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Leah Down Under

byron bay and surfers paradise

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 16 September 2009 | Views [844]

After our two days in Sydney, Jess and I flew up the coast of New South Wales to the much-loved holiday spot of Byron Bay, in the northeastern corner of the state. All year I've been hearing and reading out how great Byron Bay is, and it did not disappoint. From foreign backpackers on tight budgets to affluent vacationers from around Australia, Byron Bay seems to be a favorite of everyone's, and for good reason. The beach is beautiful, of course, but that's true of most Aussie seaside locales -- Byron's laid-back surfer/hippie vibe meshes well with its high-end boutiques and restaurants, and the end result is an all-around good time. 

We were very outdoorsy, from our 5:00 a.m. sunrise hike to the famous lighthouse and easternmost point in Australia to our kayaking and snorkeling adventures in the freezing Pacific. Our day-trip into the countryside took us to the alternative village of Nimbin, where they celebrate and advocate all things marijuana from the names of shops to the annual Mardigrass festival. Compared to the dry west coast, the lush green hinterland of New South Wales, with rolling hills, tall trees and secret swimming holes, is utterly gorgeous. Marine wildlife is also abundant in Byron Bay -- whales, dolphins and sea turtles were all spotted.

After three days in Byron, we hopped on a bus, headed north and crossed the state line into Queensland, where we spent one day on the Gold Coast in Surfers Paradise. Despite its name, an easy-going beach town it is most definitely not. Surfers is filled with high-rises (both new and glitzy and old and run-down), shopping malls and tourist attractions. Think Orlando meets Cancun. Not my favorite place in Australia, but it's popular with families, retirees and teenagers who are looking for nothing more from their vacation than a full-service hotel, a swimming pool, a beach and ridiculous amounts of mediocre restaurants and chain stores.

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Tags: australia, beaches, byron bay, gold coast, new south wales, queensland, surfers paradise


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