food sooner rather than later if you don’t want to end of with left over Pad Thai covered in the dregs of curry sauce!!! Lesson learnt.
For tonight entertainment ears will bleed, that’s right, it was karaoke night. The first 10 people to get up and sing would get a free drink and if anything has been learnt from any of our previous posts, we love free stuff. Videos of our songs will undoubtedly make their way onto the website as soon as we get the chance, but for now, Ian took on Green Day’s Basket Case and I murdered Freak by Silverchair….and I mean murdered it.
Highlights of the night include an awesome crowd pleasing rendition of ‘On A Boat’ (check this Youtube for the original), a duet of Candy Shop by 50 cent with a guy who must have been forced up there by his friends, looking more awkward than a teenager who has just been caught touching himself and a guy called Dave Squared who was rocking every song.
We absolutely loved Karaoke night and by the look and sounds of all the singing people throughout the bar, so did they. After staying to near close again we headed back out into town and somehow ended up back in Woody’s again. In fact scrap the ‘somehow’, they run a little bus which cruises around the town picking people up and taking them to the club, so when you see a free lift you dive in before you even know what’s going on. Tonight was a lot busier than the previous, but as a club it still just wasn’t that great. It’s just not my sort of scene or music taste, but either way it’s the company you keep and we still had a great night.
As far as the night life goes, if you are more into your live music then The Beach Hotel and The Northern would be your best bet, with regular bands playing and a pretty chilled vibe. There are a fair few bars to choose from in Byron so be sure to look at the ‘what’s on’ list to see which one would suit your night best.
On the walk home I found myself with Chris, our new Norwegian friend, singing and playing guitar on the street with a group of musicians, with what can only be described as the longest rendition of Halleluiah ever, but none the less it was awesome fun. It’s not everywhere someone will just hand you their guitar and you end up in this sort of situation, great ending to the night.
For now I think that pretty much concludes the first couple of days in Byron and hopefully it has given you a good overview of what to expect.
As a summary I have done a quick list below of my overall thoughts and first impressions.
Top Points About Byron
- Dress and look how you want without being judged for it – for Ian this comes naturally wherever he is, but for me I do tend to sometimes get a bit self conscious, but here it’s the norm and so it’s a refreshing change.
- Friendly People – This goes for locals, staff and fellow travellers. I have to admit I have heard stories of drunken violence but I get the impression this is more during the summer holidays or ‘spring break’ if you will. As we didn’t witness any.
- The beach – I get bored within seconds on beaches, especially if I don’t have any music to listen to, I mean, all your doing is just sitting on sand staring at the sea getting burnt….pointless. This is the case once again but to be fair it was a really nice beach with plenty to stare blindly at, so not a bad review from me!
Love Scotty x