Byron Bay and Beyond

As I hit the 5 month mark of living back in Australia, I've finally made good on a promise to see more of the country I've called home for most of my life. This trip to see Byron Bay was exactly what I needed to break the consecutive winters!

If you know me at all, you'll know that I'm kind of (a lot) obsessed with instagram, and every so often something will completely invade my insta feed. When Halcyon House opened mid-2016, it did just that, and I immediately promoted Byron Bay and nearby Cabarita Beach (where Halcyon House is located) to the top of my list of Aussie places to visit. Luckily for me, Phoebe, one of my favourite travel buddies (and #bestfriendsofinstagram, thanks Phoebs) was equally keen!

I didn't time my move back from London very well, following up a typically grey London winter with a similarly dour Melbourne one. A dose of vitamins D and Sea were exactly what I needed, so this trip to Cabarita could not have been better timed. The weather was spectacular (sunny and 25 degrees Celsius, ie. better than London summer), the ocean water warm, and before I'd been there 12 hours, I knew I would be back.

I now understand why people are so obsessed with Byron (though I wasn't particularly enamoured with the township). Whether you're after relaxation time, or a more activity filled holiday, the beaches and the hinterland have you covered. Scroll through my visual diary for some of my favourites, and as always, I'd love to hear from you! L x

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STAY

Having such high expectations can sometimes be a danger, especially when those expectations have been setup by instagram (if you've had a bad instagram shopping experience, you'll understand what I mean). Despite this, Halcyon House, exceeded every expectation (and proved crazily photogenic).

Located in Cabarita Beach, Halcyon House is about halfway between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay; only 20 minutes drive from Gold Coast Airport. The 21 room boutique hotel, formerly a motel, was masterfully transformed by architect Virginia Kerridge and designer Anna Spiro.

The property has direct access to the beach, perfect for those morning and sunset swims. Poolside, you're treated to the comfiest pool loungers and tastiest poolside snacks - king prawn sandwich with salt and vinegar chips, anyone? And if you're lucky, you might be treated to an impromptu poolside frozen margarita or iced coffee.

Which brings me to the food... Paper Daisy is headed by Noma alum, Ben Devlin, who takes a Noma-style approach to his food - serving beautiful inventive plates of local seasonal produce. The breakfasts were a stand out, with so many great dishes, that I opted for the Hot Smoked Fish & Scrambled Eggs PLUS the Homemade Wholewheat Crumpets on our final day! Our dinner at Paper Daisy was a highlight for me; I won't be forgetting the Paperbark Grilled Mackerel any time soon. 

The real reason I'll be back though, is the hospitality. The hotel is managed by Mauro de Riso; who with his staff are incredibly welcoming and willing to help. Halcyon House is certainly not accommodation on a budget, but you certainly get what you pay for (all of the above, plus bicycles, Sunday morning yoga, complimentary minibar). I can't wait to visit again next year.


SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES

To explore the area, you'll want to hire a car, so of course we hired a Jeep Wrangler just for giggles (and the 'gram). Based in the Gold Goast, George from Jeepz, was very easy to deal with, personally delivering the car to the airport and giving us an in depth tutorial on using the roof (we still managed to forget one of the steps and it took us FOREVER to get the top down the first time!). The service was exceptional and our ride was way cooler than us (despite it being bright orange and not the black I had hoped for... damn faulty battery).

The coastline is a stunner, plus the water is delicious (in the figurative sense). We spent the most time at Cabarita and Wategos beaches. There are great walks from and along both beaches, but a walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse is a must. If you can time your walk with sunset, you're in for a real treat.

Another instagram find, Comma describes itself as a modern Australian massage and relaxation experience. It only opened a week before our visit, but there were no teething problems here. The brainchild of Susie McIntosh, Comma has already been featured by Vogue Living online and lives up to the hype. Designed by Eloise Fotheringham, the space is tranquil, minimal, and it feels Australian (much of the furniture is Byron Bay made and designed). I had one of the signature treatments 'The Vessel,' an hour of body brushing, moisturising, and massage - it was heaven. If you're in or near Byron and you enjoy a massage, Comma is a must visit (obviously make sure you book beforehand).

The Byron Bay area is known for a particular style when it comes to fashion, and the whole boho thing is not exactly my vibe (understatement of the year). But there were a few gems, including the insanely beautiful Johansen in Bangalow, offering luxe basics; ArnhemMister Zimi (super cute fitout as per usual); and I finally found the perfect pair of vintage cutoff Levi's at Miss Brown Vintage.

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FOOD & DRINK

Obviously, dinner at Paper Daisy, at Halcyon House is a must for the foodies. Breakfast, brunch, and their snacks are more of a casual affair, but just as highly recommended. Everything is delicious.

The Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Byron Bay is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, serving up delicious food with produce from the local area. The lamb we had was particularly memorable.

Recommended by a Byron Bay loving friend of mine, Leash, Bayleaf Cafe's food is fresh, nutritious, and yum. Unfortunately I didn't get to check out Leash's favourite breakfast spot, Top Shop, but it's on the list for next time!

With stunning views of Wategos beach, the restaurant at Rae's on Wategos is a special treat long lunch kind of venue. Admire the views, say hello to the resident kookaburra, and enjoy the BEST espresso martini of your life (it's a big call, but not unwarranted). Oh and the seafood, is pretty amazing too (spanner carb linguine)! Do the lighthouse walk after lunch if you're feeling any guilt for overindulging.

Craft brewing has become hugely popular in the last few years, and Byron based Stone & Wood are one of the heavy hitters on the Aussie craft brewing scene. Beer fans should definitely visit for a tasting paddle, with tours available for the die-hards (people literally make a pilgrimage to the brewery).