Byron Bay is one of those rare places you don’t come across very often. The town has a unique character which is a blend of hippie culture and the local surf scene.
The place must be special because there have been, and still are, some notable celebrities that have set up camp* in and around the area over the years: Singer/ actress Olivia Newton-John (Grease/ Xanadu) and actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor) are two names that spring to mind.
The Bay is also home to two of Australia’s best known festivals: The Byron Bluesfest which is held around Easter each year and has acts from all over the world, including UB40, The Cat Empire, Joe Bonamassa, and others. While Splendor In The Grass rocks Byron Bay in July each year.
The Pillion and I didn’t see any celebrities or festivals while we were in town, but we did take the time to wander through the markets and along the beach front.
There are some seriously talented crafters in and around this town, making everything from hand-made hemp tote bags, through to letter boxes and surfer dog statues made of sheet metal.
I reckon the surfer dog looked pretty cool actually.
I’m not a wax head* by any stretch of the imagination but I do like the beach, and there is no shortage of beaches in and around Byron Bay. In fact there are 9 in total and most are famous world-wide amongst the surfing community.
Neither The Pillion or I had ever been to the lighthouse before, so at around 11:00 we rode the 3 clicks (2 miles) out to Cape Byron headland where it’s located. The lighthouse is within the Cape Byron State Conservation Area and is the eastern most point of the Australian mainland.
The New South Wales (NSW) National Parks & Wildlife Service runs the Conservation Area and usually charge a nominal fee for entry to their parks, in this case $3 for motorcycles.
The ranger on duty must have taken a shine to us, because he let us in for free and ushered us to a prime parking spot near the cafe.
Cape Byron was so named by Captain James Cook in May 1770 in honour of the British explorer Vice Admiral The Hon. John Byron, who circumnavigated the globe from 1764 to 1766 in HMS Dolphin
Incidentally John Byron was the grandfather of English poet Lord George Gordon Byron and Admiral George Anson Byron.
The lighthouse is one of thirteen built in NSW between 1858 and 1903 and stands 23m (174 feet) above the surrounding headland. To this day, it’s the most powerful lighthouse in Australia, shining a beam every 15 seconds that can be seen 50 km (27 nautical miles) out to sea.
The lighthouse was fully automated in 1989, so there is no longer a need for a lighthouse keeper to live on the premises. However, the existing Lighthouse Keepers residence is available for overnight rental if you’re keen.
There are walking tracks around the surrounding headland, and it’s not uncommon to see migrating humpback whales between May/ August and September/ November each year from vantage points long the tracks.
We didn’t spot any whales, but there was a pod of dolphins playing in the breakers just below the lighthouse.
We left Cape Byron and took the short 30 km (19 mile) ride south to the Shaws Bay Hotel for lunch. We’d been there before and knew there was a live band on from around 14:00.
We stayed for a couple of hours to listen to the band play some classic Aussie pub rock. I have no idea who these guys were, but damn they were good.
What a great way to round out the day.
- Set Up Camp: To live somewhere.
- Wax Head: Surfie/ Surfer.