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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
January 2009 Email this to a friend

Byron Bay
Explore the coastal paradise where Oz boys escape for the waves, the diving and even whale-watching

By Staff reports

Oasis Resort, Byron Bay
At Oasis Resort, Byron Bay

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Byron Bay article click DailyXtraTravel

Located on the easternmost point of the Australian mainland, the idyllic subtropical shire of Byron Bay draws its name from circumnavigator John Byron, grandpa to bisexual poet Lord Byron.

Famous for the Cape Byron Lighthouse and stunning beaches with surfers galore, Byron Bay has established a resort town status for itself, quite a cry from its past as a whaling station and abattoir. Many escapees from the world over continue to throng to this coastal bohemia, and many never leave. Some claim that the largest concentration of gays and lesbians Down Under can be found between Byron Bay, and nearby Lismore and Nimbin.

While Byron Bay is chocker with beaches (such as The Wreck, Clarks Beach, The Pass, Wategos, and Tallow Beach), one is extra-special: 279 steps down a well-traipsed rainforest track (at the Broken Head Nature Reserve) lies Kings Beach, the official gay nudist white-sand beach, and quite the place to kindle new friendships or cement time-tried ones.

Accommodations

Byron Bay offers it all from humble backpacker tents to super-luxurious digs.

Amber Gardens Guest House (66 Plantation Dr, Ewingsdale; +61-2-6684-8215) is a gay-owned B&B set in an acre of secluded gardens with chic creature comforts. Sumptuous breakfasts on the wide verandahs overlooking manicured lawns.

BreakFree Eco Beach Resort (35-37 Shirley St; +61-2-6639-5700) is a relatively new resort complex offering studio and one-bedroom apartments close to the town center and the beaches.

Set within a stunning 45-acre lush rainforest by Tallow Beach, find Byron at Byron at Byron Resort and Spa (77-97 Broken Head Rd, Suffolk Park +61-2-6639-2000). The resort's facilities include a tennis court, pool, gym, restaurant, bar, spa, and yoga studio.

You can't get closer to the beach than at the well-appointed Friday on the Beach, (45 Lawson St; +61-2-6685-5513) a luxury boutique property which prides itself on a personal touch.

Gaia Retreat & Spa (933 Fernleigh Rd, Brooklet; +61-2-6687-1216), co-owned by Olivia Newton-John, is nestled amongst green valleys and undulating hills near the town of Bangalow. Elegant accommodations, nourishing cuisine, day-spa pampering, tennis courts, a sparkling pool, and breathtaking views -- all are offered here.

Positioned on the edge of Arakwal National Park, with Tallow Beach just a stroll away, you'll find self-contained resort apartments and contemporary style tree-top holiday houses at Oasis Resort (24 Scott St; +61-2-6685-7390). A heated pool, outdoor spa/sauna, tennis courts, gym, and in-house beauty treatments are among the delights awaiting you.

Rae's on Wategos (8 Marine Parade, Watego's Beach; +61-2-66-855-366) has been heralded as one of Australia's most exquisite experiences. At this seven-room boutique retreat, you may avail of opulent private space that is popular with both discreet lovers and celebrities. An intimate, high-caliber spa on premises, and a 60-seat al fresco dining room overlooking the ocean and fusing Aussie and Thai flavors, are all part of the bliss.

At Tallow Beach Motel (108 Alcorn St; +61-2-6685-3369), tucked a few meters from the beach itself, the offerings include seven self-contained rooms (some with sun room) with kitchenette and basic amenities.

Villas of Byron Bay (19-23 Gordon St; +61-2-6685-5390) is truly a soul sanctuary, offering the finest in luxury high-walled villas, each with its own heated pool and spa set in tropical Zen gardens. Private outdoor showers, myriad creature comforts, and hand-crafted Balinese furniture are highlights, along with a day spa.

Shopping

With a tag line "We don't look good, unless you do," Eye Spy (2-11 Jonson St; +61 2 6685 7831) stocks most major Australian and international brands of sunglasses and boasts the largest and most diverse range of sunglasses on the East Coast of the country.

2481 Concept Store (2/4 Cavanbah Arcade, Johnson S; +61 2 6680 8008) vends superb surf accessories, winter surf clothing, Rashies (sun protective clothing made from Lycra), T-shirts, et al with much oomph.

Restaurants

Mokha Restaurant (Feros Arcade Shop 2, 14 Lawson S; +61 2 6685 7726). Byron Bay's only gay owned café serves great food at value prices. This licensed venue offers a deck overlooking Lawson St, the main drag in down, with a stunning view of surfer lads sporting just shorts and a grin. Free wireless access is an added perk.

Ross & Michael's Dish Restaurant (Shop 4 Johnson St @ Marvell St) is the only gay owned restaurant around. Merging a subtle relationship between art, food, and design, Dish's approach is evident in the cuisine. With its chic Santa Fe decor, superb cuisine and a world-class selection of wines, beers, spirits and cocktails, it is recognized as one of Australia's best regional restaurants.

Outdoor Adventures

Kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling and whale watching are all a plenty in the Byron Bay area. Apropos, Byron Bay Adventure Centre (2/9 Marvel St; +61-2 -6680-7906), the one-stop-shop located in the heart of the town, provides you with everything you need: electric choppers, bikes, surfboard and beach gear, and more!

Byron Bay Adventure can also arrange for you to sky dive and get a spread-eagle view of Byron Bay from 14,000 feet via Skydive Byron Bay (Tyagarah Airport; +61-2-6684-1323). Full-time professional and highly qualified staff - members of the Australian Parachute Federation - cater to needs of daredevils and those that need a little nudging. Take in the breathtaking views of Mount Warning out to the west, see stunning Cape Byron and beaches as far as the eye can see - even whale-watch from the sky!

Queer parties

Many a queer party is hosted in the town of Lismore under the moniker of Tropical Fruits (Tropicalfruits.org). Boys from Brisbane in the north and Sydney in the south wend their way here for lots of rollicking experiences usually hosted for New Years, Easter, Queen's Birthday, and special gay benefits.

Another distinctly Byron Bay place of interest, the Arts Factory Village (Skinners Shoot Rd) incorporates the Buddha Bar Restaurant, the Byron Lounge Cinema, Buddha Gardens Day Spa, and the Arts Factory Backpackers Lodge. This five acre, subtropical haven with heated pool, sauna, and hammocks has laid back vibe imparted by hippies and artists who created the place. Ten minutes walk from the beach, accommodations include teepees, bungalows, dorms, doubles and camping. Take workshops of Didgeridoo making or Yoga; play games of table tennis, basketball or volleyball; record your songs at Buzz, their recording studio. DJ’s, live bands, fire twirling performances and talent shows are evening attractions.

Personalized Fitness

An exclusive boutique gym, Original Fitness (15 Browning St; +61 2 6680 8383) provides a comfortable, air-conditioned and relaxing environment for personal fitness. Facilities include the latest in state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment and truly personal guidance courtesy of charming owner Matt.

Getting There

Ballina airport is the closest domestic connection to Byron Bay, whereas international flights land at Brisbane airport two hours north. Cyber resources for more info on the area include Byronbaypinkguide.com, Byrongay.com, and Byronbaynow.com.

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