Central Spain: Madrid, Segovia & Toledo

I have to admit, going to Central Spain was never part of the plan. I had a few days between Portugal and my tour of Morocco, found an extremely cheap flight from Porto to Madrid (only 20 euros, plus 20 euros for luggage), so I thought why not. I had three days to spare, so I decided to spend one in Madrid, one in Segovia and one in Toledo (I thought I’d better take the opportunity to see as much as I could).

I was very impressed with the Spanish capital, I liked it much better than Barcelona. The Palacio Real (the royal palace, so magnificently restored after the Spanish civil war), The Prado Museum (great for all those art lovers), Plaza Mayor (the main piazza in Madrid attracts hundreds of tourists, and just as many pickpocketers), Parque del Buen Retiro (a beautiful park in the centre of the city), shopping on Le Gran Via (the main shopping street in Madrid), Estacion de Atocha (an amazing place which is half train station, half rainforest), San Miguel Markets (the best place to shop for fresh produce and food in Madrid), not to mention the array of fantastic restaurants and bars. I could have spent more than a day or so in Madrid…

IMG_0062 IMG_0054 Untitled-1 IMG_0040

Whilst in Madrid, I also visited the towns of Segovia and Toledo. Whenever I visit Europe, I enjoy taking some time out of the big cities and visiting towns in the countryside. Being only about one hour’s bus ride out of Madrid, Segovia and Toledo were the perfect little out-of-city get aways.

The main attraction in Segovia is of course its famous castle, which could have inspired fairytale writers many centuries ago. It is the quintessential fairytale castle in every respect – the moat, the peaked towers, the drawbridge, etc.  Aside from this attraction, the old town of Segovia, as well as that of Toledo, are the perfect places to spend a day meandering through the narrow streets, enjoying a beautiful ‘alfresco’ lunch and wandering through the many little interesting stores.
IMG_0020 IMG_0019 IMG_9998 Untitled-2 IMG_9964 IMG_9960 IMG_9957 Untitled-3 IMG_9955 IMG_9954 Untitled-4 IMG_9930 IMG_9925 Untitled-5IMG_9892 Untitled7 IMG_9905 Untitled8Essentials:

Getting there:
Madrid is well connected with many European cities via air, and most Spanish centres via bus and train (but these days, flying may be the cheaper option). Ryanair flies from Porto to Madrid, for as little as 20 euros. Buses to Segovia leave regularly from Chamartin Station and return tickets are approximately 15 euros. To get to Toledo, take a bus from Puerta de Atoche Station, which also leave regularly and cost about the same price.

Stay:
I stayed at The Way Hostel, c/Relatores 17. Centrally located and right next to a metro station, this hostel had clean and tidy rooms, and was in a side street, so noise wasn’t an issue. The had a fantastic communal room, organise sangria nights and dinners, to create a great atmosphere and made it extremely easy to get to know fellow travellers.

Eat/Drink:
There are so many fantastic places to eat and drink, I don’t know where to start. For lunch or snacks, definitely visit San Miguel Markets. I ended up one night in some fantastic bar, not far from the hostel. I’m not sure what is was called, but I do remember some great tunes being played and peanut shells all over the floor.

Advertisements

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is one of my favourite cities in the world (and I’m not only saying that because I meet my boyfriend there). The city really is incredible – the architecture, the food, the quaint little streets, the people, the nightlife, the shopping… There are just so many aspects that make Lisbon a must visit city.

I was extremely lucky during my visit to Lisbon, as I was equipped with an amazing itinerary which was given to me by some friends who are from Cascais (a seaside town located just outside of Lisbon and also the subject of my next post) for a four day stay in Lisbon. I had initially asked for some suggestions as to what I should see and do whilst in Lisbon, and in reply I received a two page essay on how to have an unforgetable four day stay in Lisbon. I’ll have to share with you some of their suggestions for places to eat and things to see and do, from a local’s perspective. I was also lucky to be travelling with a friend, who incidentally bumped into a Portuguese friend of her’s in Chiado on our first day, so we ended up spending the next four nights with him and his friend (now my boyfriend) partying in Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre until the wee hours of the morning.

