It was one of those of weekend when I just wanted to pack my bag and drive away. I called it the wanderlust syndrome. It hits all the time, but particularly severely on one Friday night when I was swiping through all the cute travel inspiration quotes on my Pinterest feed and I said to myself, ‘That’s it, I’m hoping into my car this weekend to walk the less travelled path.” Living on one big island continent that’s called Australia, we’re pretty spoilt with vast choices of weekend short road trip itineraries in down under. From the winery routes in Western Australia to the spiritual red dirt roads in Northern Territory and the fossil hunting journey in Outback Queensland, I simply can’t think of any reason why we just don’t pack our bag and drive on every weekend! A couple of weeks ago, I crossed the Queensland border to explore the charismatic country towns in Northern New South Wales called Byron Bay Hinterland. In search of smile-inducing local animals, tastebud-enticing flavours and awe-inspiring waterfalls, my weekend itinerary has it all. Follow my footsteps with this sense-arousing itinerary exploring the spiritual Byron Bay Hinterland, tailor made for you my fellow vintage soul:
11AM: Tropical Fruit World
First, let’s make a brunch stop after a picturesque 60 minutes drive from Brisbane South bound along the Pacific Motorway. One favourite thing I love to do when road tripping through country roads is to explore local family run businesses such as this Tropical Fruit World in Duranbah. It all started with the owner Bob who’s bought a piece of farm land that boasts breathtaking scenery from the Duranbah ridge – the mighty Mt Warning Caldera and Tweed cane fields to the West – and the blue Pacific Ocean to the East. What an Instagram-worthy view! The property is on a lush rolling green hills and it’s hard to miss with a massive avocado out the front off the highway. I headed straight into their Plantation cafe and couldn’t resist the call of their fruit ice cream bar out the front (yes I called this ‘brunch’). They let you build your own flavours of fruit ice cream from their range of frozen tropical fruits including mangoes, lychees, peaches, jackfruits and whatever else in season. Pick your flavours and their friendly ice cream bar ladies will blend it with vanilla ice cream right there for you. It’s an act that guarantees to please the big kids as well as the little ones! I got my lychee and mango ice cream with a pot of peppermint tea, and took a leaisurely driver’s break in their Plantation Cafe. If you’re not into sweet treats, they also offer light meals such as burgers and wraps. Hmmmm.
Next I checked out their Fruit Market and Gift Shop. It didn’t take long to full up my shopping basket – there were fresh lychees, avocados grown from their farms, packs of dried sweet pineapples, local organic honey and Byron Bay Chilli Co natural flavoured corn chips – they were dangerous addictive and crunchy! I was so excited to see that they stock a small range of locally produced organic skincare products. My best pick was their pure avocado oils which has super firming power for the skin.
If you have half a day to spare, you can also do a guided farm tour that includes fruit tasting and a wildlife boat cruise. As for me, I rested my feet for about an hour and was ready to move on to the my vintage hunting mission at my next stop – Bungalow.
Website: Tropical Fruit World
1PM: Vintage Hunt @ Bungalow Town
The small Bungalow town is around 10 minutes drive away from the Byron Bay coastal main strips. I’ve heard about the flavoursome Bungalow leg hams and Bungalow pork, yet I didn’t know this cute country town has so much more to offer beyond its ‘porky’ reputation. Once you drive on to the chic main street with beautifully preserved historical buildings lined on both sides, you’ll greeted by the aroma of local coffee beans, the vivid colours inside the vintage homeware stores and the buzzing sounds from local shops. Trust me – seeing a line up of boutiques selling treasures from yesterday energises my soul even more than what caffeine does to my body. I grabbed a great latte from Utopia Expresso and then headed on to Station Street where the vintage shops are. I was ready for my antique hunt. From 70s hand painted vase to vinyls and creepy old vintage dolls, be prepared to dig around piles of stuffs to find gems. Even if you don’t find anything that tickles your fancy, just hang around and have a chat to the friendly store owners and soak up the atmosphere. Of course I didn’t leave empty handed. My pick was a 1930s Austria made crystal butter plate which is a birthday gift for my brother.
4PM PM: Check In @ Highland Retreat & Meet The Alpacas
To live like a local during your travel is to actually live with the locals. I had no idea why I didn’t go for an Airbnb stay earlier until a girlfriend of mine has suggested that I check out the local stays on their site in around Byron Bay Hinterland. OMG – all the hippest, chicest little beach huts and farm houses that accept overnight stay on Airbnb, I wish I could stay at every single one of them! But as soon as I saw that this cute little property in Clunes called Highland Retreat with their two resident alpacas, it was love at first sight. I was SOLD.
