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Byron Bay with kids

New South Wales

David Thorndike rediscovers the beauty of Byron Bay as a family destination 10 years after his last visit.

Byron Bay is a quintessential Aussie destination, combining some of NSW’s most pristine beaches with the beauty of the Hinterland. It’s been 10 years since I last succumbed to its easy-going pace, and this time I’ve got the family in tow.

Life’s a beach
Like many families, we’re attracted to the region for its sun, sand and sea. The main patrolled beach, aptly named Main Beach, is hugely popular, but it’s not always easy to find a parking spot. Once you do, you can relax and enjoy the gorgeous views, not to mention the amazing human diversity that the area attracts. From barefoot hippies, street artists and European backpackers to young families, middle-aged couples and teenage surfies, Byron really has a bit of everything.
When exploring the shopping area in town, take the kids to Byron Bay Cookies for some of the best biscuits in Australia, while for all your surf hire needs pop over to The Wreck Surf Shop which is also home to Let’s Go Surfing surfboard lessons.



Surf’s up
With individual, private family and group lessons available, Let’s Go Surfing is by far the easiest way for beginners to give surfing a try. The friendly instructors (Blake and Mercedes for our group) went out of their way to make sure that everyone had a fun time. The lesson included basic surf conditions, signals to communicate from the water, paddling out into the waves, and of course, how to stand up and ride a wave back to the beach. We were using foam boards, which, although a lot heavier than normal fibreglass surfboards, provide extra flotation for beginners.

While a good level of fitness is required to keep paddling out time after time, the excitement of standing up on the board and catching a wave will keep you going back for more. If the smiles on the faces of our crew at the end of the lesson were anything to go by, Australia now has another half dozen surfers ready to compete for the best pipelines.

Explore the region
A must-visit is the Cape Byron Lighthouse, standing on the most easterly point of mainland Australia. The views are amazing in all directions, so take your camera along, as well as booking in for the full tour which includes a visit to the maritime museum on site.

The Byron Community Market is held on the first Sunday of every month and will keep mum enthralled for at least half a day. There are over a hundred stalls during the peak months with many locally made craft and clothing items available. On our visit there was also live folk music, a puppeteer, DIY tie-dye shirts for the kids, and we all sampled a cold drink of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.

For a great drive through the countryside, head south and then west from Byron along Bangalow Road and enjoy the views back over the ocean as you climb the hills. Explore the pretty village of Bangalow just after you cross the main highway, before heading south for 20 minutes until you reach Macadamia Castle.

This attraction is home to an Animal Fun Park featuring over 150 native and farmyard creatures. There is also an 18-hole mini-golf course, café and over 200 locally made products on sale in its fine food section.


Byron bedtime
Located on the main road about a kilometre before you reach the centre of town, Discovery Holiday Parks – Byron Bay is perfectly situated to get the most out of your holiday, without having to fight the crowds and traffic that can dominate during peak seasons.

With a choice of powered and unpowered sites suitable for tents, camper trailers or caravans, as well as luxury safari tents and cabins, there are plenty of options available. Our pick would have to be the new deluxe two-bedroom/studio combined cabins.

The larger cabin is perfect for large families. It has two bedrooms, one with a queen-size bed for mum and dad, and the other with two sets of bunks sleeping up to four kids. There is also a good sized bathroom, a combined dining/living area complete with fridge, oven and television, plus a huge deck area looking straight out over the lake.

The second cabin is perfect for extended family with a small kitchenette, ensuite bathroom, queen-size bed and a private balcony with lake views. Both cabins are connected by a foyer area from the main entrance door, and can be locked and accessed independently of each other.

There is plenty to do on site with a full-size tennis court, half-size basketball court, giant jumping pillow, pedal carts and a large resort-style swimming pool (as well as a second in-ground pool reserved for adults looking for a quiet escape).

Its newest attraction has been a huge hit over summer: the brand-new ‘Barrel Waterpark’ has three slides, a five-metre-high water-tipping barrel and a squirting octopus. Park managers Hannah and Simon are experts in family fun, having kids of their own living on site with them, and they are only too happy to help out with anything you need during your stay.



***BYRON BAY REPORT CARD***



Getting there
Jetstar will fly to Ballina from both Sydney and Brisbane.
www.jetstar.com

Byron Bay is two-and-a-half hours’ drive south of Brisbane along the Pacific Highway.

Stay
Discovery Holiday Parks – Byron Bay
www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au

Thumbs up
Cape Byron Lighthouse
Macadamia Castle
Let’s Go Surfing

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