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There are very few times in my life that I wake earlier than sunrise, and if I do, it had better be for a bloody good reason. I'm at Cape Byron Light House, which sits on Australia's most easterly point; it's dark and freezing and I'm waiting to catch the first glimpse of sunlight that touches Australia.
I'm sufficiently proud to have dragged myself out of bed at this ridiculous hour, but the achievement is fleeting. There are already dozens of locals here jogging, undistracted by the peaceful glimmer of a sunrise. They're checking their watches, timing their jogs and chatting to their exercise buddy.
It's a pretty normal thing for the folks around here to be up at the crack of dawn, squeezing in a surf, a swim or a run before work, but for this Byron first-timer, I am struggling to stay awake. Luckily, my sunrise visit has been teed up with a Toast the Sun picnic breakfast, which really explains why this inner-west Sydneysider is up this early.
I sprawl out across gorgeously stitched cushions and a fabulous looking Wandering Folk blanket, which I have noted for my Byron shopping list. Wild Goat Events has set up a three-course breakfast for me and my friend, who's joined me on this girls getaway.
Wild Goat founder Kate Elliott came up with the concept of this special experience, which pairs a deliciously healthy breakfast with the most amazing sunrise you can see on the east coast. The experience is understandably popular for special celebrations and proposals, and definitely good enough for a birthday.
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After breakfast, my friend and I take the walking track back to Main Beach via Wategos Beach, where we spot a pod of about 20 dolphins. Surfers watch as the dolphins swim pass. A local, who stops momentarily to watch, tell us she sees the pod of dolphins almost daily this time of year. This is my first dolphin sighting, but for the locals, it's an everyday thing.
We take the back streets pass the old railway to the weekly farmers' market for an organic juice and some fruit to snack on. It's a popular spot for locals who drop by for their weekly organic or farmed produce shop. It's a Thursday in Byron, just ahead of schoolies, and the town is surprisingly quaint and chilled. We stroll through Byron's boutiques, Hendrix and Harlow, Yoli & Otis and Spell Designs, where I conclude that the suitcase I packed is too small, the amount of linen I own is too little, and that my wardrobe is in need of some Mister Zimi colour. The damage has been done, and now we're off for some oysters.
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We find a spot on the outdoor verandah of Balcony Bar overlooking the main street and order a dozen oysters, crab linguine and some cheeky lunchtime cocktails. It's perfect summer weather, sunny and warm with a light breeze. People are strolling around, a darker shade of sun-kissed, barefoot in summer dresses and T-shirts, heading to the beach, from the beach.
I do a daily scroll of Instagram while I'm here to see what Byron Bay residents Magdalena Roze and Elsa Pataky (wife of Chris Hemsworth) are up to. And reassuringly, I am doing what the "locals" are doing. An afternoon swim at Tallows Beach, the morning at Clarkes Beach (though mine was a rather a nice breakfast at Beach Byron Bay, and not an swim), a trip to the Farm to check out the pig and chicken pen and then brunch at Three Blue Ducks. Yes I saw Magdalena, and no, I didn't ask for a selfie. Unfortunately, I didn't spot any of the Hemsworths, not even during a lovely long lunch at Raes at Wategos, supposedly the place to spot them if you're lucky. It didn't matter, the setting is beautiful and their famous Moreton Bay bug ravioli went down a delight with a chilled glass of bubbly.
My new boho hair bun and I can get used to this Byron life.
The writer travelled with the assistance of Destination NSW.
Toast the Sun breakfast at the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Wild Goat Events, see wildgoatevents.co
Byron Bay Farmers Market, open Thursdays from 8am to 11am, see byronfarmersmarket.com.au
Atlantic Byron Bay, 13 Marvell Street, Byron Bay, phone 02 6685 5118, see atlanticbyronbay.com.au
The Bower, 28 Bangalow Road, Byron Bay, Phone 02 6680 9577, see thebowerbyronbay.com.au
The Balcony Bar & Oyster Co, cnr Lawson and Jonson streets, Byron Bay, see balcony.com..au
Three Blue Ducks on the Farm, 11 Ewingsdale Road, Ewingsdale, see threeblueducks.com
Rae's at Wategos, 6-8 Marine Parade, Byron Bay, NSW, see raes.com.au
Virgin Australia operates daily flights to Ballina (Byron Bay) from Sydney. See virginaustralia.com
There is a Hertz car rental counter at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. See hertz.com.au
Spell Designs, 15 Browning Street, Byron Bay, see shop.spelldesigns.com.au
Yoli & Otis, 2/97 Centennial Circuit, Byron Bay, see yoliandotis.com/
Hendrix and Harlow, 12 Centennial Circuit, Byron Bay, see hendrixandharlow.com.au/
Mister Zimi, 5/85-87 Jonson St, Byron Bay NSW 248, see misterzimi.com
FIVE OTHER THINGS TO DO IN BYRON BAY
Kayak with dolphins
Enjoy Bryon's stunning coastline on a Cape Byron Kayaks kayaking with the dolphin's tour. Paddle around Byron Bay Marine Reserve and spot dolphins and turtles and have a go at riding a wave on a kayak. Morning tea on a beach is included. Cape Byron Kayaks, see capebyronkayaks.com
SUP'ing, it's a thing
Stand-up paddle boarding (or SUP'ing) is a thing here and you can take lessons at Brunswick River with Byron Bay SUP School. Boards and paddles are supplied, and an instructor will take you out on the river. The water isn't deep so it's easy for first-timers to pick up and get the hang of it. Byron Bay Surf School, see byronbaysupschool.com
Learn about Byron's subtropical rainforest
Located on a macadamia farm in the hinterland of Byron Bay, Cape Byron Distillery, which produces Brookie's Byron Dry Gin offers tours of its subtropical rainforest. The guided tour is a tactical experience, you can smell, see and touch the botanicals that are used in the gin and learn the history of the Big Scrub Rainforest. Afterwards, enjoy a gin tasting and relax on the verandah overlooking our farm. Cape Byron Distillery is only open for tours by appointment. See capebyrondistillery.com
Horse ride along the beach
Zephyr Horses run horse riding experiences for the experienced and inexperience. The ride takes you through the sub-tropical woodlands of Byron Bay and along the beach and you can choose a morning or sunset ride. Zephyr Horses, see zephyrhorses.com
Do what the locals do and head to the Byron Yoga Centre to get your mind, body and spirit soaring. If you're looking for something more spiritual, an aura reading at Crystal Castle could offer the dose of balance and healing you're looking for. The gardens are home to the world's largest amethyst cave and the world's tallest geode pair, or just take in the peaceful surroundings. Byron Yoga Centre, 6 Byron Street, Byron Bay, see byronyoga.com. Crystal Castle and Shambala Gardens, see crystalcastle.com.au