By Mario Ng
When I first started planning a trip to Brisbane, my good friend suggested I should head down to Byron Bay. She mentioned that it is such a nice and peaceful place, and is really beautiful too. While everyone knows Gold Coast and its pretty beaches, Byron Bay is essentially the low-profile sister who is in reality the more beautiful of the two. Add all these to the fact that Chris Hemsworth stays there too! Having heard such great things about Byron Bay, I had to head down to discover for myself.
I started the day with brunch at The Croft House, where the bacon and eggs were fantastic. It was a proper breakfast that gave me the energy I required to make the 2-hour drive down to Byron Bay.
A good breakfast is important to start the day right
I did some research prior and the first thing I wanted to check out was the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Supposedly the most powerful lighthouse in Australia, it is also located at the most easterly point in continental Australia. It is also at this location where you can stand at the most easterly point of continental Australia and enjoy the fact that you cannot head further than where you already are, to be in the East of continental Australia. I do not know why, but such anecdotes interest me and I wanted to drive down to the lighthouse to stand at the most easterly point.
Interestingly, when I keyed in the location before driving off, I noticed that while the GPS said I would arrive within 2 hours, the time I was supposed to arrive suggested it would be 3 hours instead. I was quite confused, but did not think too much about it. It was after I arrived in Byron Bay that I realised it was one hour behind Brisbane! While they are quite close to each other, they are actually in different time zones and I did not know that! I was fortunate that I moved off relatively early in the day, or the lighthouse could have been closed by the time I arrived!
Throughout the drive, the weather was deciding whether to create a thunderstorm or simply have some light showers over the area. It did not make up its mind. By the time I arrived at the lighthouse, it decided to pour. I wisely stayed in the car for about 15 minutes before seeing that the weather calmed down a little. The weather was still pretty erratic when I finally came out of the car, although that just made the experience that much better. Think about how cool it sounds, that you are standing at the top of the lighthouse, situated at the top of a hill, surrounded by the rough seas, with huge waves splashing against the rocks while rain is pouring down from above? This can almost only be in a Hollywood movie.
Cape Byron Lighthouse standing tall amidst an incoming storm
Right below the lighthouse is the information centre of the lighthouse, and in it contains some useful information about Byron Bay and the lighthouse. It turns out that this entire area was actually aboriginal land, and that it was actually taken away from them previously. Much effort has been taken to rectify this issue, and it seems like the government has been trying hard to recognise these lands as those of the aboriginals, and that they are acknowledged when sharing general information about the area with tourists. Kudos to the government and the country for doing the right thing.
An Aboriginal art piece at Cape Byron Information Centre
If you come at the right time, there are tours of the lighthouse available, and you would be in for a treat. I managed to sign up for the tour on the spot, and learnt a lot about the lighthouse. Among some interesting facts is how almost the entire lighthouse was built with materials sourced locally. This makes the lighthouse an authentic “Made in Australia” lighthouse!
Examples of past lamps that were used at Cape Byron Lighthouse to warn ships
The views around the area were also fantastic, and it was quite surreal to look at the ocean while it was raining heavily. Something about it just makes you go “wow”. Such is the might of mother nature.
Cape Byron Lighthouse in a thunderstorm
Most people will stop here and head back towards the information centre for some well-deserved ice cream and coffee. Not me. I ventured down in the ever so light rain and headed towards the most easterly point of continental Australia. It was a well-built path so there is nothing much to worry about, and it was just quite amazing to be standing there and realise you are as East as you can go. For the adventurous folks, make sure you make your way to Little Watergos Beach, which is further down the road. It brings you much closer to the beach and sea, with the views just astonishingly beautiful. As there are many steps required for this walk, bear in mind the steps UP to the lighthouse when you are done. Just pace yourself and everything will be fine. The sea was still choppy from the rain earlier, and it was quite a sight!
Facing the Pacific Ocean near Little Wategos Beach, at the end of the trail
In total, I spent about 1.5 hours around the lighthouse area, including down to Little Watergos beach, before heading back towards the town. It was enjoyable and I saw many local families heading to the lighthouse for a visit as well. It was relaxing and I definitely enjoyed myself at Cape Byron.
