Where do Byron Bay locals go when they’re looking for things to do? They head to Bangalow, from billy cart races to seriously competitive cakes, there’s much to keep you busy.
I’m not sure it’s possible to visit Bangalow and not fall in love with the place. The perfect mix of quaint-and-historic meets city-suburb-chic, this little town’s a pretty special place.
Its main street is lined with lovingly restored Federation shopfronts, a dead giveaway of the era when Bangalow began to mushroom back in the late 19th century as a town designed to service the area’s dairy farmers.
Behind those façades, things have very certainly moved on, but every year two events transport the town back to a bygone era – the Bangalow Billy Cart Derby in May, when the main street is closed, lined with hay bales and used as a downhill race track for home-styled billy carts; and in November, when the Bangalow Show rolls into town, a traditional country affair that’s been running since 1897, filled with cake-baking competitions, working dog trials, poultry judging and enough hot chips to feed the whole town.
But in everyday life, Bangalow’s culinary offerings stretch a long, long way past fat deep-fried potatoes. Take Town Restaurant & Cafe (02 6687 1010). It’s retained its Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide hat for the sixth year running.
This isn’t so surprising when you know that the team behind the food is husband and wife, Karl and Katrina Kanetani, acclaimed chefs who have worked in many of Australia’s – and some of the world’s – most-lauded restaurants.
It’s open all week long as a cafe, but if you happen to be in Bangalow on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, you can enjoy breakfast downstairs, spend all day loving Bangalow, and then head upstairs to dine on the degustation dinner menu that permanent Bangalow residents covet.
For a more laid-back dinner option, bust in on what the locals consider to be a bit of a secret. The Stockpot Kitchen at the Bangalow Bowlo, the local bowls club, serves up hearty, soul-food-inspired dishes – such as its slow-roasted brisket burger, with slaw and barbecue sauce (trust me – it’s good!). They’re open for lunch on Fridays, too.
But, like Brunswick, a day spent in Bangalow isn’t just about satisfying your appetite, either. Stand-out shopping experiences include Island Luxe, which is filled with fashion and interior stylings, and Brauerbirds, which, as well as selling homewares, delivers a snapshot of how you wish your own home looked.
And if you happen to be in town on the fourth Sunday of the month, you’re in for a treat: the famed Bangalow Markets. The Byron Shire isn’t short on markets, but I’d argue that this town’s version is the best on the Shire’s monthly calendar.
Seems like a lot to squeeze into a day trip? Solve that problem by booking a room for the night at the Bangalow Guesthouse. Hidden down a jacaranda-festooned driveway, one of the loveliest things about staying there is experiencing a slice of the town’s heritage in among all the luxury.
Built in 1902, it was originally owned by Bangalow’s first GP, and, with some of the building’s rooms used as a doctor’s surgery, the ancestors of many local families were born there.
Today it’s a beautifully restored historic home surrounded by lush gardens – make sure you take breakfast on the balcony.