Crank up Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, sing it loud and proud, you’re on the great road trip north. There’s an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and freedom to be had spending nine hours in a car with your best mates. And Sydney to Byron Bay gives you 772km worth of opportunities to dump some of your excess baggage.
I’ve been to Byron many times, but the trip I remember most fondly was on the way up to the East Coast Blues and Roots festival. We took to the road in a big old RV. I invested in Wavefinder Australia, the surfie’s travel bible, and using tips from that we camped and surfed our way up the coast, heading off the main road to discover little towns we’d never visited before.
For those sisters out there who have a fear of camping, you are missing out on some of the best destinations in Australia. Take a trip to your local outdoor adventure store and check out the camping gear. Tents are now so easy to assemble, and you can buy what I call the Taj Mahal relatively cheaply. Camping your way up the coast is like having one giant slumber party. And nothing beats the sound of rain on a tent while you’re rugged up inside a sleeping bag. That’s heaven to me. And trust me, modern holiday parks have much better amenities than when you were a kid!
On the way up the coast, drop in at Scotts Head and have a surfing lesson (find them online at scottsheadsurfschool.blogspot.com). This beach’s forgiving break is where I finally stood up on my first wave. I was so excited – even if I looked like a Gumby, you could’ve heard my excitement all the way to Broken Hill.
Angourie is a legend break amongst surfers, but less well known is that the local chip shop makes the best burgers on the north coast.
Here’s a tip: Learn from my mistake, find your campsite before nightfall so you can see where you’ve actually stopped. It’s not pleasant to be woken up at dawn by locals bashing down your door because you’ve accidentally parked your big old RV across the only access to the surf. Doh!
In Byron itself I try to avoid the tourist traps, especially in summer, but I recommend the coffee at Bayleaf Café (8/87 Jonson St) and you can get the best fish and chips at Mongers in Bay Lane (behind the Beach Hotel).
Where to stay
If you love to surf, do as Zoe did: hire a campervan, grab hold of the book Wavefinder Australia (available from surf stores nationally or buy online at angusandrobertson.com.au) then chase the waves up the coast, stopping at campsites and permissible car parks en route. If you’re up for a giggle, grab a gaggle of pals and go on an organised surfing safari from Sydney to Byron with Surfaris (surfaris.com). The return trip, five days’ surfing lessons, equipment and budget accommodation (tents or dorms, the choice is yours) are all provided for $599 per person. Stay in Byron at your own expense for as long as you like, then hook up with Surfaris again for your return trip back.