IMG_9401 IMG_9407 IMG_9408

A few things to see in Lisbon:

Alfama: The oldest district in Lisbon and perhaps the most beautiful. Situated on and around a hill, the district is a maze of small narrow, and usually steep, streets, which has its own particular charm. It has always been and still is a lower class district, but it is the richest in culture and history, especially since, unlike the rest of Lisbon, it was not decimated by the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. From Alfama you can get the best views of Lisbon. The best viewing places are from the Castle Soa Jorge and Miradouro Santa Luzia (which I think is the best).

Lisbon nightlife: Perhaps the best in Europe. If you’re a fan of big nightclubs, head to LUX, Av. Infante D. Henrique Armazém B Loja 8 – it’s the place to be. But don’t arrive until 2 or 3am. If you prefer to bar scene, go to Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre. The small streets in these districts are littered with bars, but everyone is drinking in the streets. There is such a good atmosphere, you don’t even realise the time going by, until the sun starts to rise.

Portuguese Tarts – The real ones!: Take the tram from downtown Lisbon to Belem – just west of the centre, by the sea. Visit Pasteis de Belem, Rua de Belem nr 84-92. This is the home of the original Portuguese tart. They still use the original secret recipe and there is always a line out the door. But they are worth the wait.

Out Jazz: Every Sunday afternoon, Jardim da Tapada das Necessidades, located in Chiado, is full of beautiful people chilling out in the park and listening to jazz. A nice way to wind down after a crazy weekend partying.

Shopping: Lisbon is a great place to go shopping. Aside from all the big labels, such as Zara, Mango, H & M, etc. There are a few beautiful little boutique stores hidden throughout the city. One of my favourites is A Vida Portuguesa, where you can buy also sorts of traditional Portuguese products, from sardines in a can, the porcelain, textiles, cosmetics, etc. Another store I fell in love with was Santos Oficios Arts, Rua Madalena 87. This shop is filled with Portuguese handicrafts, all created by local artists and art cooperatives. I bought a beautiful patchwork quilted bag. Devine!

9234_10151090555395544_983389277_n IMG_9419

Places to Eat: I was given an exhaustive list of restaurants to eat at in Lisbon. Unfortunately, we only had the chance to try a few of them.
–    Pharmacia: tapas @ Rua Marechal Saldanha, 1 (make reservations +351 213462146)
–    Esperanza: Italian @ Bairro Alto, Rua do Norte nr 95 (makereservations phone: +351 213432027)
–    Buenos Aires Café: Really really AMAZING steaks @ Calçada do Duque 31 B (I suggest that they make reservations for a table outside phone: +351 213420739)
–    Lost In (for evening drinks or brunch/ snacks): Nice terrace with a view. To chill out @ Rua Dom Pedro V 56, Principe Real
–    Enjoy a bottle of wine or have lunch at Chapitô (in Alfama, Costa do Castelo, n.º 1 / 7)
–     Petiscaria Ideal (Delicious tapas @ Rua da Esperança 100, Santos)
–     The Independent Hostel (Rua São Pedro Alcântara 81)
–    Go for brunch at the Kaffehouse (Rua da Anchieta nr 3, Chiado)

IMG_9427Untitled-1 IMG_9437 IMG_9438 IMG_9440 IMG_9442 IMG_9448 IMG_9450 IMG_9457 IMG_9460 IMG_9461 IMG_9473 IMG_9474 IMG_9475 IMG_9483 IMG_9485 IMG_9487 IMG_9491 IMG_9493 IMG_9621 IMG_9623 IMG_9627

IMG_9526 IMG_9527 IMG_9529 IMG_9631 IMG_9632

Essentials:

Getting There:
Lisbon is well connected by air, rail and road. There are good connections between Lisbon and other major cities throughout Europe. Lisbon is well connected by rail to other Portuguese cities – there is now a high-speed train and fares are cheap, making travel around Portugal from Lisbon rather pleasant. Unfortunately, we took the difficult and uncomfortable route on our arrival to Lisbom, taking an overnight bus from Seville, and getting little sleep in the process. Arriving at the bus station in Lisbon at 5am in the morning, having to wait for the metro to start to get to our hostel, and then finally arriving at our hostel and having to wait for a 10am check-in wasn’t the most luxurious of our travel experiences.

