The biggest changes I’ve discovered in my old friend Byron

November 15th, 2017 | | Accommodation

The year was 2000, we had just survived the threat of “Y2K”, I was fresh out of school and a friend and I decided to head up the east coast in an ’80s Ford Fairlane. Byron Bay was our main port of call. Back then Byron appealed to the free spirited wild child in me – and sleeping in tents at the Arts Factory was free spirit heaven – as we met travellers from all over the world who hadn’t bathed properly for weeks.

Since then I’ve grown up, settled down, had kids and I now visit Byron as an Airbnb-residing tourist. Sadly, much like myself, Byron has changed. It too has grown up, settled down and cleaned up its act.

Of course, not everyone is happy about this. Locals, regular holidaymakers, even those who’ve simply heard the folklore are lamenting the change. You can’t walk down the street without hearing someone say, “I miss the old Byron.” Meanwhile, little towns along the Legendary Pacific Drive from Sydney to Cairns are crying out to be the next „New Byron.”

Here are the biggest changes I’ve discovered in my old friend Byron: It’s got bloody expensive: Back in the day you’d visit a farm for some fresh eggs and tomatoes and make your own breakfast. Now you’re more likely to visit The Farm, a cafe run by two ex-advertising execs, where you pay $20 for an organic bacon and egg roll (AND wait 30 minutes for a table!). Reports say that Byron Bay is now more expensive than Sydney, and I didn’t think that would be possible. Coffee is expensive. And forget about parking your 80’s Fairlane in the main part of town – that is bloody expensive too!

It’s like the police academy: Back in “the day” the smell of weed emanated from the beach like the sea breeze. Now there is so much security to combat the crime that if ‘your friend’ wants to score weed he has to get into a car and drive for miles with an Ivan Milat looking character behind the wheel (so I’ve heard). There are CCTV cameras everywhere and bouncers on the doors of every pub. Alcohol related crime is up and the police aren’t likely to turn a blind eye to anything like they used to.

Cheeky Monkeys got cheeky: The legendary backpacker haunt still goes hard with wet t-shirt competitions and table top dancing – but it also goes hard with the RSA now. Back in the day you could get black-out drunk and fly off the tables. Now you are lucky to get in if you’ve had a couple of cheeky primer drinks back at the accommodation.

The hippies are gone: And they’ve all been replaced by Instagram Influencers, which must make the fallen Byron Bay hippies turn in their graves. Although they do have one thing in common – neither of them want to pay for meals. The modern day barter is a social media post in return for food.

Traffic is a nightmare: You’d think living and working in Sydney would prepare you for the traffic of Byron Bay, but no. It’s the worst. Worse than Delhi some say – and at least there you can overtake. No one even hitchhikes anymore because it’s quicker to walk.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love Byron and its gentrification has done wonders for the local tourism industry. Its provided locals with jobs and all new infrastructure. But like the old Fairlane with its old leather seats, I can’t help but miss it …

Has Byron Bay changed for the better? Have your say. 
Written by Alex Harmon

One Response

  1. I’ve been here for 25 years and I think the town is still a great place to live. Traffic is easy to avoid – if you know how to avoid it. Paid parking ensures our visitors help keep BB well maintained. As rate payers, council is slugging us more. So visitors also need to help maintain a town of 10,000 residents and more than 1.5m visitors per year. The spend is worthy for a town of such unique natural beauty.