Up or Down, Big or Small
By Gisele Weishan | Magazine | March 14, 2023
Cover Illustration: Sunset at Cape Byron Lighthouse. Gisele Weishan/The Amsterdammer
In part two of her series, Magazine writer Gisele Weishan continues with the trip to two beautiful sceneries: Byron Bay and Melbourne.
From Sydney, you can continue your Aussie adventures by venturing up or down the coast. Whether in search of beach waves and slow living to the North or trendy living at a faster pace to the South, the small coastal town of Byron Bay and the big city of Melbourne both have a lot to offer, respectively.
Byron Shire Council recognises the Bundjalung of Byron Bay Arakwal people, the Minjungbal people and the Widjabul people as Traditional Owners and custodians for parts of the Byron Shire.
This little beach town, which pretty much makes up only one roundabout with four divergent roads, holds a very special place in my heart. When thinking of home, this is the first place that comes to mind and causes those faraway pangs of heart. Amongst the backpackers I lived with, there was an agreement that time, almost to an eerie extent, simply seems to work differently in Byron Bay. A pocket of space in which things are far slower and more stretched. It was a joke amongst us that those who arrived initially planning to stay only a week would soon find themselves inexplicably realising they had already been there three months.
In other words, to know someone for a week in Byron is to know them for a month anywhere else. Though I will admit, living in hostels and sharing bunk beds and bathrooms with those around you also expedites this process.
With all this time, there are many natural wonders to take in during your stay. Byron is home to some beautifully long stretches of white sandy beaches like Wategos and Tallows. Through a pathway of brambles and branches, you can find a quiet retreat at Tea Tree Lake, where the tree roots turn the water so dark you can’t see your legs as they kick out from under you and where the scent of bush holds strong in your lungs.
Indulge in vast arrays of vegan food which leave meat-loving diners in the minority, from Combi Cafe to No Bones. While here, take a trip to the nearby town of Mullumbimby, where it is said the true hippie spirit of the area resides. Or go for a hike to see the jaw-dropping Minyon Falls. And if your idea of a good night out is dancing barefoot in the sand, learning to twirl fire, drinking with friends by a bonfire under the stars of a secluded beach, or going to a notorious Aussie ‘bush-doof’, as opposed to pub crawls and clubbing (of which there aren’t really any in this small town) Byron is the place to be.
All in all, though she be little, Byron Bay is a rich patch of sanctuary from the thrum of city life. If heading this way, be sure to time your visit for July, to make the most of Byron’s famous Splendour in the Grass festival as well.
“All in all, though she be little, Byron Bay is a rich patch of sanctuary from the thrum of city life.” – Gisele Weishan
The City of Melbourne respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land they govern as the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and Bunurong Boon Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin.
Ask any Australian which is better, Melbourne or Sydney, and you will be sure to get a quick-fire response as the scores are tallied up on either side. One of my favourite facts about Australia is that there was so much furious debate about which of the two deserved to be dubbed the capital that eventually, the matter could only be settled by constructing a wholly new city between them to house our nation’s parliament building and pretty much nothing else. The resulting compromise is the city of Canberra, our nation’s capital, although the debate still very much lives on today.
That being said, if you’re looking for great nightlife and a more pumping trendy city, the scales undoubtedly tip toward Melbourne. What the city lacks in easily accessible beaches, not counting the area of St Kilda from whose beach it gets its name, Melbourne makes up for in droves of coffee culture, cool neighbourhoods, and vibrant clubs. Lively areas like Brunswick and Fitzroy offer eclectic mixes of restaurants, cafes and bars alongside vintage shops and live music venues.
The vibrant street art scene, notably Hosier Lane, offers a constantly evolving gallery of raw pieces, with new ones regularly being added to its collection. Clubs like Revolver, Radar, and Yah Yah’s will keep you out for a good time until the 2am lock-out laws of most Australian cities kick in. And if you are looking for a more scenic view of Victoria (the state in which Melbourne is located), there are some definite stops to make for a good day- or weekend trip.
A drive along the Great Ocean Road, with its weaving curves around pristine aquamarine beaches, luscious national parks and giant eye-sore rock formations, takes you for nearly 300 kilometres along the southeastern coast of the country, from Melbourne to Adelaide. Look out for koalas and penguins on Phillip Island, lounge on Brighton Beach next to its iconic brightly painted beach sheds, or go wine tasting in the rolling fields of the Yarra Valley.
Gisele Weishan is a university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.