Nothing cures a Christmas hangover like an early morning swim in the ocean, so when we say farewell to Cabarita Beach in Australia we do so with clear heads full of beach Christmas memories.
We’ve hired a car, as we continue the self-drive exploration of Australia’s east coast, led by our local guide (and everydaydream co-founder) Jacob. There are almost 1,000 kilometres (625 miles) between the cities of Brisbane and Sydney – that’s the distance between Paris and Prague (but with far less Germany along the way).
Today is a much shorter stretch of that road, the drive from Cabarita Beach to Byron Bay. Byron, as it’s more commonly called, is Australia’s eastern-most point, home to an iconic light-house, several surf beaches, and a range of cultural events including the annual easter Blues and Roots festival.
We arrive about 11am, and the walk up to the lighthouse is our first destination. Construction began here in 1899, cost £10,042 (those are Australian Pounds; the Aussie dollar wasn’t born until St Valentine’s Day, 1966), and featured an eight-ton French-made optical lens. The lighthouse is still active, and also includes a permanent red light that shines on the nearby Julian Rocks, more famous today as a dive spot than for shipwrecks.
Obligatory “eastern most” photos taken, there’s a few moments to look out over the ocean and reflect that the expanse of the Pacific stretches here for 11,500 kilometres. Head out in a straight line, and the next land mass you will find is Chile, South America.
Lunch is a casual affair at the Beach Hotel. “Top Pub” to the locals, and situated in the middle of town overlooking Main Beach, it’s theorised that every backpacker who’s been to Byron has enjoyed a beer here, and the chips aren’t bad either.
And then we’re off down to Belongil Beach to learn how to surf with Black Dog Surfing. The basics of surfing seem simple as we run through them on the sand: dangle your feet over the back, pop yourself up with intent in one, quick movement, and then hold your balance.
Actually mastering this while the waves are crashing down around you is a different matter! Thankfully, in this heat, nobody’s complaining about constantly being dumped into the cool blue water. And by the end of our 3.5 hour lesson, we’ve all managed to get upright a couple of times – nothing to challenge local(ish) boy and new surfing world champion Joel Parkinson, but enough to ensure we will leave Australia with some experience of this national obsession.
You can – and many people do – spend an entire holiday in this town. Our afternoon surf lesson is a start – there are even surf schools offering 3 month long intensives, until even the goofy foot can hang ten. For us though, there are other towns further south as we continue toward Australia’s largest city.
Want to go? Need to know!
- Tourists make this trip on wildly varying budgets. One of the cheapest ways to do it is to rent a camper van – transport and accommodation in one expense. Wicked camper vans may not be the cleanest, but they sure are the funniest
- A goofy foot is actually just a left handed surfer, so it’s not as insulting as it seems
- Parko is actually a Coolie boy – closer to Cabarita than Byron, but local to Byron when compared with Vienna and Oman
- Byron Bay hosts the Blues and Roots ‘Bluesfest’ festival in easter, and Splendour in the Grass in July. Different styles of music fans will have their preference; local farmers welcome both because it seems rain is guaranteed every time
- The Pacific Highway runs down Australia’s east coast, and is a reliable road, although popularity (especially over Christmas) makes it Australia’s deadliest highway – drive safe
Are you a grommit, goofy foot, or newly crowned world champion? Share your surfing tips (or Australian coastline experiences) in the comments below.