Every morning, whatever the weather, a group of dedicated individuals make their way to the deck of the Byron Bay Surf Club and prepare for their morning ocean swim. They are known as the Stingrays.
At 8am sharp, the group take the 20-minute stroll down to the Pass. Some run, and others walk. Some come with snorkels and goggles, and others with nothing more than a swimming cap. Some are young, and others well over seventy. The diversity of the group is one thing that makes the swim so appealing.
Once at the pass, the swimmers dive into the ocean. They swim back to the Surf Club regardless of whether the water is warm and pristine, or cold and choppy. The Stingrays often spot sea turtles and tropical fish. And, whale sightings are common June through November.
While some have done the approximately 2.5km swim every morning for decades, newbies are always welcomed. The organised ocean swim is free, and provides a unique opportunity to experience another side of Byron Bay together with competent swimmers.
If you become tired mid-way through the swim, you can make your way to the beach and walk back to the Surf Club. The swim is not competitive. For the Stingrays, the experience is about connecting to the ocean, and soaking up that blissful sense of joy, freedom, and accomplishment.
For many locals, the ocean swim is a celebration of living in Byron Bay, one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Byron’s new Elements of Byron resort has just been named by Forbes Magazine as among the 25 Coolest Hotels in the World. They share this accolade with only one other Australian property, the Old Clare Hotel in Sydney.
It has been a good month for the beachfront resort, which was also shortlisted in the Hotel Design category of this year’s SBID (Society of British Interior Design) International Design Awards. Entries were received from 43 countries and the Elements of Byron interior design is the only Australasian finalist selected by the technical panel of judges in this category. The Awards are one of the most prestigious recognitions of excellence in the interior design industry.
Further, Elements of Byron received a Highly Commended Award in the Hotel Interior Design category at the 2016 HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence, held in Sydney on Friday 2nd September.
Elements of Byron owner Peggy Flannery worked closely with Interior Designer Rowena Cornwell and local artists to bring her vision for the resort to life. “Byron Bay is such an exciting place” said Rowena Cornwell. “There is a strong entrepreneurial youth culture. The intention was to create environments that were sexy, with a sophisticated edge but still very accessible”.
Mullumbimby Artist Noel Hart spent months studying species found on the property to produce four layered oil paint, pigment and charcoal on jute paintings to adorn the private dining room for sixteen. Celebrating the four unique ecologies on the site – eucalypt, wetland, rainforest and dunal – the paintings are reinterpreted in works throughout the 94 villas.
Moving from sandy whites to tonal ocean blues, the resort’s soft colour palette lets nature do the talking. Soft copper reflects the underside of a banksia leaf while deep bronzes reference Belongil Creek. Surprise pops of vibrancy – hot orange, fiery corals and rich reds pay homage to the native birds which visit or call the property home. The black cockatoo, a strong totem for Elements of Byron, is acknowledged through five blown glass works by Noel Hart in the lobby.
Byron hinterland Artist Suvira McDonald’s majestic in/outdoor hanging metal sculpture Khorus blends the lobby lounge with the dining spaces. His training in classical ballet is evident in the grace of this work which stands five metres tall and ten wide. McDonald also contributed a five metre ceramic landscape mural for the Banksia Pavilion Bar as well as hanging ceramic works for the Central Pavilion guest bathrooms.
Winners of the SBID International Design Awards will be announced at The Dorchester hotel London on 25 November. View the finalists at www.sbidawards.com.
Spring is synonymous with festivity and with a 10th anniversary to celebrate as well as new dates the 2016 Byron Bay International Film Festival will see NSW's Northern Rivers abuzz with this world-class event from the 14th to the 23rd October.
BBFF is considered by many to be one of Australia’s most dynamic film festivals and is renowned for its diverse and entertaining program of compelling and thought-provoking films as well as its glamorous red carpet parties. The Festival's 10th Opening Night will be the most dazzling to date - a glittering night at the Byron Theatre where the stars won't just be in the sky.
As it's grown over the past decade the festival has become a valuable platform for local and international filmmakers - bringing together passionate and aware audiences with emerging and esteemed industry professionals, connecting the film-loving and filmmaking communities together through conversation and collaboration within a wide array of screening sessions, Q&A's, panels and gala events.
The program is packed with variety and satisfies all tastes - over 10 days BBFF screens everything from films for or made by kids to surf and action, animation, emotionally charged documentaries and outstanding dramatic features from around the world. Providing audiences with cutting-edge storytelling experiences has always been at the heart of the BBFF experience and this year the festival is giving audience members the opportunity to dive into new dimensions with a selection of the world's best Virtual Reality experiences.
