surfers paradise & byron bay - Where's Byrne?

surfers paradise & byron bay

19.05.2012 – 23.05.2012 Sunny 22°C

We left Brisbane for Surfers on the trusty Greyhound, taking about and hour and a half to get there. The bus dropped us at the terminal (under Surfers version of the London Eye – have all places in Aus got a big wheel?) and we set off down the road looking for Budds Beach Apartments.

I remembered from my previous visit to Surfers what it was like and had raved about it to B ever since we arrived in Aus. It nearly lived up to the hype. Five years on from my previous visit, it’s become more commercialised with new buildings and upgrades to seafront, benches and water fountains, that sort of thing. It’s now a huge tourist hub attracting more people than ever. It’s known as a bit of a party town and it’s easy to see why, with the amount of bars, pubs and clubs around. PR people standing on the corners of the main street trying to flog tickets to pub crawls eradicate any doubts you might have had. They actually sound good and I can confirm, one I went on before was brilliant. Back five years ago, it was $15, a coach to town, three or four clubs (entry and a drink) and the bus back, teaming up with three other hostels. Now there are three companies offering these deals, one being Wicked, $60 a ticket (although we were offered tickets for $30 each at 4:30), five clubs and a barbecue to start. You’re out at 5:30 though. The backpacker one I went on before is still going, you get a photo of the group you’re out with chucked in but I didn’t see the price this time.

Back to our accommodation, we’d managed to get a deal on Groupon, staying at Budds for $275 for four nights. As we generally pay $50 a night for dorm beds for the pair of us, a chance to have our own apartment with washing facilities and Wi-Fi seemed too good to pass up.

We checked in and went upstairs to the second floor where our apartment was located. Walking in, we were impressed. It was a good size with a balcony, a comfy bed and a washing machine in it. As our stay went on though we were made to go through the misery of sitting on a contender for the worlds most uncomfortable sofa, hot, that runs cold shower and using dirty crockery and cutlery, with no knives. The Wi-Fi connection was also paid at £12 a day.That’s not a typo.

First night though we made the best of it, visiting the liquor store for Strongbow, getting on it and going out to a few bars and eventually on to a club. In one of the bars we met two Aussie’s, Rachel and Corey (they weren’t together). Rachel was a singer, busking and playing in a band and Corey was a cameraman, he showed me a picture of him posing with James Buckley and the bloke who plays Will from The Inbetweeners. We tagged along with them to a club which, was pretty shit to be honest. $10 to get in and full of kids. Crap music and extortionate drink prices was not my idea of having a good time. Remembering that the Championship playoff final started at midnight I  suggested to B to call it a night, but not before visiting the local Maccy D’s.

We got in at 1am, just in time for the second half. I watched that and waited for the real match to begin, Chelsea vs Bayern Munich, which had huge repercussions for my team, Spurs, as Chelsea would steal our Champions League place the following season if they won.

Less said about that the better.

We spent the next three days lying around and walking up and down the world-famous Surfers Paradise beach. It really is smart, (not as smart as Borocay though).

There were a few attractions in Surfers that we could have done, but, they all looked a bit crap. (Movie World, The Wax Museum, Surfers Wheel, surfing, shopping and boozing were the main attractions).

Time flies when you’re having fun. Next up, Byron Bay.

23.05.2012 – 24.05.2012 Sunny 19°C

We made the short trip south to Byron Bay from Surfers using the Greyhound which took about an hour and a half. Byron is one of the main stopping points for backpackers along the east coast but I had missed it last time so I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.

We got dropped by the side of the road but had a quick tour around the town first where we spotted Main Beach Backpackers, dorms from $21 a night. As we got off there were the usual backpacking ewoks holding banners for their hostel but surprisingly, no one approached anyone who got off the bus. As we got our bags and walked off for Main Beach I heard one say under his breath ‘what are they all going to do, sleep on the streets?’ No fucktard, we need hostels, but you are supposed to approach us and sell it. Idiots. It kind of summed up Byron for me in the end. It’s so laid back, too much for me.

We checked in to Main Beach for $25 a night each sharing a six bed dorm with two Swedish girls and two empty beds and went to have a look round the hostel as they guy on reception told us he had a massive hangover and would just leave us to it. Been there mate, no worries. The hostel is in a huge old building, formerly the council offices. It had a big kitchen with plenty of stoves, crockery and cutlery, if a bit dirty, big tables to eat on, a huge garden outside with benches, a shower block in the basement and a veranda overlooking the main road. The people staying there were friendly, the hostel organised tours and offered free beginners Yoga classes twice a week. It was a good choice. We slept well that night. The place does look tired and needs a lick of paint, when I went for a shower the first cubicle ran stone cold but the second was hot but that’s about it in the way of faults.

Once we finished inspecting we walked down the road into the high street to see why so many people stopped at Byron, but to be honest, didn’t find the answer. First off it’s small, very small, and there isn’t a lot there. Every shop is either a café, bakers, restaurant or pub, a chain clothes shop like Billabong, a new age type yoga place or a takeaway. In between these repetitive stores are a sprinkling of independent stores selling clothes, beads, jewellery, surf gear etc. There’s a Woolworth’s just at the back of town, ten minute walk from the beach at the front.

At the front of town is the famous Byron beach, which is really a collection of beaches as they are all named differently. The day we arrived it was sunny but chilly, there were people surfing and kite boarding, there were about thirty people sunbathing on the sand and the same amount again on the grass that leads down to the beach. As I was standing there looking out to sea, I found myself mentally scratching my head. Sure, the town was nice, loads of great places to stop for coffee and if you like surfing, as everybody there seemed to, the waves are for you. But the beach wasn’t great, the sand at Surfers is better and there isn’t anything else to do.

After a walk about and getting some dinner in from Woolies with some mince from the local butcher, night had fallen. We went back out for a walk to see the bars and pubs but they were either dead, playing crap music or were just plain uninviting. Having walked back to our hostel, B went on her Kindle and I caught up on emails. (Yawn).

Next day we were up bright and early for a day sunbathing on the beach. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and was raining. We went out to a great café come bookshop for coffee (which was free, the young guy giving me $12.50 change when I only gave him $10) and sat there waiting for the sun to come out. It did, eventually but by then it was too late. Cue more emailing, reading and general time-wasting until our over night bus arrived at 11pm bound for Newcastle that we booked the day before having seen what Byron had to offer.

Byron is certainly nothing special. I think if it was peak season and the place was rammed with the weather baking it would be a lot better than my experience though. I got quite bored and quickly had enough of the hippie vibe that engulfs the place. If you’re a surfer, this place is not to be missed, the two Swedish girls planned two days but stayed two weeks, surfing everyday, that has to mean something. Byron’s great place to chill in the cafés with good coffee but boring with not enough to do. I couldn’t even buy a Byron Bay Cookie…

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