Travelling Wikos: Byron Bay

So I’m still far from caught up on our European travels from earlier this year, but I just had some film developed from a recent, more domestic trip and thought I would share our recent adventures in travel, music and, most importantly, food!

While we were still in Spain in January, we managed to get just enough fleeting internet access to read that my two favourite bands of all time- At the Drive-In and Refused- had reformed for the Coachella music festival. If I a) hadn’t been about to board a ferry for Morocco and b) actually had money to throw around at whim, I would have booked tickets then and there, and worried about the airfares later. We missed out for the time being, but fortunately for us it turned out that both bands were Australia-bound anyway! And we were lucky enough to be among the relative few who scored tickets to the sell-out Splendour in the Grass festival to see At the Drive-In play their only show in the country.

So this not only meant getting to see my favourite band ever (a prospect of schoolgirl-like, flailing excitement in itself), but also an excuse to bid farewell to cold sadness of inland Canberra and make the trip to Byron Bay, where neither of us had ever been. It was going to be a good few days!

After arriving and getting our bearings, we realised how hungry we were and decided to head out to find something to eat. We chose the closest thing we could find to our hostel, and ended up at Heart and Halo. Heart and Halo is one of those buffet-style places where you pay for a bowl and fill it to your heart’s content. While the concept suited us just fine at that point in time, the food was a bit of a letdown, especially given the rave reviews on Happy Cow.

My dhal and vegetable curry were both pretty bland and unmemorable, but Chadwiko assures me that his (non-vegan) vegetable pakoras were delicious. Regardless, it filled our bellies and was nothing a couple of local beers couldn’t fix.

The next morning we noticed a poster in our hostel advertising a place called Cafe Oska, which promised vegan options. We were sold, and headed over there for an early, pre-festival breakfast. The staff here were super nice, and while there was nothing marked vegan on the menu that morning they were more than happy to make me a delicious tomato and avocado bruschetta for breakfast.

This was really simple but so, so good. Fresh, thick sourdough slices with super fresh tomato and avocado- it was exactly what I felt like (it was also a novelty to be able to enjoy breakfast outdoors in t-shirts in July, despite the locals thinking it was cold enough for jumpers). I’ll definitely be back at Cafe Oska next time we’re in Byron.

Having arrived at the festival site pretty early, we managed to fit in a spot of shopping and roaming to check out the culinary options on offer before the crowds got crazy.

We were initially disappointed to see that Grill’d (our favourite burger chain) hadn’t brought any of their vegan options to the festival, but we soon got over it when we realised how many other vendors were proudly displaying ‘vegan friendly’ signs. It wasn’t long before Chadwiko was struck by hunger when he came across his favourite snack for sale.

A short while later, we realised that we couldn’t pass up the novelty of eating vegan Tom Yum noodles from a convenient, portable paper cone, so we settled in for lunch.

Excuse the horrible iPhone photo- I assume you that this was packed full of vegetables, noodles, cashews and spicy sauce and was thoroughly delicious.

Not long after eating, grabbing some beers and settling down on the grass with some friends, the five minute storm that would transform the site from pleasant to hideous swamp pit struck.

This put an end to our wandering for the time being, keeping us confined either to the bar or the shelter of the festival stages- though we weren’t complaining. In the end, we had no excuse not to find ourselves a great spot for At the Drive-In’s set, and I got to finally see my favourite songs played live from the relative comfort (mainly due to breathing room) of the front row.

On the way to see Explosions in the Sky before leaving, Chadwiko couldn’t pass up sampling more corn, this time in fritter form…

… While I finished off the Larabar stash I’d smuggled in.

After a well-deserved sleep (and some even more well-deserved showers), the next morning we pulled on our soaked shoes and headed out for a final look around town. A couple of places we’d had our eye on were closed, but fortunately we stumbled across Byron Organic Kitchen around the corner from our hostel. Like Cafe Oska, there were no vegan options on the menu that day but the staff had some great suggestions about things they could make me. I ended up with sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes and baby spinach with homemade hommus and the most delicious freshly baked Turkish bread I’ve had in a long time.

After a final visit to the beach and a lunch at a pizza place that really doesn’t warrant a mention (due in no small part to the feta-smothered pizza they served me when I ordered something with ‘no cheese’), I managed to fit in a visit to Fundies whole foods store- definitely my second-place highlight of the trip! Fundies was by far the best vegan/health food store I’ve ever been to, and I had a hard time picking out some treats with the limited cash I had left- such a hard time, in fact, that I took so long that had to run back to the hostel where the airport shuttle was waiting for me.

But the embarrassment was worth it! I picked up a tote bag (my new go-to grocery bag) this local mint drinking chocolate (perfect for the chilly Canberra weather when we got home!), some raw chilli and lime chocolate from Queensland (super dark and packs a punch- one piece is enough to tide you over for a while, which ended up being great when our flight was cancelled and we were stuck in the airport for hours with nothing to eat!) …

… And our new favourite thing, these hot sauces from the Byron Bay Chilli Company! Jalapeño for Chadwiko and mango with chipotle for me. We’re a little bit obsessed with these (clearly- Chadwiko’s bottle used to be a lot fuller than it is in this photo). They’ve even replaced Frank’s in our house as the perfect hot sauce to serve with tofu scramble. So perfect that I’ve been making scramble for dinner almost once a week just so we have an excuse to use these sauces. They’re the perfect souvenir!

Delicious treats, beautiful beaches and great music- sounds like a pretty perfect weekend in Byron Bay to me. I certainly won’t be complaining if Splendour in the Grass offers us another solid lineup and forces a return visit next year.

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1 comment

  1. [...] companies, the Byron Bay Chilli Company. I wrote a bit about their hot sauces in my post about our trip to Byron Bay back in July, and they’re still some of our favourite sauces (you might have noticed the [...]

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