This past week has been far from ordinary for us. And what a way to celebrate the end of July too! We spent the latter half of last week exploring the best that Byron Bay has to offer. Just a few kilometres south of the Queensland border, this pearl of the New South Wales coastline has been a favourite of all kinds of traveller for years.
From tree-changing Aussies, cashed-up retirees and retreat-seeking yoga enthusiasts to crusty hippies, all kinds of local and of course itinerant backpackers (which is how I first found Byron) the wealth and depth of people you’ll typically find here is incredible.
Thanks to the broad spectrum of people here in this beautiful little seaside region, there’s pretty much every kind of activity, accommodation and interest catered in the Cape Byron area. And here’s a snippet of what we did.
Welcome to our latest instalment of the IG Edition!
Flying conditions couldn’t be better as we leave Sydney. It’s clear, bright and our flight path takes us right over the city. Plus it’s a bit bloody chilly down there now, so we’re excited about being a bit warmer in Byron Bay. It’s only an hour and a half flight norther but the difference is going to be profound. Or so we hope!
Straight off the plane, we’re in amongst the food scene! Our lunch at the Roadhouse Cafe and Bar just outside Byron is looking very welcoming. It’s all so fresh and delicious – the fish tacos are very popular here and now we know why. Not first date material, but the fun’s in the wipe-down!
The greens are so fresh and crisp and the brussels sprouts come with smoked hock bacon and fresh parmesan. Excellent!
For the next couple of nights, we’ll be resting our head here – well, not exactly here; this is the pool. It’s connected to the day spa at Gaia Retreat in the beautiful hinterland overlooking mainland Australia’s most easterly point.
Gaia is a truly unique place. You feel relaxed and more zen as soon as you walk through the doors. This spa and pool just add to that feeling. I think we’ll be leaving here with the lowest of stress levels!
Our hotel might be very relaxed but what we’re up to today isn’t! It is still very zen though: we’re kayaking out into the bay to look for humpback whales! They’re currently on their annual migration up the east coast of Australia. It’s the biggest migration in the world, so we’re pretty confident we’ll see some.
There are also dolphins, and green and loggerhead turtles all over the place. Plus sharks… but we’re not focusing on them!
This tour is with Go Sea Kayak, and it’s the best kayaking experience we’ve had. The guides are all really friendly, and really invested in the conservation of the nature of the area and the kayaks are in great condition. Plus the guides take photos for you while you’re out on the water and upload them all to their Facebook page. You can see, download and save any of the photos free of charge, which I think is an amazing service. Big fans of these guys.
This photo’s credited to Go Sea Kayak by the way. 😉
Back at Gaia, the sun sets right over the mountains and into the hinterland of Cape Byron. It’s such a beautiful spot here in the day, but evening here is even more of a knockout!
Gaia Retreat is on some serious acreage, which means there are daybeds and lookouts like this all over the property. Mrs Romance and I just can’t believe somewhere this peaceful exists – and so close to Sydney too.
Our room at Gaia is… well, it’s amazing. This bath pretty much sizes up our digs though. Opulent yet sophisticated, beautifully designed and crafted, spacious and – most of all – made for relaxation and indulgence.
Tonight we’re dining at one of the most understated restaurants we’ve ever been to. This is Harvest Restaurant in the cute little town of Newrybar. The menu is so simply put, yet the food that comes out is intelligently cooked, well-balanced and exquisitely plated. We’ve gone with the degustation with matched wines – and I think we’ve chosen extremely well.
We’ll be sharing more with you later about Harvest, but just to give you a bit of an idea of what they do here, they not only cook supremely good food and have masterful, elegant and friendly service, they also run cooking (and drinking) classes, have a bakery and run a cafe here too. It’s amazing. I’m amazed. This is amazement!
We’ve moved! Somehow we’ve left Gaia and have headed to the brand new resort of Elements of Byron Bay just outside Byron Bay town itself. However, it feels like you’re a lot further from civilisation than that while you’re here. This is the beach that the resort sits just behind – in fact we’re still standing in the resort for this sunset!
What a beautiful spot, and the rooms are amazing too. All rooms here are detached villas that are dotted across the enormous property, which also houses a couple of lakes, a huge lawn, a beach club, the most beautiful pool and main building (which is also home to the restaurant and cafe). There are also over 2km of walking tracks, wetlands and rainforests here for guests to explore.
The beach club at Elements of Byron is simple yet very effective. It’s also secure – so the only people that can access this area are either staff or have a guest key card. It’s like a private beach party! Plus the views from the loungers are pretty good – that’s the cape with the famous Byron Bay lighthouse in the background there.
