Day 3: Byron Bay and a Few Surprises
We woke early enough to get up to Byron Bay in time for a delicious breakfast at DIP Cafe on the main drag in town. Byron Bay is one of Sydney’s favorite weekend escapes, and I can see why. It has a very relaxed, hippy vibe without being too upscale (which runs the risk of being pretentious). I had a delicious plate of caramelized banana French toast and a delicious latte, but I still had food envy when Kelly’s Croque Madame arrived.
I called about a snorkel trip to Julian Rocks after breakfast, but sadly there was only one spot left on the tour that day, so we opted to hike up to the famous lighthouse on a bluff overlooking the town and the beaches beyond. And what a view! We managed to see a whale frolicking in the distance, a couple of dolphins, AND a stingray swimming in the incredibly clear water at the base of the cliffs. We also made it to the eastern-most point in Australia! There were views galore (I gazed longingly at the Julian Rocks) and we had a prime view of the amazing Byron Bay beaches. Since we’re on a tighter schedule today (we have to get Kelly back to Brisbane in time to catch a bus to Noosa), we didn’t stay around much longer but jetted north toward Tweed Heads to see what we could find.
Beautiful Byron Bay
The road north was so green, full of rolling hills and cows at some points, or shielded by red-brown tree trunks with peeling bark that looked like they had been planted in perfect rows by the clever hand of mother nature.
Things took a turn for the weird when we pulled into Coolangatta (a seaside town right next to Tweed Heads). We were looking for parking when Kelly spied a taco bar that looked like a fun and cool place to take a rest. Confusion beset us as we ordered our tacos/nachos/margaritas and observed a series of pretty, heavily makeupped young ladies prancing around the bar, the presence of a DJ, and a weird plank bisecting the pool. We shrugged it off as likely a weird local thing, until we were settled with our drinks waiting for our food to arrive and the DJ announced that the “Bundaburg Model Contest will start in ten minutes.” Yep, we stumbled straight into a bikini model contest. Let’s just say Josh was a happy man.
We took off from there to head to Springbrook National Park, a rainforest of trees and palms and twisty, winding roads. We hiked to a lookout with an amazing view of Brisbane, down to a waterfall, and we’re so excited when we finally pulled up to the “Best of All Viewpoint,” only to be disappointed by being too high in the air to see through the cloud that had settled on the mountain. Well actually, Kelly and Josh were disappointed, I was cracking up.
Brisbane from afar…
As the sun fell behind the hills that surrounded us, we started the trek north toward Brisbane, but stopped off to take a night hike to see the glowworm caves at Natural Bridge. Such an amazing thing, to walk into a pitch dark cave, look up and see thousands of pale blue dots glowing at varying intensity, like little neon emeralds twinkling and swaying in the soft breeze from the waterfall nearby. The pictures just don’t do it justice.
We had places to be, so we left and started the hour and a half drive north in the dark. The incredible, bright full moon flirted with us between clouds, treetops and mountaintops, peeking at us sometimes, staying hidden other times, and occasionally shining on us full force.
By the time we had left the park, I was exhausted from the long and eventful day and started nodding off right in the passenger seat. We finally arrived back at the Brisbane Airport, got Kelly to her bus, jumped on the train to the city, and I hit my pillow so hard I think the dent will be permanent.