Where to stay:
We stayed at Good Morning Hostel, Praça dos Restauradores 65, 1250-188 Lisbon, on the recommendation of a friend who knows the owners. The hostel is extremely well located in the very centre of Lisbon, the staff were friendly and helpful, the rooms and common areas clean and beautifully decorated, and the breakfast of all you can eat and freshly baked waffles didn’t go astray. I have to say it was one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in.

Eat:
There is a list in the main body of this post of some great places to eat in Lisbon. One that I can strongly recommend is The Decadente, at The Independent Hostel. The decor of this restaurant come bistro is fresh and funky and the food is first class. For the quality and flavour of the food, the prices are surprisingly good – you can have a main course and a glass of wine for 15 euros.

Seville, Spain

Before I start, one thing I have to say about Seville is that I recommend, if at all possible, not to visit in the hight of summer. Although such a beautiful city, rich in culture and history, it becomes unbearably hot in July and August. We visited towards the end of August, and apparently we just missed a two week long heatwave. We missed it, meaning that the 35 degree celsius days we were experiencing were cooler than those the previous week. So, if you’re not a fan of hot weather, try visiting Seville in the spring or autumn months.

IMG_9296 IMG_9298

Ok, so Seville, known as Sevilla by the Spanish, is the capital of Andalusia. The city was founded in Roman times, during which is was known as Hispalis. It was conquered by the Moors in 712 and became the capital for the kings of the Umayyad Caliphate. In 1248 it was conquered by the Christian King Ferdinand III and continued to developed under the Christian influences.
Today, Seville is a major tourist attraction for visitors of southern Spain and Europe in general. There is a plethora of places to stay, fantastic restaurants to eat in and a myriad of places to visit and explore.

IMG_9301 IMG_9318 IMG_9321 IMG_9323

Places to visit:

The Cathedral of St Mary: This Christian cathedral was built on the foundations of the original Islamic mosque which was located on this site. Containing both Christian and Islamic design and motifs (the Giralda, which was originally a minaret and later converted to a bell tower, is a clear example of the converting and blending of the original Islamic building to a Christian church).

The Alcazar: The former Moorish Palace. A blending of Moorish, Renaissance and English traditions, the rooms and gardens of this palace are impressive and worth the visit.

Plaza de Espana: Set in Maria Luisa Park, this enormous and impressive building was built by the architect Aníbal González for the 1929 Exposicion Ibero-Americana. Today it is full of people enjoying the sunshine, admiring the building and exploring the adjacent park.

IMG_9325 IMG_9330 IMG_9332 IMG_9353 IMG_9354 IMG_9359 IMG_9363 IMG_9364 IMG_9366 IMG_9378 IMG_9383 IMG_9385 IMG_9393 IMG_9394Essentials:

Getting There:
There are regular bus and train services between Seville and other major towns in Andalusia, such as Cordoba and Seville. There are less frequent services to smaller towns and villages, as well as inter-city and international services to and from destinations such as Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon.

Stay:
We stayed at the Oasis Palace Hostel. Like others of this chain of hostels, it offers everything you want and more from a hostel – good location, clean rooms, organised activities, complementary breakfast, happy hour and even a roof-top swimming pool. Aside from having continuous problems with a card key to get into our room, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Oasis Palace Seville.