Looking at the Most Easterly Point of Continental Australia
I drove back to Byron Bay to grab a bite, as it has been some time since I last ate something! Immediately after getting off the car, Byron Bay reminded me of Margaret River. It is just like one of those small towns you see when you are driving from a large city on the way to another large city. A small friendly town that is nice to tourists and visitors. The vibes you get are just so relaxing, that all your troubles can be a mile away. It is this sort of feeling I get whenever I am in Australia that makes me want to head back each year.
Byron Bay reminds one of Margaret River, albeit less driving needed from a major city
The beaches were also very beautiful, with locals undeterred by the weather that day. A few of them took the all-important Instagram pictures at the beach, while some were simply focused on surfing. It is just such a relaxing place to be in.
Byron Bay's Main Beach with Cape Byron Lighthouse in the background
I read about Byron Fresh Cafe, where it was supposed to serve great food. They did not disappoint. I enjoyed the Fried Chicken burger with some chips, and the iced latte was good as well. I especially enjoyed the chips, as they tasted fresh and clean, unlike some chains which serve chips doused in dirty oil. There was also live music and I thoroughly enjoyed Ben’s singing while having my burger. For those of you who wish to support him, note that he is Ben Camden (@bencamdenmusic on Instagram), and he is a really talented singer.
You cannot go wrong with Byron Fresh Cafe's Fried Chicken Burger
Ben Camden, a talented singer with some great tunes at Byron Fresh Cafe
Before the drive back to Brisbane, a sweet treat was necessary and I chanced upon Love Byron Bay Creperie and Chocolate Boutique. Perhaps the best Rocky Road makers in Byron Bay, I got some for the road home. By the way, it was delicious.
Some really delicious Rocky Road from Love Byron Bay Creperie and Chocolate Boutique
An hour into the drive towards Brisbane, the sun finally appeared just as it was about to take its daily 12-hour nap. I was also nearing Gold Coast at this point and I made a spontaneous decision to detour to Gold Coast to catch the sunset. What better way to enjoy the evening than by hanging out at the Skypoint Observation Deck at Q1 to catch the sunset while looking at the long stretch of endless beaches.
Of course, mother nature had other ideas, and by the time I arrived at the lobby of Q1, it was raining with dark clouds looming large again. The sun has also disappeared behind these clouds, and the mood darkened somewhat. It was fine for me, since I generally enjoy heading up to skyscrapers anyway, regardless of the weather. I remember how I always get defeated by fog every time I head up to the Peak in Hong Kong. I have not yet successfully looked down towards the city from the Peak in clear weather.
View from SkyPoint Observation Deck - As night reaches Gold Coast
Granted, the amazing view from Q1 was somewhat dampened by the unco-operative weather. However, the view was still great enough, where you can get to see a different side of Gold Coast in bad weather. The beaches still look amazing, even if they do not look as great surrounded by dark skies. The ocean looked especially menacing, and I imagined how one might have felt if he was standing at the edge of the beach right at that moment. It was quite a scary thought. In that short half an hour, I enjoyed my time at Q1 if even the sun was not shining brightly, or that I could not catch the sunset at all. I was ultimately satisfied I managed to chalk off a skyscraper from my list.
Looking at Gold Coast's vast coastline from SkyPoint Observation Deck
By this time, night time had arrived, and I made the short drive back to Brisbane city. By the time I reached the city, it was almost 8pm and time for dinner! Perhaps it was the weather, but I felt Asian that night, which was rare whenever I travel. I found Beppin Ramen and Cake, which serves a mean ramen, and the delicious ramen was the perfect end to my day trip!
A comforting bowl of hot ramen at Beppin Ramen and Cake to end the day trip to Byron Bay and Gold Coast
List of places I went to on this day trip
1. Cape Byron Lighthouse
Lighthouse Maritime Museum opening hours: 10am to 4pm daily
Lighthouse tours: 10am to 3pm daily
Entrance fee: Free
Car park: $8 per vehicle
2. Most Easterly Point of Mainland Australia
3. Byron Fresh Cafe
Opening hours: 7.30am to 10pm daily
Website (includes menu): https://www.byronfresh.com/
4. Love Byron Bay Creperie and Chocolate Boutique
Opening hours: 10am to 9pm daily
5. Skypoint Observation Deck @ Q1
Opening hours: 7.30am to 8pm (Sundays to Thursdays); 7.30am to 9pm (Fridays to Saturdays)
Entrance fee: $27 per adult; $17 per child (3 to 13 years of age); free for children below 3
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