ìThe Bay, pharmacy
î said my father.
ìSurely there are better places for a soothing vacation.î
Naturally, order we had our way. We three females had been scanning the brochures for months. And the coven had decided. This summer, rx
it was to be the Byron Bay Family Caravan and Cabin Deluxe Resort.
Dad, a lone male envoy, never had a hope.
For many good reasons, they donít make cars like once they did. Our 76 Valiant was inefficient, hulking and the most beastly shade of yellow you could ever hope to see. It also had a particular faculty. It echoed the mood of its driver.
So, the bright yellow Valiant made a sullen drive up the Pacific. Dad was not looking forward to his return to The Bay. And neither, it seemed, was the enormous V8.
My outnumbered Dad, you see, was a Mullumbimby boy. Is. And in the post-war years of his childhood, The Bay was a place that others in the shire hoped never to attend.
Back in the 50s, The Bay was rough. Dad, a plumberís son, wanted nothing to do with those kids. As granny told it, at about thirteen, Dad read Biggles and immediately started speaking in an Eton accent. The young man whoíd come to be known as ìThe Generalî shunned the children of the abattoir and the whaling station.
Even as a surfer, he chose other breaks. You didnít look to The Bay unless you were looking for trouble.
Nonetheless, in 1980 our tribe rode into town. And to my little sister Meg and I, it immediately felt like the most elegant seaside town this side of the Amalfi Coast. I wore a terry towelling jump suit roughly the colour of our sullen car. Meg wore blue velour shorts. Mum, who was in a wrap-around dress in a style then known as ìethnicî, articulated our delight.
ìItís classy, Trev,î she said.
ìIíll agree,î he said. ìThe Bay has changed.î
By then, the town was a glamorous hybrid. Miscellany from the counter cultures had landed on its gorgeous beach. Hardcore surfers, radical hippies and extras from Easy Rider had found dÈtente with the locals. And everyone seemed to tolerate the families who paid top dollar for food and lodging starting each December.
It was, for me, deep love at first sight. Iíd never smelled pot or incense before The Bay. Iíd never seen a lighthouse, talked to an indigenous Australian or heard Led Zep. And, Iíd never dreamt there could be anything so delicious as a burrito. The Bay was terrible progressive. It had a Mexican restaurant.
I returned many times as a young adult. The place became Ground Zero for techno culture; a haven for writers; a celebrity hang. The Mexican restaurant closed. By the mid nineties, posh Sydneysiders had claimed the place and expected that words like ëragoutí would appear on their dinner menus.
ìThe Bay has changed,î I wrote to my Dad on a postcard.
I gave up my Bay habit for a few years. The hippies had moved to the hinterland. The bikers had morphed into business people. The locals had chased in and the surfers couldnít stomach the poor point etiquette of visiting grommets. They cleared out and so did I.
And then, last year, I returned. The Bay had changed again. I found it to my liking. Itís very posh and not at all the place that I once adored. But I liked it.
I dined at the landmark Beach Hotel and found that it had new owners. Any Melbourne gastronome will know the names of Lisa and John Van Haandel. And recognise their hand in The Pacific Dining Room. Restaurateurs responsible for Circa The Prince, the pair can claim BB credentials. They adore the town. And John, a barely reformed hippie, was the bloke who started the Mexican restaurant.
I didnít stay at the beachfront property, but I understand the rooms are quite luxe. Instead, I visited The Byron at Byron Resort. A little out of town, this place is set amid 45 acres of north coast verdure. I saw and heard all the birds and marsupials I thought had left town with the hippies. This nature-boy idyll is a real hit with business. Conferences dominate in this sub tropical nook.
The place that seduced truly me back to The Bay was the Villas of Byron. This self-contained, entirely private accommodation reignited the old spark.
ìIíve never been naked in my own plunge pool before,î I said to my partner.
ìIíve never been naked on my own heated marble floor,î I said to my partner.
ìIíve never been naked in my own tropical garden.î
I put on my robe just long enough to make it to the Buddha Gardens Balinese Day Spa.
The Bay has changed. And so have I.
ìThe Bay, pharmacy