Eat:
Aside from frozen yogurt (the best one is located beneath the Metropol Parasol), all three nights we stayed in Seville was had a tapas dinner at Dos de Mayo, Plaza de la Gavidia 6. This was by far the best tapas we had in all of Spain. The food, the service and the entertainment by the bar/waitstaff was second to none. Try the grilled squid, drizzled with extra virgin oil oil, garlic and parsley, or the eggplant fritters, lightly battered and drizzled with molasses syrup.

Andalusia, Spain

Whilst in southern Spain, we took a little road trip from Seville to explore the landscapes, from the dry hinterland to the breezy Mediterranean coast, and of course the famous white hilltop towns of Andalusia. Our route took us firstly to Vejer de la Frontera, where we explored its quaint narrow streets and marvelled at the beautiful whitewashed houses, whilst enjoying an ice-cream with the locals in the heat of the clear summer’s day. Next we headed to Zahara de los Atunes, hoping to soak in some sun and cool off in the clear Mediterranean (we were unfortunately a bit disappointed, as the strong southern African winds made sunbaking rather unpleasant). Next stop was the historic seaside town of Cadiz. Being more sheltered from the winds, we enjoyed a tasty lunch by the beach, and spent the remainder of the afternoon lazing in the sun and bathing in the enticingly cool sea. We head back to Seville at dusk, making a quick stop at Arcos de la Frontera for an afternoon snack before watching the sun set over the freeway.

IMG_9216 IMG_9218 IMG_9219 IMG_9220 IMG_9221 IMG_9222 IMG_9225 IMG_9226 IMG_9229 IMG_9230 IMG_9231 IMG_9232 IMG_9235 IMG_9237 IMG_9238 IMG_9240 IMG_9242 IMG_9245 IMG_9249 IMG_9251 IMG_9252 IMG_9253 IMG_9255 IMG_9256 IMG_9266 IMG_9267

Essentials:

Getting there:
We hired a car from the Europcar office at Seville train station. With a GPS is quite easy to find your way around Andalusia. Going south from Seville, take the E-5/AP-4 freeway and this connects you to minor roads throughout Andalusia. There are so many hilltop and seaside towns to visit in this area, each being unique and all of which have their own beauty. Do a bit of research on where you want to go and what you want to see, as there are so many places it is difficult to choose. If these is something interesting on the side of the road, stop and take some photos too! I wish we had a few more days exploring the rural and coastal areas, and the little towns of Andalusia, as it was so interesting and beautiful.

Eat:Andalusia has some amazing food. In small towns, try to discover where the locals eat. These will probably be the best places, as they will hopefully be using local and fresh produce. On the coast, always try the seafood. Remember, it can get extremely hot in Andalusia during the summer months, so keep hydrated with lots of water and I always tuck into a few ice-creams too! Track down some local gelatarias.

 

Cadaques & Tamiru, Spain

Whilst staying in Barcelona, we hired a car for the day and did a little road trip up Costa Brava, visiting the small towns of Cadaques and Tamiru. It was a nice break from the hussle and bussle of Barcelona (and cities in general – prior to visiting Barcelona, we spent a few days in Berlin). We enjoyed the open roads, fresh sea air and the small town/holiday atmosphere.

IMG_8681

IMG_8683

IMG_8684

 

IMG_8686

Our first stop was Cadaques, located about a two hour drive north of Barcelona (take the E-15 freeway and turn off at Figueres. From there you will see signs to Cadaques. Or just simply take a GPS). Once you arrive in Cadaques, follow the signs to the council carpark – although the parking fee is quite high, there are plenty of parking spaces, which are scarce throughout the rest of the town. The carpark is also only a short walk to the town centre. Cadaques is reasonably small and easy to navigate – although, like many small old towns, it’s not difficult to get a little lost in the labyrinth of small, narrow, windy cobblestone streets. Cadaques is a beautiful little whitewashed seaside town. We unfortunately visited on an overcast day, but I can imagine that it would be absolutely spectacular on a clear summer’s day.  It’s little wonder that Salvador Dali, and other well known artists, such as Miro, Picasso and Duchamp spend summers in the town. I’m sure it gave them plenty of artistic inspiration.