Clunes is a village that’s about 5 minutes drive away from Bungalow. We were absolutely blown away by this place! It’s overlooking a valley with 180 degree view of rolling hills and the lights of Lismore town in far sight. We stayed at the secluded and entirely separate wing of the house which is way above 5-star quality. Not to mention their friendly resident alpacas Hamish and Mary, who put on their best camera-ready face to guarantee your alpaca selfies are as likable as the quokka’s. I’ll be reviewing my first Airbnb stay with a video blog soon so stay tuned for more alpaca-ly snaps!
Website: Highland Retreat at Clunes
6PM: Night Out In Bungalow Town
As the blue hour approached, we hit the Bungalow town again ready for a feast. We wandered around the main street for a little bit and seeing the quaint country town in the blue hour was dramatically different from vibrant scenes during the day. As the town lit up, it was wrapped with a blue blanket oozing with romantic vibes. We grabbed some drinks and dinner at the Bungalow Dining Rooms inside the Bungalow Hotel on the main street – it was bustling on a Saturday night. My recommendations? You can’t go past their local Bungalow pork belly roasted to perfection with crunchy crackles – NOM!
Website: Bungalow Dining Rooms
8:30AM: Breakfast With A View @Highland Retreat
We treated ourselves to a sleep-in kind of Sunday at the Highland Retreat. Waking up to birds tweeting out the front yard was an absolute delight, but nothing else beat the joy of tasting freshly baked bread by my friendly hosts Dawn and Neil. Breakfast with a view, anyone?
10AM: Minyon Falls
After breakfast I tried to stop myself from falling into carb-coma by stretching my legs at the nearby Nightcap National Park to see Minyon Falls. The park was a scenic 30 minute drive from my Airbnb stay at Clunes with endless lush green and crystal clear creek water view along the way as we drove up the mountain road. Taking in the clean crisp air up in the national park was the best way to say hello to Sunday morning! As we reached the top of the mountain raod, we arrived at the Minyon Falls Lookout where the view was simply jaw-dropping. The clear water cascades over Minyon Falls to a deep palm-shaded gorge around 100m below, it was the nature’s spectacular show. At the base is a natural rock pool that forms the best summer playground for locals. The top of the cliff is forested with wonderfully scented gum trees and eucalyptus. The Lookout itself is just a short 500m walk from the carpark. With all the pork belly that I devoured from dinner last night, I decided to take a slightly longer walk and went on to do the Boggy Creek circuit that is 2km one way and an hour return. As I meandered through the rainforest with waterfall in my far sight, it totally felt like I stepped in to the scenes from Jurassic Park! Yet at the same time it gave me a sense of inner peacefulness that was spiritual as well as energising. It’s one of those moment when you simply pause your footstep, listen to the lively music of the surrounding waterfalls and say Nameste.
2PM: Red Ginger @ Bungalow
Back to Bungalow town hunting for a quick bite before we drove home and these red lanterns out the front of Red Ginger has caught my eyes. I followed my nose and stepped inside – AHH – the smell of freshly steamed dumplings, pork buns and pandan leaves wrapped rice dumplings was a pick-me-up after my 2km walk! Must try: their shitaki mushroom dumplings reminded me of the homemade flavours from grandma. Free table tea and free re-fill are just another reasons to love the country town hospitality!
3PM: Scenic Drive Back To Brisbane
With full tummy I waved goodbye to the refreshing Byron Bay Hinterland and continued on my 90 minute journey back to Brisbane. One thing I know for sure is that I shall be back! 🙂
Travel Tips Through Byron Bay Hinterland:
♥ If you’re a bit of a wild child and love to connect with nature, there’re numerous camping sites in the area. Why not hire a campervan for your road trip and stop at a scenic camp site to spend a night under the star? Toasted marshmallows, chai latte and hugs with your loves ones are (not) optional.
♥ If you happen to be in town on the 4th Sunday of each month, check out the Bungalow Markets. This is the day when the town comes fully alive with the sights, sound and smell of the region. Shop for fresh produce from the farm gates, homewares and locally designed eco clothing with live music. Or simply enjoy people-watching in this friendly country town.
♥ Need to get yourself a zen space of mind? Be enchanted at the Crystal Castle walking through its sacred and peaceful gardens. The enormous crystals throughout the walking path and the magnificent rainforest walk will give you some spiritual moments to re-connect with your inner country soul. The landscape is wow-worthy from every angle! The bamboo forest took me right back to the atmospheric Arashiyama in Kyoto.
So there you have it, my rejuvenating weekend itinerary to this stunning region called Byron Bay Hinterland. I’ll follow up with a video post next week to show you my experience at the local Airbnb stay (be prepared for the alpaca photo bombs!). Tell me fellow travellettos, have you visited Byron Bay Hinterland? Have I inspired you to pin it on to your travel lust list? I’d absolutely love to hear your travel tales so be sure to comment below.
Until next time, stay adventurous.