Lets talk about trees. Now, it would be a total lie to say that I travelled across the world to examine different eco-cultures, but appreciate what nature has to offer up there? That I can get amongst! Outside of San Francisco, we compensated for missing our tour to Yosemite with an, albeit smaller, but still impressive national park.
Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches, and Brisbane is a city fortunate enough to have a lot of them close by. A couple of months ago, I made the trek down to Byron Bay to see what it was all about, and I was most definitely impressed.
It is around about a 2 hour drive down down the East coast from Brisbane to Byron Bay, into Queenslands neighbouring state of NSW, so long as you keep your wits about you and avoid peak hour at all costs. If you’re planning on driving down around 5 on a Friday, you can expect that two hour drive to be more like a three hour drive, and very, very slow.
But even if you have to drive three hours, it’s worth it to check out what Byron has to offer. Do yourself a favour and if you are visiting Byron, give yourself at least one night there, it is very much the kind of place that backpackers plan to spend a week, and end up there for months. The kind of place you can fall in love with way to easily.
The vibe of the town is extremely chilled out, and you get the feeling that anyone who is in a hurry is definitely not a local. Organic cafe’s line the streets and almost every door remains open, allowing amazing aromas to spill onto the street and entice potential visitors to follow their noses and stomaches.
Amazing as the food and coffee is, it is not the main attraction in Byron, typical of an Australian costal town, the main attraction is, of course, the beach. Golden sand stretches between coastal cliffs, and is staunchly guarded by the Byron Bay lighthouse, the crisp white figure is recognised as the most Eastern point of the Australian mainland, and offers a breathtaking view of the Bay.
Byron offers a huge amount of coastal walks, some of them up very steep hills, which are definitely on my list for my next winter visit there. If you aren’t hoping to swim, it is worth a visit to Byron in winter, the views are just as spectacular and the walks a little easier, but be warned, it will be cold, especially at night. Cold though, for an Australian, those of you from a little further North (ie. in the hemisphere above) will probably not even notice.
But for this Australian, summer is the time to visit Byron, to float around in the water and dry off in the sand, maybe with a beer from one of Byron’s many microbreweries. (Specifically, Stone and Wood Pacific, but you can read more about them in the coming weeks).
So if you are visiting Brisbane, and have a couple of days to yourself, Byron should definitely hold a space on your “to do” list.
Welcome, Readers, to The Wild Australian.
This is a blog for those of us with restless minds, those who can’t stay in one place too long, and most importantly, love to travel. For my fellow Australians who got loose and went wild, and for anyone else visiting the places mentioned!
If you have, or plan to live out of a suitcase at any stage, you have come to the right place to collect all the travel advice I have on the places I’ve been. From the best (and worst) places to eat and drink, the best tours, and the things that you just have to see to believe, as well as some general tips when visiting and travelling these places.
So with no delay, let me introduce the sections that we’ll have for you to explore!
Home: Is where the heart is, but also the main navigational page… where you are right now!
The more you know: These are some general tips for various cities and countries that you might like to visit.
Through the shutter: These are the most amazing places I have been, be it to experience nature, architecture or just a really cool place to visit. Bear in mind here, I’m no photographer, but I’ve done my best to capture what the place is all about, but no photo will ever do justice to some of these, there is always more to see, and lets not forget your other senses!
Just do it: The best experiences there are in all corners of the world! These are things I have done wherever I’ve gone that have been amazing!
Cribs: Great places to stay, with options for every budget, if you like a little comfort, or you’re on your own and out to meet as many fellow travellers as possible. Loads of different types of travelling, loads of accommodation preferences, here you can find some amazing hotels, hostels and airbnb accommodation, and some tips on finding the place to suit you.
Noms: Best places to get some of the best food! I love food, so a food win is a life win, these are the best places to go to eat when you’re exploring if you too, think food equals happiness.
Quality drops: Cool bars and drinks to try! Responsibly, of course, loads of places to suit purposes, for places to enjoy a quiet vino, to places where you can dance like you’re caught in a blender.
Now hear this: Things to avoid (my dad says this right before a warning), while I don’t like negativity, there are some things better left unexperienced. These are the things that I’d never recommend, other people may have had different experiences, but when I did it, it sucked.
So get your wanderlust on and plan a trip with some sound advice from someone who has been there, done that, and got many a T-shirt.
When you mention Florida, immediately people think of sandy beaches, insane levels of humidity, and of course, Disneyland.
What they may not think of, is a Spanish-inspired town with an incredible level of historical significance and a big contribution to the formation of the United States of America. This town is St. Augustine, the oldest continually populated city in the USA, and one of my favourite places in the states.
St. Augustine was settled by a Spanish admiral in 1565 and deemed the capital city of Florida for the subsequent 200 years, changing hands between the Spanish and British numerous times in those years (one hell of a custody battle there). If you want to learn more about the history then you can check it out on the towns information website here, or, of course, the Wikipedia page.
And as fascinating as that is, I imagine thats not why you came here! So let me tell you a little more about my experience with the town.
The first thing you notice when you walk into the town is that it has been preserved incredibly well, the original fort and gates to the city (remember this place was settled in 1565!) are still in place and you can go up and walk through them. The town really is like stepping back in time, with a gigantic basilica, cobblestone streets and incredible architecture.
Visiting old town St Augustine, narrow streets are a sure sign that the town was built before cars, and thus the streets are pedestrian only, adding to the feeling that you have just walked into a small town centuries ago. There are loads of little cafe’s, bars and stores that indicate the town now relies a fair bit upon the tourism industry, and St Augustine definitely knows how to impress that market.
Every second shop appears to be either a bar, or an ice cream parlour; not surprisingly for a town in Florida, the ice cream is pretty amazing, and drinks are in general, reasonably priced. The best part though, is that every person I met in this town was lovely, we went nowhere that had bad, or even mediocre service, and the locals we met (including some smoking hot firefighters) were all really lovely; I imagine it is hard to be grumpy living in a town like this though.
This waterfront town offers much more then food and drinks though, and its beautiful setting necessitated waking up at sunrise to showcase the real beauty of the town. Including the site of the very first catholic mass in the states, down in some beautiful gardens near the waterfront, held before they had even built a church.
The top attractions in the town seem to be old town St Augustine, including the fort and gates, the Basilica, Ripleys Believe It Or Not museum and the gardens where that first mass was held. St Augustine is also supposedly one of the most haunted towns in the United States, so if you are into that sort of thing, there are a lot of companies running ghost tours in various parts of the town.
While I wasn’t fussed on Ripleys, I do wish I’d seen the Basilica, but still didn’t feel as though I missed out, exploring the old town, gates, fort and gardens at length.
I’d definitely recommend a visit to St Augustine if you find yourself driving around Florida at any stage, I daresay a day will be enough to experience the town, but it sure is worth a look. Here are my favourite shots from St Augustine, taken on a very early morning stroll through the town.
If you live in, or have visited St Augustine, I’d love to hear from you! Let me know your experience in the town, what you loved about it and the little gems you found whilst exploring!