A little known fact about me is that I spent 7 years; from the ages 2-9; in the Northern NSW town of Lismore; it was home. Less than an hour's drive from Lismore is Byron Bay; the stunning jewel of Australia's coastline and where I've spent more weekends, holidays and long weekends than almost anywhere else on this Earth.
My family had a holiday home there for many years, just one block from the beach and a 10 minute walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Put simply - it was heaven.
I'm so grateful for the memories that I have from this gorgeous coastal town and heading back there always feels like home. So last week when flying in over Byron as a birthday surprise for my hubby, I was feeling pretty frickin' excited.
As usual before visiting anywhere, I'd compiled a list of places I wanted to eat at, visit, practice yoga in and so on.... In fact, while we were away and enjoying an epic slow-cooked lamb shoulder, Tippy asked me how I knew about these places?
I'm fortunate enough to have visited Byron frequently so I know the area well plus I have a dear friend who now calls the place home though really and truly I make it my mission to know these things. I read everything, blogs, reviews, industry mags, whatever... Then I visit and make my own decision. In this case I decided that a Nourishing Guide to Byron was in order for you.
Nourishing because it's about more than just food.
When people go away they often relax their daily schedules and regimens, I do too and I love that. However what I also love is to feel better not worse than my non-holiday self, so drinking, not exercising and eating poorly just won't do.
What's vital to me is feeling well-located, comfortable, nourished and relaxed all at the same time. Byron Bay delivered all of that to me. Can I go back now?
Known to many as the hippie-centre of Australia, Byron is a place that people can't help but love, hippie or otherwise. Its' slower pace of life, crystal clear beaches and stunning hinterland combined with a whole food movement; that's more a given than a movement; and a sophisticated edge that really brings this town to life.
As well as the below guide I want to tell you to hire a car when you visit and spend some time exploring the Byron hinterland and surrounding towns; you won't be disappointed.
Where to stay
For chic and modern accommodation right in the heart of Byron, you can't go past the Atlantic Byron Bay. We stayed in a studio room and with access to the gorgeous shared kitchen and deck, we felt right at home. For a few days this room was perfect, even providing a free DVD library for those rainy afternoons, though the property has options to suit all needs and couldn't be better located. Fluffy towels, scented candles, private access, rain shower head and quiet. Peaceful it may be though it's still only a 5 minute walk to the main beach and a 2 minute walk to the best coffee in Byron (more later) and that's all pretty perfect in my mind.
Where to move
After a whole heap of research, I decided to go with a local-type yoga studio experience and Ananta certainly provided me with that. Although located on the main street of Byron, the studio feels like a world away from anything else and my flow+ teacher Nikki made me want to come back every morning. Ananta means limitless or boundless in Sanskrit and is the unique type of yoga taught at this newer studio. Although catering to all levels, my early morning yoga class really pushed me and I loved it! A 90 minute fantastic practice with an incredibly experienced teacher for $15 and within walking distance? Yes please!
A beach so perfect that I grin from ear-to-ear the whole time I'm there. Known more as a locals-beach, this beach is accessed by car, driving towards the lighthouse from the town centre and staying straight. It's small and beautiful, with the lighthouse behind you, never-ending sets of waves rolling in and fabulous people to look at everywhere. Surfer boys and girls, hang-gliders in the sky, families, backpackers who've journeyed away from Main Beach and everyone in between.
Well worth the trip though I suggest packing your own snacks as the only options you'll have there are the incredible and super special Rae's at Wategos and a cool coffee/smoothie van that comes by on good days.
Possibly the best walking track in the country; just a couple of hours and you'll experience the breathtaking views that have made Byron famous the world over. Along beaches, up high into the bushland, past the grand lighthouse and soaking in stunning views of the ocean and surrounding hinterland the entire time. It wouldn't be strange to spot turtles, dolphins and even whales in the water on your walk!
The official track is 3.7km and the loop takes around 2 hours however I strongly suggest leaving the car and if staying in town, starting the walk there, along the main beachfront and back.
Take water with you, your swimmers, some good walking shoes and enjoy the best of Byron for free whilst getting moving at the same time!
Where to shop
Let's face it, to me the most crucial purchase is that of delicious food and if you're in town on a Thursday morning you need to get your butt to the local markets.
Longstanding, cheap, diverse and without an ounce of pretension - my kind of market. Join the locals grabbing their seasonal and delicious organic fruit & veggies as well as stunning local blooms and speciality products. FYI - sunflower sprouts, bananas + Coopers Shoot local tomatoes are my top picks from the area.
Unique, quirky and stylish; this store is just gorgeous and if you're in the market for home-like bits, you may find it hard to leave with your wallet closed. The fact that it's across the road from the best coffee in town and next to the most incredible raw food I've ever eaten is another point all together...
Bohemian, vibrant and chic all at the same time is this gorgeous ladies wear brand hailing from Byron itself. With their HQ and a gorgeous boutique in town, Spell is an inspiring and gorgeous brand that 2 Melbournite sisters have built from scratch in just a few years... and one of my faves!
Where to eat
Let's kick off with coffee, the best coffee that is. Bayleaf Cafe is so much more than good coffee though and it's my favourite all-round cafe in town. Situated in a great spot making the most of the gorgeous sunshine, featuring friendly staff and delicious bites too. It's mere minutes from the Atlantic if you're staying there and they don't mind if you decide to go local as I did and ditch the shoes. Fresh juices made on site everyday and served in super cute glass bottles, local Coopers Shoot tomatoes on the menu and some super interesting combos to whet your appetite.
The very first post on this blog way back in February 2013 in fact featured Bayleaf and its' kale tabouli as the first kale dish that I loved!
"At The Roadhouse we dedicate our lives to sourcing the highest grade naturally-grown local produce." Ah hello awesomeness! If only more cafe and restaurants considered this their purpose.
This much-loved local cafe & bar (even I ran into someone I knew) is a newer kid on the block and was our first stop into town. I loved the casual layout and quality menu inclusions as much as watching the locals with their kids, dogs, laptops and whatever else in tow. The fact that they use my absolute-favourite local sunflower sprouts is just icing on the cake!
I know why raw food gets a rough review and in fact that reputation is what motivates me to create delicious raw food myself. I passionately believe that it need not be bland or boring and the team at Naked Treaties certainly get that. Located right next to Ahoy Trader, this Byron treasure is a must-try for even the most sceptical. The raw, vegan and organic menu is extensive, the smoothie offering especially (each comes complete with its' own affirmation) and as well as delicious raw treats, there's savoury dishes to enjoy.
Our final breakfast in Byron - buckwheat crepes with vegan pesto, salad and delicious fresh coconut water all served with a smile and a whole lot of love. A blessed space where you feel right at home eating delicious and nourishing food.
Located at the top of a hill from where our family holiday house was, this milk bar/cafe/takeaway was a pleasant surprise! Even my friends at Bare Blends have jumped onto this place since their move up north a few months ago and I love that with your delicious, quality burger, steak sandwich or quinoa salad you can order a smoothie with Bare Blends premium supplements.
After a morning at the beach, sit outside on the grass or inside on one of the communal tables and soak up