To get the best view of Cadaques, take a little walk along the promenade which circles the bay in which Cadaques is located. No visit to Cadaques is complete without tasting their exquisite gastronomy, particularly their seafood. Being originally a fishing town, Cadaques prides itself on the quality of its seafood. Many restaurants serve up a delicious paella, or many have set tapas menus, which often serve up a variety of seafood delicacies. Being so close to the French boarder, many people in Cadaques can speak French fluently. So if your Spanish is non-existant (such as ours was), and your French just a little rusty, it is a great opportunity to practice.

IMG_8687

IMG_8688

IMG_8691

IMG_8693

IMG_8694

IMG_8696

IMG_8698

IMG_8699

IMG_8703

IMG_8708

IMG_8711

IMG_8713

After Cadaques, we drove back south towards Barcelona and took a little detour to the tiny town of Tamiru. I would have never thought to visit Tamiru (it doesn’t even appear on many maps), except that my friend in Barcelona mentioned it as a friend of ours worked there one summer and said it was one of the most beautiful and untouched little towns in Costa Brava. To get there, follow the signs, or your GPS to Palafrugell. From here, there will be some small signs to Tamiru which you follow (ignor your GPS, as it, like ours, may lead you down a dirt road about 2km from Tamiru with leads to nowhere). As you drive town the steep and narrow pinetree lined road leading into Tamiru (make sure you stay away from the cliff edge), you will get glimpses of the picturesque bay which appears to be hidden away from civilisation. Again, park in the council carpark (at arount 1 euro an hour, it’s a bargain compared to the parking in Cadaques. There isn’t much in Tamiru except for a few houses, a couple of hostels and a handful of cafes and restaurants. But that’s the beauty of Tamiru. We were lucky to arrive as the clouds were parting and the afternoon sun was glistening on the sea. The crystal clear water was so inviting, that as soon as we arrived, we jumped in. We spent the final hours of the afternoon just basking in the serenity of the beach and enjoying some delicious gelato.

IMG_8717

IMG_8722

IMG_8729

IMG_8735

IMG_8736

IMG_8745

IMG_8747

IMG_8748

IMG_8752

IMG_8753

IMG_8756

IMG_8759Essentials:

Getting there:
We hired a car from Europcar (located on Gran Via, Barcelona). It’s best to use a GPS if it’s your first time in Barcelona to get out of the city, but once you’re on the E-15 freeway, the drive is quite simple – most decent sized town are market on the freeway exits. This freeway north of Barcelona is one of the most expensive in Spain. I think our total tolls there and back were about 20 euros. Staying on the freeway, although expensive, saves a lot of time, especially if you’re only doing a day trip. But if you have time to spare, taking the coastal road would be a lot more scenic and interesting.

Eat:
Seafood! Costa Brava is famous for its seafood. This is the place to try Spanish paella. Try it in different restaurants, as everyone has there own spin on the all time favourite and iconic Spanish dish. And like everywhere in Spain, tapas is extremely popular in Costa Brava, particularly the seafood options.

Scotts Head, Australia

On our way to Byron Bay (see previous post), we spent two nights camping at Scotts Head. Scotts Head is a quiet little beach side town located on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, just south of Nambucca Heads.  Although it is a popular tourist destination in the summer, Scotts Head has a population of only about 800 people, so I guess it would be fairly quiet during the winter. There isn’t a great deal to see and do (there are a handful of shops, a few real estate agencies and a bowling club), aside from spending your days at the beach or enjoying a spot of fishing. There are three beaches at Scotts Head – Main Beach, Little Beach and my favourite Wakki Beach, which is only accessible by a steep dirt path. Wakki Beach and the north end of Main Beach are the best for surfing, and the southern end of Main Beach is patrolled and their isn’t much surf, so it is perfect for families with young children.

