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Winter is coming
Yes, even Byron Bay and the Hinterland must face the looming onset of cold weather.
Well, to be fair it is all relative. Winters in Northern NSW are naturally tempting if you’re staring down the barrel of another bleak and chilly Melbourne July! Even Sydney feels the pinch of the season far more than we do here. And for our visitors from Queensland, a sneaky southern break must appeal with the prospect of hot baths, open fires and a glass of red wine.
So now that the days are getting noticeable shorter, and there is a hint of chill in the air, it is the right time start planning a winter’s break in and around Byron.
Of course, the fantastic thing about winter here is the climate. With warm days but cool, even cold nights, the region offers something for everyone. Winter is our dry season, where the humidity takes a break, and the rains ease off which means most days you can get outside in the sun and then enjoy crisp, clear nights by a fire if you want to. Have your cake and eat it too.
During the day you can expect the temperature to hit around 20C, while at night 12C. That’s pretty comfortable for most folks. The water temperature stays relativity warm too, hitting 20C – the lowest it gets to – around August. That means you can swim, SUP or surf all year around if you fancy. Kids won’t feel the cold, so they’ll jump in happily; but for adults, remember how invigorating the ocean can be and dive in!
If dipping a toe in doesn’t appeal, how about a different kind of water adventure? Whale watching is at its best in this area and this time of year. Being the eastern-most point in the country brings that advantage, and the season runs from around May through to October. You can go all in and take one of the whale watching experiences offered by various outlets in the area – there’s a few to choose from including some paddling options if that takes your fancy.
But you don’t need to get out on the water to catch the whales. You can see them without getting your feet sandy, let alone wet, from any of the incredible vantage points along the coast. Byron Bay Lighthouse (and the Lighthouse walk) are easily accessible; while Broken Head, Lennox Head and beaches further to the south offer great options where you can tie in a beautiful walk to double-down on nature. If you’re taking the DIY approach, you needn’t worry too much about success rates either. With the very cool Wild About Whales app, you can get help finding the best spots to spot a whale heading north. Wild About Whales is run by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the website has lots of information about the whales, their migration and how best to enjoy the experience.
Of course, many people visit the region over winter to attend one of the great festivals held locally. Splendour in the Grass and the Byron Writers Festival are incredible events, and if you’re coming to the area to get your dancing shoes on, or to take in some awesome author talks, make sure you take in some of the other adventures and experiences on offer. Or better still, come back again and try a different festival or event! While the Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass Festival is taking a break this year, the very cool North Coast Mud Trail is back on, taking place over the weekend of 17-18 August.
The North Coast Mud Trail gives you a chance to explore the Hinterland, calling in at the studios of local potters and ceramicists. Many of them are otherwise closed to the public, so this is a great chance to see, meet and talk to some incredibly talented people. While you’re exploring, you can check out some lovely villages, road side stalls and farm gates along the way. We can even plan a food+farm tour for you, bringing it all together!
Even sooner on the calendar is the Lismore Lantern Parade, on Saturday 22 June. This year marks the 25th year of the Parade, which is always held around the winter solstice. The event involves locals and visitors parading some incredible lanterns and structures through the streets of Lismore. Music, puppets, dance, food and fireworks make this a great night out.
If something more bucolic appeals, you can’t go past the chance to take in a bush walk around the region. There are so many options to contemplate (we’ve talked about some before) with everything from serious overnight treks right down to family-friendly jaunts through the countryside. For some good ideas, I can recommend the bible of local bush walks, Byron Trails. A great book, especially for those who make return trips to the area.
For the foodies among us, the big events will kick-off again in Spring (Sample is set for 7 September, while the Ballina Food and Wine Festival will be held on 20 October). This means winter is the perfect time of year to explore food in a different way. Why not get a little experimental with markets, produce or cafes and restaurants? Here’s a challenge: try cooking ingredient you’ve not had before (and we can help you with that); or perhaps check out a different dining destination (there’s some tips in this earlier blog); or even try a different farmers market, maybe one of the smaller ones in Nimbin, Blue Knob or Ballina.
At any of the local markets you will find phenomenal produce through the colder months – thanks to the climate, and the skill of local producers – with everything from avocado to zucchini prolific over winter. Cauliflower comes into its own, while under-appreciated vegies like choko are something to have a crack at. Fruit wise, citrus abounds this time of year but that’s not all you can sample. Our passionfruit vine is groining with fruit right now, and the region’s bananas, blueberries and custard apples are always a popular and healthy option.
I’m making myself hungry writing this. It must be lunch time!
Whatever winter adventure you embark on, let us know what was the highlight so we can share it with others, and always make sure you check out real people making real food at real places.
PS. Sorry, couldn’t resist the GOT-themed blog title! I wonder how many gazillion times that’s been rolled out over the last few weeks…