The Festival's full program will be announced in September, for more details visit www.bbff.com.au.
Byron Writers Festival marked its 20th year with its strongest and best received program yet, breaking box office records and presenting a festival full of history making moments like Stan Grant’s Thea Astley Lecture that people will continue to talk about for years to come.
Blue skies broke for our 'True Believers' Leigh Sales, Kerry O'Brien and Sarah Ferguson on Festival Friday Pic: Evan Malcolm
After severe storm damage on the Wednesday night, it took a gargantuan effort to open the gates on Friday morning. I would like to thank the Festival team, the volunteers, our partners and everyone in the community who all went above and beyond to make it happen. Also to our wonderful patrons who remained good-humoured and enthusiastic despite the weather.
How heartbreaking it would have been if we hadn’t been able to listen to the beautiful Festival conversations that moved us so profoundly. Our storytellers are our most important teachers and I would like to thank all the writers and people who chaired each session for leading us on incredible journeys over the three days. It is my sincerest hope that all of us who witnessed those stories carry them out into our communities so that the conversations continue to live on.
The Byron Flea is the only youth-focused market in Australia
The Flea is a Byron Youth Service initiative inviting people of all ages to gather, shop, relax, support emerging designers, Byron creatives, and young entrepreneurs.
Nestled in the iconic YAC amphitheatre right in the middle of Byron township, the market offers stallholders a cool space to operate in a hassle-free, fully approved site with low-cost marquee and rug spaces offered.
Second Saturday of every month 8am - 2pm
There is parking on Gilmore Crescent or at the end of Tennyson Street.
Sunny and warm winter days reaching 27 degrees made for a very comfortable three days in which to enjoy the music, art and food. The North Byron Parklands festival site has so many different vantage points to explore - we ended up walking over 45kms!
My eldest daughter and I enjoyed seeing the headline acts each night, the energetic emerging artists each day, the Wil Anderson & friends Comedy Club, The Global Village and the excellent variety of food. For me, I'm still humming 'Cattle and Cane', making Robert Forster in the GW McLennan Tent my personal highlight of Splendour 2016.
My personal highlight, Robert Forster in the GW McLennan Tent
Here's a selection of images from the Splendour in the Grass 2016 - looking forward to seeing you all again next year!
Held upstairs at the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club, the Mullum Uke Club sees enthusiasts from around the region get together and celebrate the ukulele.
Mullumbimby resident Stu, known as Stukulele, formed the club back in 2011. Along with his passion for all things music, Stu has extensive experience teaching children and adults ukulele. He wanted a place for his students to play together, and the Mullum Uke Club was born. The monthly meet-ups proved to be incredibly popular, with a regular attendance of between 70 and 200 people.
Meetings take place on the last Thursday of each month. Ukulele players of all levels and ages come together to sing and play songs from a themed monthly songbook, which can be downloaded from the Mullum Uke Club’s newsletter. The songbook contains 20 well-known songs suitable for beginners and seasoned players alike. Players are welcomed to suggest songs, too.
Those who intend to play will need to bring their own ukulele, and if possible, a tuner. If you don’t have one, you’re welcome to come along, watch, and sing. Kids of all ages and adults just starting out are encouraged to play – the number one objective of the Mullum Uke Club is to have fun.
This month, the Mullum Uke Club is turning 5! Players will celebrate with the Songs of the Silver Screen songbook. Plus, singer-songwriter Leigh Carriage will be attending the birthday meet-up on July 28 at 6:30pm. Entry is $12.50 for adults, and $2.50 for children under 10.
Byron Bay is one of Australia’s best destinations to spot the majestic humpback whale on its annual migration from cold Antarctic waters to warmer breeding grounds off the coast of Queensland.
Every year between May and November, an estimated average of 17,000 whales migrate north past the east coast of Australia. Humpback whales are believed to use landmarks to navigate their migration route, causing them to swim close to the coastline. As the country’s most easterly point, Byron Bay is spoilt with up-close views of these incredible creatures.
The International Whale Census Day, held on the last Sunday of June, sees dedicated volunteer whale enthusiasts and visitors count the humpbacks as they pass Cape Byron. In 2016, the count was expected to reach 25,000. However, humpbacks remain listed as vulnerable in New South Wales.
The best vantage point for whale watching on land is the Cape Byron Lighthouse, which stands over the Cape Byron Marine Park. Built over 200 years ago, the lighthouse is accessible by car or by foot, and offers unparalleled panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Whale Watching Byron Bay can get you even closer to the humpbacks with a number of ocean tours available in Byron Bay. Witness the whales breaching off the coast with a 2.5-hour Whale Watching Cruise. The tour, which departs everyday June through November, accommodates a maximum of 12 people. In addition to whales, customers often see turtles, dolphins, and ocean birds.