Unfortunately, the two days spent at Scotts Head were overcast and grey, as you can see from the photos, but luckily we didn’t have any rain. We camped out at Scotts Head Holiday Park, which has the best piece of real estate in town, being located right on the main beach. We spent our days there relaxing at the beaches, exploring the town, going for walks along and beach and the headlands and simply chilling-out at our campsite, having a few drinks together and listening to the strumming of guitars of our fellow campers. In the evenings, don’t forget to head down to the main beach to watch children squealing as they try to catch the ghost crabs that race down the sand and into the sea.

IMG_9737

IMG_9738

IMG_9852

IMG_9851

IMG_9850

IMG_9837

IMG_9836

IMG_9834

IMG_9832

IMG_9862

IMG_9831

IMG_9827

IMG_9826

IMG_9823

IMG_9792

IMG_9790

IMG_9783

IMG_9774

IMG_9771

IMG_9768

IMG_9767

IMG_9761

IMG_9756

IMG_9746

IMG_9744

IMG_9740

IMG_9739

Essentials:

Stay:
Scotts Head Holiday Park: It’s cheap and has the best location in town. We paid $20 per night for a large powered campsite and were located only a few metres from the beach. The campsite has great and newly renovated facilities – a large toilet and shower block, a laundry, barbecue area, clothes lines, and even a tennis court. The park is supposed to have free wifi, but we weren’t able to connect to it. There is a general store, two cafes, a liquor store, clothes/gift shop and a real estate agency right outside the camping group, so you don’t have to travel far to get supplies.

Eat:
If you’re camping, cooking your own meals at the campsite is usually the best way to go (you’ll also save some $$$). The general store is well stocked and the prices aren’t much higher than your average suburban Coles or Woolworths. Alternatively, there are two cafes offering simple, yet tasty meals. They do good coffee too.

Getting There:
The easiest way to get to Scotts Head is to drive. It is located about 10km from the Pacific Highway. There will be a sign to Scotts Head, at Scotts Head Road. Keep a lookout for wildlife, especially if you’re driving in and out at dusk or dawn and also during the nightime hours

Byron Bay, Australia

I’m just going to butt in on my European travels (I’ve been so busy that my posts are lagging behind – it’s already been over three months since I got back!), with a more recent getaway to Byron Bay over the New Years break. When it comes to holidays, I’m usually more of an adventurous, overseas kind of girl, than one who likes to take short trips closer to home. But meeting a Portuguese guy on my European travels this year in Lisbon (stay tunned on my travels through Portugal – one of the most interesting and architecturally rich countries in Europe), who has recently moved to Australia, means that I’ll be keeping my feet a little more firmly on the ground, and showing him around this amazing country, known as Australia.

I spent a week in the most gorgeous house (originally an old church), with some of the best company (there were sixteen of us crazy kids in total), in one of the most beautiful places on this earth (I was so impressed with the lush green meadows and rainforests, and seaside landscapes around Byron Bay). We relaxed at the beach, went bushwalking and swam beneath an amazing waterfall, visited some cute little towns and ate some, well a lot of, delicious food (lovingly prepared by my fellow housemates each evening, and not forgetting a few breakfasts of beacon and eggs or blueberry pancakes). A holiday can’t get much better than that.

The entire week was extremely well organised, which is usually difficult to do with such a large group. We rented a house for the week, located in the small village of Newrybar, about a 10 minute drive south of Byron Bay along the Pacific Highway. The house was a magnificently restored old church, with an extension at the rear, making it large and comfortable enough for all sixteen of us. Originally there were only 12 people going, but 4 extras (including me) asked to tag along. This meant that we had about $1,000 surplus, which was used to purchase food for the week. Each evening 2 or 3 people were in charge of preparing dinner for the rest of us, which created a great group atmosphere as, no matter what everyone was doing each day, we all got together at sunset to enjoy a few drinks and eat a good meal. And eat well we did – one night ceviche and chicken enchiladas were magnificently served, another evening it was pikanja and a summer salad on the back deck, New Years Day was Moroccan green curry chicken with couscous to nurse those hangovers, one evening some of the best spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever had were dished up, and on our final night Thai beef salad and mini pavlovas were a beautiful and delicious finishing touch.

