Christmas is one of the most important times of the year for us. It’s that time where we drive around trying to see as many family members as possible, eat as much as possible and drink as much as possible in the space of just a couple of days.
Typically the lead up to Christmas is a period of constant stress. You’re stressed buying presents, stressed rushing around trying to see everybody and for those preparing the meals (typically Sarah’s parents) it’s super stressful feeding so many people (or so I presume).
This year we didn’t do any driving at all, nor did we see a single family member. This is because we’re travelling around Australia over the Christmas and new year period.
We spent Christmas in Byron Bay, one of the most chilled out hippie places you’re ever likely to see. It’s located in New South Wales on the east coast of Australia, a few hours south of Brisbane. Famous for its golden beaches, excellent surfing and laid back atmosphere, it’s a popular destination for those travellers seeking a summer Christmas destination.
We stayed in a 4 bed dorm room at the YHA in the centre of Byron Bay. The last beds were booked a month in advance, the last private rooms over 5 months in advance. Not only this but in most places over the festive period there are minimum night stay clauses. This means that you cannot simply stay for one or two nights at a time but much book for a minimum of either 5, 7 or even 10 nights in some places. Note to everyone – if you’re planning Christmas in Byron Bay, book early!
We were initially a little disappointed that we didn’t have our own room for Christmas but our room mates (and pretty much everyone in the hostel for that matter) were really nice people and of course, everybody is in the same boat.
Christmas Eve we were in Brisbane, a nice big city full of shops and food. We knew that the majority of places would be closed on Christmas Day and wanted to make sure we had enough food and drink to last us a few days. We bought ourselves some traditional Christmas snack food (ham, olives, cheese, salmon, crackers etc) and carted it all on the greyhound in a cooler bag to Byron.
Our Christmas in Byron Bay started with us waking to the sounds of bird chirping and sunlight streaming through the windows. The weather predictions had not been great for Christmas Day itself, rain was forecast for most of the day so when we saw the sunlight we got straight out of our bunk beds and into the kitchen. Sarah had planned smoked salmon & cream cheese bagels on the beach, complete with a cheeky bottle of prosecco.
We hit the beach just before 9am and it was already filling up with jolly tourists and Australians alike. The sun was beaming down and made the entire Christmas in Byron Bay experience even more surreal. It was 28 degrees and everyone was swimming in the sea. In our 29 years of life we’d never seen anything like it. We ate our salmon bagels and finished a bottle of prosecco between us then had a swim in the sea, it was really quite refreshing.
At 11am however, the clouds sneaked up and cast a foreboding shadow on the festivities. The rain started falling, and didn’t stop until 7pm that Christmas evening.
For those with sore heads who partied late into the evening on Christmas Eve and who slept dreaming of their first summer Christmas in Byron Bay with barbecues on the beach, waking up at 11am was like a hammer blow to the heart.
We retreated back to the hostel for about 12pm. We had a Christmas lunch booked at the hostel for $10 a head at 1pm and didn’t want to miss it.
Christmas lunch consisted of cold turkey, ham, coleslaw and a fresh hot dog off the BBQ. It was really nice but the company was even better. With the rain lashing down on our sheltered picnic tables we sat with a number of different nationalities and talked about our traditional Christmas days.
This got quite a few people missing their families back home, and during the afternoon we spoke to a number of British people who had cooked their own lunch and were really missing their mum’s turkey dinner. They looked rather miserable especially when we told them about how nice the weather was in the morning. Turns out they were among those not to get up until after 11am and had seen nothing but torrential rain all day.
To be honest, if we hadn’t taken the initiative and got up straight away and practically sprinted for the beach we would have been disappointed too. As it stood we had a fantastic breakfast, a really interesting lunch and then spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing in the hostel. This was a far cry for the stress of driving around the UK trying to drop off presents and see as many people as possible!
We had our ham and bits in the evening with another bottle of prosecco, it was still raining but at least we were eating cheese!
Evening came to us in Australia and back in the UK families were waking up to a Christmas morning without some of their loved ones. Cue the majority of our hostel (who were either British or European) taking out their phones and Face-Timing families. The Internet held up surprisingly well and Sarah and I managed to contact Sarah’s mum who was just getting ready for Church. This left Sarah feeling rather melancholy, it was her first Christmas Day away from home so afterwards we hit Byron centre for a drink. It had thankfully stopped raining by this point.
There were approximately two pubs open in Byron and they were packed. A couple of glasses of wine later with some new. Brazilian and Belgian friends and we were ready for bed.
All in all a pretty tame but rather relaxing Christmas in Byron Bay. As you can see it’s all about the weather. Good weather can make or break it – thank god we got up early!
Luckily the weather went from strength to strength on Boxing Day and we had beautiful sunshine all day. After a lazy morning where we enjoyed our final smoked salmon on yet another bagel we decided to hit the beach again and spent a pleasant few hours swimming and sunbathing.
We decided after a while that we really should stop being so lazy and go for a good walk, as is proper on Boxing Day, and headed for Cape Byron Lighthouse together with what felt like the rest of the town. It’s a pretty decent walk, especially in 30 degree plus heat and takes you around 2-3kms along the coast where you’re treated to amazing views of the ocean, the rest of the bay and even the odd dolphin if you’re lucky enough to spot one. After our only exercise for the week we headed back to the hostel for a snooze and to eat some more food and drink more prosecco – pretty much the perfect Boxing Day, which made our experience of Christmas in Byron Bay so much better.
Next stop on our one month in Australia was our trip further south to Sydney and beyond!