The sun is blazing, radiating across perfect golden sands. Tanned bodies litter the beach watching as another set of perfectly formed waves roll in. Byron Bay, Australia's most easterly and arguably most beautiful coastal town welcomes visitors with open arms. But it's not just the beaches that have kept calling people back for over a hundred years.
Entering the town brings back memories of long summer days spent soaking up the sun, the sand and the surf. After all, the pristine beaches that surround Cape Byron are the main attraction of this summer paradise. The aptly named Main Beach is the quintessential Australian beach scene. Surfers patrol the breaks close to the headland's rock walls, swimmers criss-cross the beachfront while locals and visitors alike frolic along the spectacular stretch of Australian coastline. It's here we set up camp, within sight of the roaring Coral Sea.
Our Main Beach campsite lies in the famous Cape Byron Headland, an immense rocky point, which sits at an imposing 94 metres above sea level. With its rugged sheer cliffs lashed constantly by Mother Nature's fury it complements the serene landscape perfectly.
There is a distinct sub-culture here in Byron Bay, one that has forged the towns' reputation as a place of peace, happiness and above all of natural beauty. This sub-culture, inspired by the 1960s hippie-surfer culture gives the streets of Byron a welcoming feeling which permeates throughout the entire town.
The short walk into town is an education on Byron Bay in itself. Surfers rub shoulders with espresso drinkers at one of many Bay inspired cafes that fill the main streets, while fishmongers vie for airtime with local buskers. There is no McDonald's here, just friendly locals. Byron Bays' unique blend of locally inspired design and attitude drift through the beautifully crafted streets unmolested by the trappings of modern day living. This is the heart of Byron's charm.
For a quick refuel we head to the iconic locally owned and operated Wahoo Fish Taco joint, an institution among Byron regulars. But when it's time to enjoy a hard earned drink, the Beach Hotel is the place to go. Overlooking Main Beach, the sprawling historic pub is a magnet for locals and visitors alike. The combination of live music, open planned architecture and a relaxed atmosphere merge to give an authentic Australian pub experience that is not easily forgotten.
If the township itself is the heart of Byron, then the surrounding natural wonder must be the soul. Apart from world-class beaches, Byron is surrounded by the stunning Far North Coast Hinterland region which is littered with rolling hills of rainforest and towering peaks. Closer to home though lie Tyagarah Nature Reserve and Arakwal National Park, both of which boast secluded beaches, breathtaking vistas and some amazing whale watching in the spring months all of which are accessible by car or by foot to everyone.
Running in tandem with Byron's laidback surfer style lies a counter culture of thrill seekers. The surrounds of Byron Bay offer experiences like hang-gliding, bungee jumping, open water kayaking and, of course, skydiving for the adrenaline junkies. But for those who crave something a little more relaxing, Byron Bay has got you covered.
As we settle into our campsite after a day of exploring this beautiful part of the world with the sun setting behind the mountains, a sense of peacefulness descends upon us. My worldly worries drift off with the gentle sea breeze. And as the sun disappears behind a brilliant red horizon, the true stars of the show begin to take stage.
The moon is full and bright, sending a shimmering sheen of light bouncing across the waves. Stars swimming in their endless constellations dance before the eyes. In plain sight the Milky Way stretches across an infinite night sky. It's humbling to bear witness to such beauty, to be immersed in the poetic elegance of the universe.
Sure enough as the sun rises and bursts through the morning haze, our thoughts turn to the journey ahead. But it's not the thrill of new adventure that spurns our departure. We mourn the impending loss of freedom and the resumption of normality. But all is not lost. We have found paradise here in Byron, with its sun, surf, sand and stars, and now we know where to find it. As one local put it, "it's just around the corner mate, past the mountains, by the sea."
How to find it: Byron Bay is a beachside town located 165km (103mi) south of the city of Brisbane. Byron Bay offers a range of accommodation from 5-star resorts to camping sites. For more information on the town and its surrounds visit www.everythingbyronbay.com.au or www.byron-bay.com.