The majority of the housemates were keen surfers, which meant that most mornings begin with them heading to the beach to check out the surf and hopefully spend their mornings catching waves. The rest of us sun-baked on the beach, went for a swim, read a book, or stayed at the house relaxing in the hammocks we hung in the backyard. Or playing a game or two of ping-pong. I’m always have itchy feet and am keen to go sightseeing, explore new places and take a photo or two. Below are listed some of my favourite places I visited during our week up near Byron.

IMG_0130

IMG_0129

IMG_0163

IMG_0160

IMG_0156

Here is the list of my favourite places to visit in and around Byron Bay:

Wategos Beach: The majority of people visiting Byron Bay tend not to venture far and spend their days at the overly crowded main beach. A few of the housemates were regular visitors to Byron Bay and recommended we visit Wategos Beach, located just north of Cape Byron Lighthouse (you can easily walk from the lighthouse to Wategos – it takes about 20 minutes). Wategos is a small beach, it can’t be more than 100m long and is popular with families. There is something about the beach that makes it beautiful and inviting and out of all the beaches we visited in and around Byron, it was my favourite.

Cape Byron Lighthouse: A must do when you visit Byron Bay. Cape Byron is the most easterly point on the Australian mainland and offers some of the most spectacular views. If you’re keen enough, get up before dawn and head to the lighthouse to be one of the first people on the continent to see the sunrise (we unfortunately weren’t so keen). When visiting the lighthouse, you can drive to the top and park your car for a fee of $7. If you want to avoid the fee and are don’t mind a good walk, you can park at either Wategos or Clarkes Beach (a little further away) and follow the path to the lighthouse. Aside from the landscape which is just breathtaking, the lighthouse itself, built in 1901, is a beautiful piece of architecture and is literary full of history (the ground floor of the lighthouse now houses a little museum).

Minyon Falls: One of the couples staying with us recommended we visit Minyon falls, located in Nightcap National Park, about 25km west of Byron Bay. Driving away from the coast, we passed through some of the most lush and green farming land that I have ever seen in Australia. It was just beautiful. And the falls themselves were indescribably spectacular. They can be viewed from a viewing platform at the top of the falls from which you look over a 100m drop. We decided to walk to the base, but we accidently took the long way, so if you visit and want to walk to the base of the falls, first view the falls from the viewing platform, but don’t walk to the base from there – drive back to Minyon Falls Grass from which you follow the path to the base – you’ll save yourself 2km of walking in each direction. As you near the bottom of the ravine, the dry bush turns into lush green rainforest. The path gets a bit tricky as you near the falls, as you have to complete an obstacle course of crossing creeks and climbing up and over enormous balders. But once you reach the base of the falls, all that hard work and effort would have paid off – you can jump into the crisp, cool water of the falls.

IMG_0401

IMG_0343

IMG_0319

IMG_0318

IMG_0316

IMG_0314

IMG_0313

IMG_0312

IMG_0304

IMG_0301

IMG_0298

IMG_0287

IMG_0129.1

IMG_0185

IMG_0184

IMG_0191

IMG_0187

IMG_0180

IMG_0179

IMG_0177

IMG_0173

IMG_0172

IMG_0171

IMG_0170

IMG_0150    IMG_0148

IMG_0147

IMG_0145   IMG_0138

IMG_0139

IMG_0314.1

IMG_0296

IMG_0301

IMG_0336

IMG_0348

IMG_0369

IMG_9999

IMG_9998

IMG_9995

IMG_9994

IMG_9987

IMG_9986

IMG_9982

IMG_0054

IMG_0049

IMG_0045

IMG_0029

IMG_0074

IMG_0059

IMG_0051

IMG_0029

IMG_0266

IMG_0272

IMG_0256

IMG_0257

IMG_0259

IMG_0271

IMG_0270

IMG_0265

IMG_0264

IMG_0261

IMG_0260

IMG_0123

IMG_0122

IMG_0121

IMG_0082

IMG_0417

IMG_9947

IMG_9958

IMG_9934

IMG_9971

IMG_9974

IMG_9979

IMG_0247

IMG_0243

IMG_0228

IMG_0225

IMG_0220

IMG_0245

Essentials:

