“This is where the sun rises first in Australia,” a passer-by tells me as I stand, transfixed, gazing at the vastness of the ocean in front of me.
Next to me on this lookout point, is a signpost that reads ‘Most easterly point of the Australian mainland’.
I am in Byron Bay in NSW, currently one of the country’s most sought-after holiday destinations.
Some people travel here solely to see the sunrise from this particular podium, before anyone else in the country, but that’s not the main drawcard of the destination. The seafront location boasts of many other rewarding lures and assures something for everyone.
The area where today’s Byron Bay sits belongs to the indigenous Bundjalung people. They call the place Cavanbah or ‘meeting place’. Captain James Cook named it Cape Byron after the famous circumnavigator of the world John Byron who was the grandfather of poet Lord Byron.
Living up to its traditional reputation, the destination still remains a meeting place for people from everywhere for a short, long or permanent stay. The first batch of outsiders were whalers. Then came the surfers, pulled by natural breaks of the rolling waves hitting the shoreline. Byron Bay then was nothing more than an isolated fishing village; perhaps it waw the very isolation that enticed the hippies back in the seventies. Soon after, it drew notice of the nation’s barons who moved in to enjoy the spectacular vista from the balcony of their newly-built multi-million dollar mansions and make Byron Bay one of Australia’s most up-market residential areas.
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Today the vibrant local community comprise of both the ‘hippies’ and the ‘yuppies’ which includes backpackers, holidaymakers, musicians, artists and celebrities, the most famous being Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth. When in town he can be seen surfing, walking to the shops, or dropping kids off to school. He does so with ease, as locals don’t bother their celebrity residents. It’s a Byron custom to leave people on their own irrespective of what they do. That’s a great feature of the place. Perhaps that’s why the ‘hippies’ and the ‘yuppies’ still live there happily, modest hostels stand not too far from five-star luxury resorts, and backpackers surf alongside wealthy entrepreneurs and celebrities not particularly knowing who they are.
The name Byron Bay is synonymous with wellness, though it’s not a modern phenomenon. According to Indigenous elders, the domain has been a sacred healing ground for tens of thousands of years. The air here was believed by them to be filled with a kind
of charged energy that thrived from the lava of a partly eroded volcano that erupted 23 million years ago. The lava over time turned into magnetic rock on which the settlement of Bryon Bay evolved.
Undoubtedly locals and visitors alike are seduced by its indefinable magical qualities. People move here to have life-changing experiences. A good example is Karen, a French woman who arrived here from France almost two decades ago and then made Byron Bay her home. An author of several books, she currently lives at this spectacular seafront location promoting happiness and wellbeing through the practice of meditation, mindfulness and self-development.
In recent times, Byron Bay has become a magnet for anyone keen on combining wellness with vacation, or for having a holiday to recharge weary and urbanised mind, body and soul. The place is full of hubs offering regular meditation classes, yoga lessons, Ayurveda treatments and other life-changing practices to lift one’s spirit.
Even the various accommodation outlets have wellness structured into their offering by providing yoga and meditation lessons, therapeutic treatments, physical activities, and healthy diet options.
Most of these health and wellbeing routines have their roots in India. This inspired me to sense a flavour of ‘Indianism’ in the place: Bombay to Byron is the name of a popular Indian restaurant that appealed to me as a reflection of that.
Splendid nature displayed by the combo of a series of pristine beaches and surrounding lush green hinterland escalates the wellness factor of Byron Bay. While playing with sea and sand under the sun diverts the mind from everything else, walking through the serene and shady rainforest or dipping body into a swimming hole at the bottom of a waterfall creates magical healing effects.
While the wellness part of the place is pretty hyped, its party-town reputation can’t be ignored. Considering chilling out as another avenue for recharging batteries, many go there simply to have a good time. To cater for this the township boasts of several vibrant cafes, restaurants and bars to welcome them, while local breweries and distilleries keep supplying the beer and the gin, both highly rated by connoisseurs.
Getting There: It’s a 40-minute drive from Gold Coast Airport with direct flights from several Aussie cities, and 30-minutr drive from Ballina airport with direct flights from Sydney. By road it’s around 750km from Sydney and 160km from Brisbane.
Accommodation: Combining wellness, luxury, natural setting and comfort, Crystalbrook Byron is a good choice.
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