Byron Bay is Australia’s homegrown version of classic Southern California. It’s got surfers, sun worshippers, fun aficiandos, yogis, sages, divers, hippies, greenies, farmers, artists, writers, musicians, poets, teachers, massage therapists, healers, astrologers, psychics, tarot card readers and crystals, as well as all the requisite spa and meditation retreats, farmers markets, health food stores, and restaurants. Thank goodness for a few good old-fashioned pubs so you don’t forget where you are. No wonder the Yanks love to visit! Only an hour’s flight from Sydney, Byron Bay rests at the northern tip of New South Wales. Originally a rural district frequented by farmers and cattlemen, it now shines as the happy valley Mecca of the new age hippy/surfer. Locals talk a lot about divine energy, abundance, prosperity, and manifestation. You only have to look around to see why─the place is dripping with good karma and chi, even nature itself boasts an abundance of fruit, flora and fauna. Like the American Indians in California, the Aboriginal spirits live on in the land, which originally belonged to the “Bundjalung People.” According to Bundjalung dreamtime, three brothers settled on what is known as Seven Mile beach (between Lennox and Broken Head), and one of them, Yarbirri, produced a flow of fresh water by thrusting his spear into the sand. At low tide there is said to be a stain where the water flowed. An estimated 400-500 Bundjalung people lived in the area prior to the arrival of European settlers.
At Temple Byron, Paul Margolin traded in his successful Rolls Royce dealership in Sydney for a simpler life devoted to the many forms of healing that are practiced in his sacred and magical space. His passion for astrology, crystals and Flamenco guitar offer some insight into the eclecticism that can be found dwelling here. The main hall and an unique Mongolian yurt are used for Akido, Yoga and Qi gong, as well as chanting, theater, mandalas, magician, pranic alignment, music, and sacred sexuality workshops, to name a few. “They provide a sacred space for spiritual practices as well as seminars and workshops designed to promote self discovery and personal transformation,” says Paul. “Anything that support paths of learning that assist people in their higher vision quest.” If all this sounds a bit out there, one Astrology session with Paul will set the record straight and if you ever get the chance to hear him play the guitar, you’ll know there is no way that this man is a lightweight. He means business when it comes to healing. Yoga instructors such as Grant Wolf and Waran Karl from Yoga BC in Sydney offer weekend Yoga and Meditation retreats based on Deepak Chopra’s Primordial Sound Mediation program that can rejuvenate even the weariest of souls by wrapping students in their positive energy and calming spirits. Sessions are broken up with swims and body surfing lessons, as well as shots of Grant’s liquid Green Raw Breakfast shakes that kick like a mule. Chai, the local masseuse, is also on hand to administer exquisite Body Bliss massage therapy to tense muscles. (For privates, call: 0415 717 065.)
While Temple Byron offers a lot for the health conscious and enlightened, it does not offer accommodation. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to stay nearby. The closest, Planula Bed & Breakfast, sits right next door and specializes in diving packages. Wandermelon recommends renting a local house as there are many to chose from ranging widely in size and price. Nearby Belongil Beach offers one of the nicest and quietest settings right on the coast and is only a few minutes from the centre of town. Stayz.com.au offers a large selection of houses. Our favorites are the Amari Thai Retreat, Puri Pantai Beach House, Tiare’s @ Tallows, Buddhas Bungalow and Susan’s Beach House Broken Head. Migaloo and Shambhala are also impressive and can be found on holidaysbyronbay.com.au. Beachcomber Beach House, Byron Blisshouse, Beaumont’s Beach House and China’s Place are also well worth checking out.
If you are looking for hotel accommodation, our two favorites are the iconic Rae’s on Watego’s─a boho-chic Moroccan style pile on an intimate beach where the jetset like to hang, or Olivia Newton John’s crunchier Gaia Retreat & Spa set back in the nearby hinterlands of Bangalow. At Gaia, guests can enjoy all the privileges of a full service resort without being herded like cattle. Here, it’s all about you and the staff will help you design your own personal experience─whether it is active and energetic or tranquil and serene. And on Saturdays, Bangalow buzzes with activity as the markets overflow with both locals and visitors all hawking and trading their wares, catching up on the news, swapping stories, playing music, cooking food, and generally making for a very colorful scene in keeping with the true spirit of Byron.
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