Cape Byron Kayaks tours taken during whale season are an exciting way to glimpse the humpbacks from the water. There’s nothing quite like seeing such a huge animal so close up!
Adventure to the stunning Killen Falls, take a drive through the hinterland’s rolling hills, indulge in lunch at Doma Cafe, and take in the breathtaking beauty of Minyon Falls. This day trip showcases some of the best the Byron Shire has to offer.
Located a short 30-minute drive from Byron Bay, Killen Falls is an incredible waterfall and swimming hole surrounded by dense, green rainforest, and eroded rocks. The 10m waterfall, a part of Emigrant Creek, can be accessed by a short walking track. Be aware, this track is pretty rocky and slippery with a steep decline, so may not be suitable for young children. The track will lead you right to the base of the roaring falls – it’s spectacular.
What makes Killen Falls so special is the cave-like rocks that surround the water; you can even walk and sit behind the waterfall without getting wet!
Drive Through Byron’s Hinterland
After Killen Falls, drive north into Federal. The scenic half-hour drive winds through back roads, under towering trees, and past picture-perfect views. Byron is well-known for it’s world-class beaches, and the countryside is just as beautiful.
Lunch at Doma Cafe
Situated in the quiet village of Federal, Doma Cafe is a well-known lunch-spot loved by locals and visitors alike. A unique blend of cafe classics and Japanese specialties makes for some of the most unique (and delicious) dishes in the area. Think halloumi burgers topped with Japanese hash brown, and huge sushi cones too pretty to eat. In addition, there’s a variety of cakes and great coffee.
All of this is served in a laidback ‘back yard’ environment, complete with dogs and chickens!
After lunch, head to Minyon Falls. Situated a 30-minute drive from Doma Cafe, Minyon Falls is a showcase of nature’s beauty in the Nightcap National Park. The waterfall cascades over 100m of rhyolite cliffs, which once were a part of the huge Tweed Volcano. The tops of these cliffs are dotted with towering Australian eucalyptus trees, including blackbutt and scribbly gum. The waterfall rains into a natural pool, ideal for swimming in in the warmer months.
Minyon Falls can be viewed from the Minyon Falls Lookout, or on the 7.5km Minyon Falls loop walking track, which is quite difficult and takes about 4 hours to complete.
After the second waterfall of the day, head home to Byron Bay, which is about an hours drive east.
The Cape Byron Walking Track winds 3.7km through lush rainforest and along clifftops and beaches, stopping by at the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse. This coastal trail offers spectacular views of some of Australia’s best beaches and can take anywhere from one to three hours to complete. For a truly memorable experience, start your walk an hour or two before sunset. This way, you can add a splash of vibrant, autumnal colour to the already breathtaking views.
3. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse
If the weather is less than ideal, or if you’re just not feeling up to the walk, you can just as easily park your car at the lighthouse and skip to the highlight of the trail. Built in 1901, Cape Byron Lighthouse is one of Byron Bay’s biggest attractions, drawing over half a million visitors every year. Thanks to its status as Australia’s most easterly point, the lighthouse offers uninterrupted, panoramic views of the Byron Bay hinterland, ocean, and unending coastline.
4. Start Your Morning at Beach Byron Bay
Perched high on the dunes overlooking Main Beach and the ocean beyond, Beach Byron Bay (formerly ‘Byron Beach Cafe’) is one of the most scenic places to dine in Byron Bay. Enjoy a coffee as you watch the sun rise from furthest corners of the horizon, or treat yourself to a meal on the outdoor deck accompanied by the sound of crashing waves below. Beach Byron Bay is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
Consider soaking up Byron Bay from an entirely different perspective: from the seat of a kayak. There are few better ways to get up close and personal with the ocean and its inhabitants than by gliding through the crystal clear waters of Cape Byron Marine Park in a sea kayak. Book a tour to get the most from your time on the water and get the chance to encounter turtles, dolphins, whales, and other marine life. With many tour companies providing snacks and drinks, plus wetsuits in the cooler months, it’s easier than ever to get out on the waters of Byron Bay.
6. Grab a Pint at the Beach Hotel
For over 25 years, the Beach Hotel has been one of Byron Bay’s busiest food, drink and entertainment venues. On sunny days, the hotel’s beer garden is a great spot to enjoy a frosty beverage with the locals along with the stellar view. Evenings at the Beach Hotel often feature live music from established bands, as well as up and coming artists. Consider stopping at Main Beach’s only beachfront pub for a drink, a meal, and a priceless view.