Alternative by nature

CASUAL STYLE: The Balcony.
CASUAL STYLE: The Balcony. Sjonelle Hodgins

THE small and beautiful coastal village of Byron Bay captured my heart many years ago and I have gone back time and again to indulge in the magical spell it seems to cast on everyone who visits.

Situated on the most eastern point of mainland Australia, Byron Bay has longboarders to thank for its popularity as a tourist destination.

They started arriving in the 1960s for the natural breaks at The Pass, Wategos and Cosy Corner and those spots remain favourites to this day.

Surrounded by national park and just an hour's flight from Sydney to Ballina, Byron has become a Mecca for weary city dwellers, artistic types, natural therapists, and a bevy of European travellers who arrive and try their best to leave.

But look past the transient types and many of the permanent residents are casually clad designers, architects, property investors and IT specialists tapping away on their iPads while sipping a coffee.

Byron Bay moves to the beat of its own drum and invites every newcomer to pulsate with it.

If you let it, the place will gobble you up and spit you out the other side of the dance floor, a better person for it.

The laid-back, alternative lifestyle does not suit everyone at first, but linger longer and do some exploring and the place is sure to dish up something that will have you coming back for more.

From accommodation to eateries, it is up to you how fuss-free or stylish you want your experience to be. If you choose to stay a few days, (and you should) you will find anything from family friendly units to couples-only hideaways.

Some of the country's most opulent guest houses lay scattered along the beaches or tucked away about 15 minutes drive from the heart of town. The exclusive Wategos Beach boasts a seductive selection of expensive abodes.

The well known Rae's on Watego's is here, a small boutique retreat and a favourite with the backpackers who from time to time turn it into their exclusive holiday home for the length of their stay.

For our visit, we stayed at The Atlantic, a relaxing, casual beach-house-apartment set-up where you can choose between your own private unit or opt to stay in the main house and share a bathroom and kitchen with fellow guests.

This option looked to be popular with couples and one-nighters but we needed a bit more space, travelling with an inquisitive 10-month old, and we enjoyed the self-contained unit with our own bathroom, kitchen and under-cover deck area.

It walks out onto a communal garden also home to resident water dragons.

The best part about The Atlantic is that it's quiet, close to the beach, about five minutes' stroll and to the heart of town.

Great care is taken to ensure guests are comfortable and their privacy is respected.

The rooms are also serviced daily.

Go to Atlantic Byron Bay for a virtual tour.

As for what to do in Byron, the world's your oyster.

Some things you will need to pay for, like hang gliding, surfing lessons, hot-air-ballooning, diving, massages, good food and coffee, local art, fresh fruit and veg from the Farmer's Markets. But its renowned surf breaks, mountain biking in the surrounding national park, long walks on the stunning beach and attitude adjustments along the way are thrown in free of charge.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  byron bay new south wales travel travelling

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