A big itch to get out and see the world, a small bank balance. Sadly, a common dilemma for me, and for many others I’m sure!
I work long hours and have been feeling the desperate need for a holiday. Going somewhere new is usually my goal. I work in transport managing truck drivers, and am constantly jealous about the places they get to go to for work. It doesn’t matter to me whether I have any desire to go to a place for anything specific, I just have to know what’s there to satisfy my curiosity.
Lately there have been a few talks around the office of Byron Bay, as my drivers often drive from Brisbane to Sydney and talk about the places they see on the way. My boss told me of a recent trip to Byron Bay and how disgusted he was at it. Unless it’s something really bad, that usually piques my interest, and it’s been on my mind for a few weeks. I can’t believe I live less than 3 hours away and I’ve never been to one of our national treasures! So this weekend, David (my fiance) and I got in the car and away we went.
When I travel to a new place I like to look online or in a guide book to get a general overview of what there is to do, making a list of things that I definitely have to see, but I won’t read too much into it- I want to discover it for myself. Due to the shortage of cash, I was looking online for what some cheap or free activities there might be, and although I didn’t delve too deep, I didn’t come up with a lot either – Byron Bay, it seemed, could be quite costly. The number one thing that kept coming up, however, was the Lighthouse at the Easternmost point of Australia. You must see a sunrise or sunset at Cape Byron Lighthouse, I kept reading. So I Google’d what time sunrise was in Byron this time of year: 6:13am. A 2.5-3 hour drive from Brisbane. Not going to happen! I can’t say I’m a huge lighthouse enthusiast, but I am a huge animal lover and the notion that I could potentially see dolphins or whales from up here is a major draw-card to me.
Nevermind, 8am we were out the door and on our way. It’s a bland old drive along the motorway from Queensland to New South Wales – concrete, concrete, concrete. Stopping at Palm Beach we had a quick toilet break, and dealing with work (truck breakdown in Roma on a Saturday – ugh!!) and were back on the road. Once you get over the border the scenery becomes much better, and I can only describe it as “Australia” – images in front of me match the ones I conjure up in my mind when I think of the word, of home. We really do have some of the best scenery in the world, but there’s something so familiar about the farmland, no matter what State it’s in.
When we reached the Byron Shire, I was taken aback by the lack of sign-postage (as I work in transport I like to think I can navigate myself just about anywhere without a map or GPS. I don’t like to admit this isn’t always the case!) and the roads! Oh, the roads. For a place that is firmly on the Tourist Map of our country, particularly for backpackers in their Wicked Campers and likewise, surely the budget for roads should increase?! Absolutely woeful.
We drove through the main street and it’s strange little roundabouts that hinder the traffic more than they’re designed to, and up to the Lighthouse. I don’t normally carry cash but I did in this instance as I had read that it costs $4-$7 for parking, depending on where you park. Park, we did, and off we trotted to what really is a beautiful lighthouse and the viewing platform.
What a view. I can’t agree more: the Lighthouse is the highlight of Byron Bay. Too bad the pictures I took did it zero justice. I had seen a viewing platform further down and as we drove I tried to navigate to where I thought it was. We ended up at Tallows Beach and to our surprise, particularly being mid-morning on a sunny Saturday, we were almost the only people there! This beach is not guarded so it’s no good for swimming but still, a beach is a beach. We wandered around for a while, looking at the rocks and shells that had washed up.
We then headed into town to take a look around. I was keen for a meal on the water but found there are great little cafes in the many arcades. We settled on Cool Katz cafe and I had an amazing chicken & vegetable quesadilla. We had a post-lunch stroll up to The Wreck and saw a local making beautiful artwork in the sand.
We decided to head back to Brisbane via the scenic route, first stop Mullumbimby. This is a quaint country town that feels as though it’s in the middle of nowhere. We spotted a sign that said Minyon Falls and decided to follow it – who doesn’t love a waterfall? The road was absolutely shocking; I was convinced the car was going to fall off the edge of the mountain and we would cartwheel to our deaths. The P-platers speeding down the hill, providing no room on the one-and-a-half car-wide lanes only added to the white knuckle trip. It’s a hike and a half up there but we finally reached our destination – alive. The cursing and “this better bloody be worth it!” was quickly forgotten when we stood on the platform next to the beautiful waterfall, looking 100 metres down. Absolutely amazing. You can even walk on top of the waterfall! Just breathtaking.
I drove down the mountain at slower-than-walking pace to ensure we reached the bottom alive. We carried on through Ocean Shores, Brunswick Heads, Murwillumbah and Tweed and through to Coollangatta for dinner. I spotted a restaurant, La Porchetta, which was my favourite restaurant growing up in Tasmania. I hadn’t been there in almost 15 years, and it did not disappoint. The fettuccine carbonara is the best I’ve ever had.
A fantastic day, well worth the drive. I’m so glad we did it, and I’m looking forward to many other weekends of just hopping in the car and seeing our own country. What’s the point in having been around the world twice if you haven’t experienced the amazing wonders of your own backyard?