City Life: Chillin' with like-minded souls
Some jokingly refer to Byron Bay as the most northern suburb of Sydney - everything you can find in the big smoke is right on the doorstep here too.
But there's also a charming 'peace, love and mung beans' vibe about this place on the north coast of New South Wales that attracts stressed-out well-to-do city folk and backpackers from all corners of the earth. Add in the splendid beaches and you've got one of Australia's best-known destinations.
You don't really need a car here - lots of people ride bikes around the town - although if you want to explore into the hinterland one would be handy. Earthcar Rentals (www.earthcar.com.au) in town claims to be the only carbon-neutral car company in Australia. Otherwise all the major companies are represented at both airports.
You can fly to Ballina 30 minutes to the south on Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) or Jetstar (www.jetstar.com). Both airlines, as well as Qantas (ww.qantas.com) fly more regularly to Coolangatta - 40 minutes north - on the Gold Coast. Shuttle buses (www.airlinkbyronbay.com.au) run between both airports and Byron.
The international code for Australia is 61. Byron Bay: 02 (drop the zero when calling from overseas).
Robert Drewe's The Bodysurfers, a collection of short stories set by the beach, is considered an Australian classic. Pure escapism is how you'd describe The Bay, a novel by Australia's best-selling female author Di Morrissey. Legendary surfer Nat Young lives at Angourie, about 100km south of Byron. His The Complete History of Surfing should keep devotees entertained while they're lying on the beach.
Do go / Don't Go
During the warmer months (November to March), Byron Bay seethes with life and it's best to avoid December and January when the area is bombarded by schoolies (teenagers who've just finished year 12) and families on holiday. Though the sea is a little chilly for swimming, winter here (June to August) is perfect: calm, sunny and warm with far fewer tourists.
It's clean and green up here. Casual, too. It's only in the past couple of years that true fine dining has come to Byron Bay, and most people still tend to eat in a more relaxed fashion. You'll find styles from around the world, cool cafes and plenty of options for vegetarians. This is, after all, the epicentre of alternative culture.
You don't really need them to get around the compact town - if you're tired, hail a clean, green Cycle Rickshaw - but they can be handy if you want to head out a little way. Best to book: +61 (0)2 6685 5008.
Not necessary, but adding five to 10 per cent to the bill is a nice gesture if you had a great time or received excellent service.
Australian dollar (AUD$).
Designer swimmers, yoga pants, Havianas.
Check out what local artists and makers produce at the Byron Artisans Market (www.byronartisanmarket.com), held in Railway Park each Saturday night from 6pm. Craftspeople and fine artists from the surrounding area showcase their one-off and limited-edition pieces that encompass everything from painting to jewellery and homewares.
Do as the locals do and learn to surf. Black Dog Surfing (www.blackdogsurfing.com) has small group lessons and provides all the gear, as well as pro photographer to capture the moment when you catch your first wave. George, the black dog of the name, is a kelpie/Jack Russell cross who does, indeed, surf!
While not the main reason people come to Byron, there's still a little spending action to be had, particularly around Jonson and Fletcher Streets. Pick up designer gear by Ksubi, Alice McCall, Lover and Karen Walker at Pompidou (16 Fletcher Street, +61 (0)2 6680 7422; www.pompidou.com.au). Check out hot local surfing label 2FOUR8ONE (2/4 Cavanbah Arcade, Jonson Street, +61 (0)2 6680 8008; www.2481.com.au), named after the town's postcode. Looking for a special piece of handcrafted jewellery? Ixtlan (7 Jonson Street, +61 (0)2 6685 6976; www.ixtlan.com.au) has bold, contemporary accessories featuring semi-precious stones. For something a bit more girlie, check out Nicole Sharratt's designs at Sweet Papillon (31a Fletcher Street, +61 (0)2 6685 7700; www.sweetpapillon.com.au).
On the rock wall at Main Beach at the end of the day, not only will you be able to see a great sunset, but there might also be a musical accompaniment depending on if there are any lingering guitarists.
Hello! You've got some of the most beautiful beaches right in front of you. Grab a book, a towel and a bottle of sunscreen and soak it up. Even when it's cold, it's divine - rug up and walk in splendid isolation for miles.
Easter weekend East Coast International Blues & Roots Festival(www.bluesfest.com.au). For the past 20 years, the cream of the music world has come together in a big paddock just outside of the town for four days of festivities. The line-up changes every year but expect the likes of Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd and Jack Johnson on the bill. July Splendour in the Grass (www.splendourinthegrass.com)They take they're music seriously up this way, although this is a little more rock-oriented for a slightly younger crowd. The two days sell out quickly (with a 2009 line-up that includes Bloc Party, The Flaming Lips and Janes Addiction, it's no wonder), so beg, borrow or steal a ticket. August Byron Bay Writers Festival (www.byronbaywritersfestival.com.au). The focus is on Australian authors when the literati gathers for a three-day gab-fest about books, politics and the state of the world.