69 college students, our backpacks and a shirtless driver all crammed into The Magic Bus on our way to Backpackers Inn in Byron Bay, NSW. Outside it was raining a kind of rain that I’ve only ever seen in Australia with the occasional bolt of lightening. Inside there was a dim glow from the lights. Some slept, some squinted in an attempt to see through the sheet of rainwater which covered the bus and leaked in through every window, the rest of us leaned back taking it all in while Mt Warning’s “When it all Bleeds Out” played in the background.
It was chilled, exciting and wild all at the same time. It was one of those moments that seams insignificant in summary but it’s one that I’ll always remember from my time here.
We were picked up by The Magic Bus at 9 AM on Friday morning and didn’t end up getting to Byron until fairly late that afternoon.
The bus ride was hot at times, wet at times and generally unexpected. Most of us had no idea what was going on until we got to the hostel.
Our first stop along the way was a quick pit stop in Uki village. The ride here was a view of Australia that I was seeing for the first time. We passed fields of corn, wheat and cows, all part of the foreground for a gorgeous backdrop of lush forests and mountains. I remember thinking that this is something I will only ever see in Australia, yet at the same time it strangely reminded me of The States, which I soon will have seen less of than Australia.
The change of scenery and bus ride was almost a comfort to me. Sometimes it’s good to feel lost.
I’ve already settled into life in Broadbeach. For me it’s the familiarity of a foreign place that really allows homesickness to creep in.
Our next stop was Nimbin, where we spent a bit more time.
Nimbin is the most interesting place I’ve experienced in Australia so far. I can honestly say I’ve never been anywhere quite like Nimbin in The States, or anywhere for that matter.
Nimbin was a vibrant little village. I explored the main street, which was lined with colorful buildings and people.
On their website —> Here <— Nimbin refers to itself as the “alternative lifestyle capital.”
Nimbin was formerly a small dairy village surrounded by the beautiful farmlands, forests and mountains, which I passed through on my way there. I was told that after holding the 1973 Aquarius festival, which could be compared to Woodstock, Nimbin blew up, becoming an internationally known “Hippie town” but more importantly became home to handfuls of unique people who brought art and alternative and sustainable lifestyles to Nimbin.
Nimbin is also known for sustaining a certain type of “crop”, and within the many cafés, bakeries and markets that line the street you can find some special cookies among other things that probably shouldn’t bring home to your parents. Unless they’re into that kind of thing.
And if you’re into it, know that it’s not at all hard to find. In fact it will find you.
If it’s fresh food you’re looking to experience you’ll find plenty of it. Fresh produce, freshly squeezed juices, açai bowls, and plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.
You can find plenty of interesting shops to buy souvenirs like hemp products, second hand clothing, jewelry, post cards and shot glasses.
You can also stop into the Visitor Center if you want to learn a little more about the History of the Aquarius festival, but the best way to experience Nimbin and it’s culture is to talk to some of the friendly locals.
The swimming hole after Nimbin was one of the highlights of the trip. I had never swam in anything like it before and after getting past the incredibly slimy rocks and cold water, it truly was refreshing seeing that this weekend was the most humid I’ve experienced since arriving in Aus.
Most of our time here was spent utilizing the rope swing.
I had a ridiculous pit in my stomach as I teetered on the edge of the bank reaching out for the weathered rope.
“You’ll be right.” Our guide said as I reluctantly grabbed the rope.
There’s something dangerous about these Australian accents that makes me feel like I can trust them all.
Really my biggest concern was that my bikini top would remove itself as soon as I hit the water, and it did.
Thankfully the water was murky, so it was all good. Things like this don’t seem as big a deal here in Aus anyways.
Our guide was right.
The swimming hole is a local secret so I can’t tell you what it’s called or where it is. Not because I don’t want to, but because I myself don’t know. I find myself wondering if I’ll ever end up there again.
I often think this about many of my experiences here. I’m finding that most recent memories are already bittersweet.
Finally we arrived in Byron. With only 45 minutes to get ready for dinner at Cheeky Monkey’s. I found the women’s bathroom in the hostel and took the fastest and coldest shower of my life.
This being my first time staying at hostel I didn’t much know what to expect.
My advice for anyone else staying at a hostel for the first time, is don’t expect much.
For example hot water, at least not always as I’ve heard that this is common in many hostels.
Our hostel was very bare bones, and I had the chance to visit another hostel in Byron, which was very similar.
Staying in a hostel may not be the most comfortable thing in the world, but that’s why they’re so cheap.
Not to mention, you’re surrounded by plenty of interesting strangers.
That being said, keep your valuables close and use the lockers with a lock.
The hostel I stayed at handed out keys left and right if you were willing to sacrifice ten dollars for a deposit, so pretty much anyone could have walked in there and got a key to the room of their choice.
Just 45 minutes I was freshly showered, dressed and whisked off to Cheeky Monkey’s.
I have to say it was pretty strange to be eating a plate of Pasta Napolitana in the middle of a night club atmosphere, all while friends played drinking Jenga next to me, but pasta is something I haven’t had much of since coming to Australia so it had a fair amount of my attention.
Soon after finishing dinner we we’re shooed off of the table only to be urged to climb up onto it to dance. Cheeky Monkey’s doesn’t exactly have a dance floor so at 10pm the tabletops become one.
The drinks started off relatively cheap, and prices increased throughout the night as usual. Cheeky Monkey’s doesn’t do shots, and I wasn’t feeling the Jack and Cokes that night so we headed back to our hostel relatively early.
Not before stopping at The Byron 24 Hour Bakery, which you guessed it, is open 24 hours!
Sometimes you just need a good cupcake in the wee hours of the morning.
Due to rough waves I wasn’t able to Kayak in hopes of spotting some dolphins, so the next day was spent exploring Byron’s shops, beach and eating.
Much like Nimbin there were plenty of Organic, vegan and gluten free options.
There was also plenty of pizza, kebabs, burgers and Mexican food, so you’ll have no problem finding something to eat in Byron.
That night I experienced my first real Australian BBQ at the hostel.
Here I learned something very troubling and I still don’t quite believe that slices of bread are used in place of buns for burgers and hot dogs.
So I was told, but I’d love to have some confirmation on that one.
After the BBQ and some more table dancing, we were picked up by the Woody’s Surf Shack van for the 30 second ride to the bar.
Drinks here were a little more expensive than Cheeky Monkey’s and a little less strong but I liked the atmosphere better.
The pool table, black and white photos and surf shack feel to the place made for a more laid back and less chaotic vibe and we ended up dancing all night.
Checked out of the hostel by ten the next morning, I geared up for the Cape Byron walking track, which brings you to the lighthouse.
This track nearly killed me after a night out but the amazing views of Byron we’re worth it. The views are always worth it.
I’ll say this: A weekend in Byron isn’t nearly enough for such a unique and laid back place.
I’ll definitely be going back to Byron at some point and hope to get to Mt Warning for a sunrise soon.
What is your favorite east coast Australian destination?
Feel free to let me know of anything else I should check out when I go back to Byron and please confirm the sliced bread for buns thing if you’re an Australian.
I have to know.
As always, thanks so much for reading feel free to comment and share if you like this post 🙂