Easter planning: under the radar options to seek out

Easter planning: under the radar options to seek out

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If you’re anything like me, the fun of a holiday is equal parts contemplation and experience. And, if you’re really like me, that contemplation can mean, days, weeks or even months of research.

Where are we going to stay? What are we going to eat? What are we go to do? What else are we going to eat? What am I going to cook? Where do the locals eat? There’s an obvious theme!

Copious amounts of food, market and farm research ensues. I scour blogs, reviews, local and/or social media and it all gets compiled into a spreadsheet of options to cook, taste and visit. I sound slightly fanatical, but I promise I’m not (I’m not the crazy, I’m the opposite of crazy…). There’s never a hope of cramming it all in, but I love having options ready to go should the moment present itself.

If you’re planning a trip to Byron Bay and the Hinterland this Easter, I thought kick-start your contemplation with some suggestions of what to do, where to visit and importantly, what to eat. Truth be told, there’s a huge array of great options in the region, some of which are really well known. Scratch a little deeper though, and you’ll come across an even wider selection. Given I can’t just tell you to eat our meal pods and go on our food&farm tours, I reached out to some of my favourite locals, people with the inside scoop on some of the coolest, most interesting, tastiest ideas of how to experience our region in style. I asked them to recommend some places that might not have popped up on your radar before…

Let’s start with breakfast.

Photographer extraordinaire Ben Wyeth, suggests that food truck Lennox Smoking Barrel, which sets up at Sharpes Beach, does a mean bacon and egg roll. Sharpes is pretty rough, so maybe skip the swim and rent some bikes instead! You can enjoy the cycle path behind the beach and then grab breaky.

Chef Gavin Hughes, well known for his stint as head chef at The Byron at Byron, and can now be found rattling the pans as chef de cuisine at the Emporium Hotel Southbank loves this neck of the woods. He nominates Bay Leaf in Byron as a real local’s cafe which dishes up great coffee – people watching!

Byron Brewery Manager and man-about-town Jean Andre said just to head straight to Dip and say hello to Jean Francois. We can vouch for that recommendation – that’s their dishes pictured above!

Local artists Jane and Greg Furney suggest joining the locals at Harvest Bakery on Saturday and Sunday mornings for fresh croissants and a their range of patisseries.

For something further north, Harriet Messenger, purveyor of fine spirits and good times (AKA Husk Distillery) suggests Cubby Bakehouse at Chinderah. Baguettes, coffee and amazing pastries. For the complete experience, her advice is to then head down to Fingal Head for a walk around the lighthouse, spot some wildlife and hit the water at Dreamtime Beach or Fingal Beach (to surf and swim respectively).

What about market options if you want to shop for some fresh produce? Gavin rightly points out that each of the markets in the region has its own vibe. His take is that Byron Farmers Market (Thursdays) is a real meeting point for the community to support their farmers and fellow residents. The vibe at Bangalow Farmers Market (Saturday) is one that oozes a sense of community. And Mullum? Well, the Farmers Market there (Fridays) is just like the town: unique!

How about some good lunch options if you’re out-and-about some other pockets of the region?

Fran Austin, one half of the dynamic duo that is Lismore’s Blue Kitchen Gourmet has a hot tip for great fresh sushi rolls, especially the raw salmon, at Freewave Sushi and Burgers in Lennox Head. Take a walk along Seven Mile Beach and then enjoy.

Sarah McGrory, she of the addictive Byron Bay Crackers and brilliant blog Get Forked and Fly, points out that Brunswick Head is loaded with food gems. Her suggestions: check out The Kingswood, La Casita or try a serve of calamari and chips from Starfish Café on Mullumbimbi Street.

Pam Brook, Co-Founder of Brookfarm and Chair of Northern Rivers Food, doubled-down on the La Casita recommendation for delicious fresh Mexican. She reckons it’ll make you hungry even if you’re not!

Sarah also put in a word for a hinterland drive to Federal’s DOMA Café for fantastic sushi and Japanese eats. Grab a drink from the bottle shop next door and find a seat or some grass and enjoy the weekend music.

Ben recommended Friday Hut Dining, as another great Hinterland option, but get in quick if you want to pursue that idea. They’re only doing limited sittings over Easter. For something more hands-on idea, Gavin also suggests Belinda Jeffery’s regional cooking classes.

And while it may not quite be open in time for Easter holidays, visit the region again to take in Harriet’s other tip: a visit to Husk for a local antipasto platter, cocktails and a distillery tour (we’ll let you know when they open). Yum…

I know many of you will be travelling with kids, and the good news is that lots of the places recommended here are family-friendly. Some of the other suggestions which will get a tick of approval from the munchkins are Top Shop in Byron for their American burger, tacos from Chihuahua Taqueria or dumplings from Mr Gao’s Love Shack in Ballina.

Now, with all that food, you’ll probably need to take a walk, or a nap!.

Gavin and I share a cycling obsession, so you could also try getting out for a ride. Sure, you’ll need to keep and eye out for potholes on some roads, but the views and the experience is worth a few bumps! Gavin hits up the route from Byron through Coopers Shoot to Bangalow, and you could always have a recovery beer at the pub or the Bowlo. A favourite ride of mine is to head out from Rosebank, through Bexhill, Eltham, Teven and onto Ballina for coffee at Chef & Shuka or The Belle Central. You can even keep going through to Lennox, Byron, Mullum or Brunswick if you’re really keen.

But you’re on holidays, so don’t go crazy, go out for drinks instead!

Pam rightly mentions Cape Byron Distillery as a great way to ease into your evening. Go on the rainforest walk, sample delicious gins and sit on the veranda and watch the birds fly past.

Other spots recommended for a tipple were Shorty’s in Lennox for their cocktails; Hotel Brunswick for the quintessential beer garden experience; or the Roadhouse, between Byron and Suffolk, who have a mean natural wine list.

In terms of food, many of the places recommended for lunches are also great options for dinners. Another one to through into the mix would be Jane and Greg’s new favourite, No Bones, in Byron. It is vegan food that even their non-vegetarian friends think is amazing!

If all those options seem too overwhelming, I’ve heard that there’s this great business that will package up a load of premium local produce and deliver it to you, along with local drinks as well. What a brilliant idea!

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you’re supporting real people making real food at real places.