Byron Bay is one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve been twice (2013 and 2018), only for a few days at a time, but it’s one of those places I could easily settle down. If you haven’t heard of it before, Byron Bay is a small coastal town, approximately half way up the East Coast of Australia. Cape Byron is also the most Easterly point of mainland Australia, and you can walk right out to it from the beach, or carry on up to Cape Byron Lighthouse.
The town is full of hippies, hipsters, surfers, and homeless people – sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. The atmosphere is really chilled, and the residents way of life it a lot slower, so they probably have a hard time keeping up with the tourists.
Byron Bay is known to be quite an expensive area to live, and being a backpacker on a budget we’re always on the lookout for some cheap deals to get us by. Here’s a few options of places to go when you’re short on dollar:
- Cheeky Monkeys Meal Cards: Available from certain travel agents (we got ours from Travel Bugs, but also heard you can get them from Aquarius), this meal card gives you FREE FOOD 6 nights of the week (excludes Sunday when they are closed). Cheeky Monkeys is one of only a few bar/clubs in town, and they do cheap food and drink during the week, and host a range of different events (Pub Quiz, Wet T-shirt comp, Paint party etc). The free meal when we visited was ‘curry of the day’ with a veggie or chick curry option available. OR you can use your ‘free meal’ token to get 50% off another meal on the menu. Most of these range from $10-$15 at the standard price, so you are getting the meal for $5-$7.50, and it’s really good value for money. The main options available include different types of burgers, lasagna, schnitzel and steak (check what else is on the menu here). The only catch is you have to be there between 7 and 8pm, but that’s barely a catch, because you may already eat at that time anyway. When you do this deal, you also get early happy hour, where most of the beers on tap are $5 a PINT. Safe to say we spent a lot of our time here…
- Hostel/Travel Agent Food: On our first night in Byron Bay, we checked into Nomads, and were welcomed by the smell of hotdogs grilling on the barbie in the courtyard. They tasted so much better knowing they were free, and we had saved a couple of extra dollars to spend at the bar. At our second hostel, Cape Byron YHA, they would regularly make free pancakes for breakfast (first one was free and they were $1 for 2 after that). Different hostels run different events, and most of the bigger ones have something on every night of the week. Each travel agents organise BBQ’s or shop-parties with free beer/goon pong at least one night a week, ask around and get involved.
- Free Entry to Bars/Clubs: Although the club scene is minute in Byron, there’s still a few spots for a good night out, and sometimes you just need a break from the acoustic indie music and reggae. Some hostels have live music in-house with performers, open-mic and karaoke. But if you want to get out of the hostel, a lot of them organise group trips to Woody’s, Cheeky Monkeys, The Rails and the Beach Hotel, usually with free entry and a free drink upon arrival. Look out for the reps who will give you a stamp!
- Explore the Coastline: Being a seaside town, you have access to miles of beach, which are obviously all free to use, and usually a just a short walk from where you are staying. One of our favourite hikes is up to Cape Byron Lighthouse, which we did a few times during our stay. It takes about 1 hour to walk along the coast, past Wategos beach, where you can watch people surf. If the water is calm you can also see dolphins, turtles, manta rays, jellyfish, leopard sharks and from May-November you may be lucky enough to spot a whale.
The other route is straight through the rainforest, which takes about half the time, but is a bit more strenuous as there are lots of steps to climb. You only get a glimpse of the sea taking this route, but it’s beautiful to see the shards of sunlight that break through the canopy. When you get to the top, you get a 360 degree view of Byron Bay from the lighthouse, as long as visibility is good. It’s a popular spot for sunrise, where the dew evaporates from the rainforest, creating a moody, hazy mist. Or you can visit for sunset, and see the array of colours reflecting off the water.
- Competitions: If you’ve got a competitive side, and want to win some decent prizes, then get involved in the various events in the area. Most travel agents do parties with prizes like free skydives, dolphin kayaking, and money off trips up the coast. We won a pub quiz at Cheeky Monkeys and won a free surf lesson!