Where to stay:

The Old Church, Brooklet Road, Newrybar: We stayed at The Old Church http://theoldchurchbyronbay.com/. It is an old church, built in 1911, which has been converted into a beautiful house. Although it is a little out of Byron, if you have a car, it’s only a 15 minute drive to the centre of Byron Bay. Highly recommended for groups.
Where to eat: 

The Harvest Cafe, Newrybar: A chic and stylish, yet rustic, cafe/restaurant located in the small village of Newrybar. It seems as though people visit Newrybar solely to eat at The Harvest Cafe – the place was booked out for lunch everyday we were there. It isn’t a cheap eat, but the food is just to die for. It’s easy to see why it is so popular. Just looking at the menu make you drool. Try the Harvest ricotta pancakes served with fresh local blueberries and maple syrup for breakfast, or warm goats cheese terrine with a fig and macadamia centre, served with fennel, asparagus and burnt orange sauce. And for all those sweet-tooths out there, you can’t go past the steamed mango and coconut custard, served chilled with toasted sesame and peanut brittle. Delish!

The Rails, Byron Bay: Your typical pub, but this one is on the railway lines. Serving upmarket and good quality ‘pub food’, this place is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, and always full of people. Make sure you get there early, before 5pm, if you want to get a table. I’ve heard rave reviews for their chilli salmon linguini, they have a good range of delicious burgers, from vegetarian to fish burgers, and their steaks are big and tasty. There is also live music seven nights per week, so the place is never dull.

The Top Shop, Cape Byron: Your typical corner shop turn cafe, is situated near Cape Byron (a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch after a surf at Wategos Beach). They perhaps have the best burgers in Byron, not to mention their bacon and egg rolls, and their berry smoothies are to die for. For all those caffine addicts out there, they do pretty good coffee.

Where to shop:

Little Peach, Bangalow: I absolutely adored this shop. A little store selling beautiful Japanese homewares and gifts located on the main road in Bangalow, selling everything from chopsticks to tableware, jewellery to kimonos. I spotted some gorgeous Japanese blue and white porcelain plates and noodle bowls, and couldn’t leave until I purchased a set. It broke the budget a bit, but they were worth every cent.

Red Ginger, Bangalow & Byron Bay: This Asian supermarket/cafe/homewares store is a mecca for anyone visiting Bangalow (there is also a store in Byron Bay too). They have everything you need to cook up any Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese meal, as well as other treats. It’s also a great place to stop for an afternoon snack – their steamed dumplings go down extremely well after a long day at the beach.

Drift Lab, Newrybar & Byron Bay: If you love theiconic.com.au, then you’ll love Drift Lab. Selling indi labels such Finders Keepers, Neuw, Status Anxiety, Sunday Somewhere, Raen, Brixon, ect, this is where you go for fashion. I’m a bit of a fashion lover and couldn’t resist a pair of Finders Keepers pants, nor a soft leather Status Anxiety wallet. Oooops. Another budget breaker.

Getting there:

Drive: We drove from Sydney up the Pacific Highway. The drive takes approximately 9 to 10 hours, depending on traffic. At the moment there are road works near Kempsey and Bulahdelah, causing delays of up to an hour. It a simple drive, you just continue straight until you see the sign for Byron Bay. Don’t forget to stop, revive and survive every two hours – there are plenty of rest points along the way.

Fly: There are flights from Sydney to Ballina, which is located about 35km south of Byron Bay. From Ballina you can take a bus to Byron.