I didn’t really know what to expect from The Farm Byron Bay – only a couple of minutes out of town. This property was earmarked for housing estates until a couple of years ago. Then it was bought and turned into one of the most amazing ideas we’ve ever heard of.
Here they raise cattle – as you can see – pigs and chickens, plus grow hosts and hosts of fruit, veggies, herbs and spices. Most of this they then use in the kitchens of the cafes and restaurants they have here.
I’ve never seen such happy animals. And Jonno, who heads up the management team at The Farm, tells us that most if not all the people who deal with the animals think he’s sedating the stock. They’re so happy and free of stress they’re actually behaving as they should.
Bottom line, this means the meat is of an incredibly high quality, but it also means that this is a healthy way to raise animals and grow crops, and is the most impressive example of conservation you’ll find on a farm probably in the whole world.
The chickens have 5 times the space allowed by industry standards. The pigs have 7 times the space. It’s absolutely amazing.
We’ve stayed at The Farm for lunch, which is awesome because Three Blue Ducks – the well-known eatery in Bronte in Sydney – have a restaurant here. The food is absolutely stunning – partly thanks to the skill of the chefs but also thanks to the amazing produce from The Farm – and the drinks… well, this is one!
Mrs Romance has ordered an Aperol myrtle spritz, which uses lemon myrtle from The Farm. It’s a beautiful rendition of one of our most favourite cocktails!
What a way to finish the trip! We’re having a sunrise breakfast experience at Australia’s most easterly point. Local company Wild Goat Events, which has only opened recently, runs this amazing opportunity called Toast The Sun every day – providing it’s not raining cats, dogs or any variety of domesticated pets.
You watch the sun lift up from the surface of the Pacific Ocean to be one of the first in the world to witness the sunrise. It’s so special. And this time of year, you get to see humpback whales swim past too! Absolutely amazing.
Of course, Wild Goat Events don’t organise this; but they do arrange an amazing private breakfast with this view of the lighthouse and an even better view out over the bay (they also sort you out with coffee and parking).
After everything that we’ve done this trip we knew it would have to be something pretty special to be the main highlight. The ladies at Wild Goat Events nailed it. We’ll remember this for the rest of our lives!
This week’s travel recap
Each week we go back in time over some of our favourite travel destinations using never-before-seen photos of our travels. Here’s where we’ve been looking back on this week.
The northern Italian coastline is very pretty – and safe! Look how alert this lifeguard looks! He’s probably looking up the beach at the beautiful Castello di Miramare, the stunning white castle on Trieste’s coast. Away south – in the opposite direction – is the coast of Slovenia and the beautiful little town of Piran, which is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
We love visiting Italy and travel there as often as we can. Here’s a link to our archives of Italian posts full of travel tips, reviews and tales from the great boot peninsular!
The Painted Ladies are one of San Fransisco’s most photographed row of houses. Mrs Romance got very excited about seeing these houses as they feature on a show called Full House. I wasn’t quite so impressed as the show never really reached the UK’s broadcasting shores.
Still, very nice view, isn’t it?
The Sacre Coeur has to be one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Paris. And the views out over the City of Romance are incredible. We love visiting Paris and every time we do, we make sure we get up the hill to see this incredible church.
Italy’s beaches are a funny creature. 99% of them are privately owned by resorts and they’re immaculately tended and regimentally ordered. To use these beaches you have to pay a dodgy bloke wearing a bumbag and a greasy smile or be staying in the resort.
It does remind us how lucky we are in Australia still to have all the amazing beaches we do and that they’re all still free.
Having said that, there’s a part of me that really enjoys the amazing lines of sun beds here – especially with the magnificent mountain landscape of the Cinque Terra coast in the background.
When you’re in San Francisco – especially for the first time, you really have to go and check out the Fisherman’s Wharf and Hyde Street Pier. It’s super touristy, but a lot of fun.
It’s these little shops scattered through the streets of Italy that make this country so lovely to explore. Well, that and the food. But just look at this place. It’s adorable. And the owners of this little Tuscan deli – it’s in one of our all-time favourite towns called San Gimignano – are Mauro and Marina. They’ve run it for ages and are just as adorable.
They don’t have a website, they’ve got two different Facebook pages – neither of which are kept up to date – but they are featured in the town’s local site. So cute.
And that’s about it. We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s somewhat epic IG Edition and travel recap. If you didn’t, please tell us. We love that kind of feedback. Please leave your full home address if you do – just so we can… reply! However, if you’ve had a great week or a horrible one, share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!