Mr Fritz and I are strolling around town with the most eclectic bunch of people that you can imagine. It’s warm and humid with a distinctly relaxed holiday vibe - you could easily think you’re on some far-flung island. Well, that’s what Byron feels like to me. It’s one of the few remaining places where it’s perfectly acceptable to go shopping or out for a meal bare feet and braless, like you don’t have a care in the world.
It’s also a surprisingly multi-cultural population with many temporary ‘locals’ passing through as they travel around Australia to fulfil their working visa requirements. You’ll hear many different languages spoken now, something that would have been uncommon in Byron’s earlier days. During a lazy brunch one day, a Swiss-German waiter takes our bacon and egg orders, at dinner, a handsome Italian from Puglia pours our Primitivo, on another occasion an Argentinian brings us our serrano ham with soft cheese and melon and the next day a Spanish girl, Beatriz explains the daily specials.
Byron Bay, like many colonial settlements had a industrial past dominated by the dairy industry and to a lesser degree mining and whaling. Today, there isn’t much evidence of this history but rather what came next which was the arrival of the ‘alternative’ lifestyle seekers; those who happily inhabited the vacated dairy bales and out-buildings and of course, adopted a beach lifestyle. The surfers however weren’t far behind and by the 60’s and 70’s Byron had developed a new identity with a strong hippie and surfer culture.
This is still strongly evident today but with doses of gentrification injected in here and there; some posh houses, fancy restaurants and boutique shops intermingled with masses of tourists and temporary workers, tacky souvenir shops, vegan cafes, cashed -up Sydney-siders and Melburnians and everyone in between. Visiting Australia’s most easterly location is certainly attracting the crowds. I wonder what the locals must think?
I guess its proximity from Sydney makes it a convenient spot for foreigners to visit, even from Melbourne it’s a bearable 2hr flight. But what if, like me, you aren’t a surfer and don’t have a single hippie bone in your whole body? And getting around town braless and barefoot is just not my thing. I’m also scared of sharks, even fish, so dipping in the ocean is equal parts stressful and exhilarating. I find I’m still very much attracted to this much-loved holiday destination. You don’t have to surf or whip your bra off to enjoy this vibrant and warm seaside town.
And there are just times when Mr Fritz and I crave a more tropical climate and a lazy holiday. Access to a lovely river, an expansive beach for morning walks and excellent dining options are all attractive too. It’s also great for photography and hands down, one of the best people-watching places in the world. I mean, how often do you get to call out, multiple times a day, “Oh My God check out that side boob!”