The Byron Bay Bluesfest had humble beginnings back in 1990 at the Arts Factory Lodge with just 15 international and Australian artists including Canned Heat, Smokey Wilson and Phill Manning and an audience of 6000 over the four-day festival, in 2014 the Byron Bay Bluesfest drew a crowd 100,000.
In 2011 American singer-songwriter Ben Harper said that Bluesfest had no equal anywhere in the world, and the same year legend Bob Dylan told the organizers that he loved performing at the festival so much that he wanted to come back the next year and play every night. The Byron Bay Bluesfest is now in it’s 26th year and is an award winning arts and tourism event.
After a couple of changes of location, the festival now has it’s own 120-hecatare site at Tyagarah just north of Byron Bay where the proceedings take a decidedly festive note and the artists perform under a series of big-top circus-style tents. The weather can be quite unpredictable at this time of the year in Byron Bay so it’s best to pack what Australians know as gumboots as once or twice the festival has been known as The Muddy Waters Festival!
In 2015 the festival is on from Thursday 2 April until Monday 6 April and is bigger and better than ever with over 175 acts performing over the five days. The line-up for 2015 has just been announced and wont disappoint with international acts such as Lenny Kravitz, The Counting Crows, Jimmy Cliff, The Black Keys, John Myall, Jurassic 5 and Angelique Kudjo.
One of the highlights of the festival is the taping of several episodes of Australian television favourite Rockwiz hosted by Julia Zemero and Brian Nankervis. Rockwiz is an entertaining and light-hearted hour of music trivia with two musical artists and four handpicked audience members who showcase their knowledge of obscure, and not so obscure, musical facts. The show always finishes with the musicians in duet of a cover-version song of their choice.
Byron Bay is the most easterly point in Australia and was named by Captain Cook as he sailed past in 1770. The local Aboriginals called the area Cavvanbah meaning ‘meeting area’. In 1884 the first township by the same name was surveyed and a jetty was built – the remains of which can still be seen on the main beach – to transport the valuable cedar logs felled in the nearby forest. By 1894 the railway had come to town and logging was giving way to dairying in the lush sub-tropical hinterland. Up until the mid-20th century farming and processing of dairy and meat were the main industries in town, with a short lived whaling industry from the mid-1950s to early 1960s.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s young people disillusioned with city life, and possibly trying to escape to the country to avoid the conscription into the deeply unpopular Vietnam War, started to make their way north from Sydney and south from Brisbane. What they found was an unparalleled, unspoiled subtropical beach and hinterland area known at either the Far North Coast, or the Northern Rivers area.
In 1973 the Aquarius Festival in nearby Nimbin was a drawcard for thousands of young people interested in the alternative lifestyle and many stayed on afterwards. This was the beginning of Byron Bay and surrounding areas becoming known for all things alternative such as healing, massage, organic gardening and environmental activism.
Byron Bay Villa 5279 in Wategos Beach
Wategos Beach and nearby Little Wategos are Australia’s most easterly beaches. They face north and are nestled below a natural amphitheatre that is topped with the Cape Byron Lighthouse. This area was once owned by the Watego family to grow bananas on the slopes down to the sea, but today is the home of some of the most exclusive and expensive real estate in the whole country.
Villa 5279 is situated at the bottom of the hill and is only metres away from Wategos Beach. True to the sub-tropical location and the former use of the area as a plantation, this villa has colonial style architecture with columns, sweeping verandas and plantation chairs out on the front lawn to enjoy the ocean view, the in-ground pool, barbeque and outdoor living areas.
The downstairs living area looks out through the garden doors that fully open up to take advantage of the panoramic views to the beach. To the back of the house is the swimming pool and spa for relaxing after a full day at the festivities of the Bluesfest.
The beautifully appointed, granite kitchen with meals area overlooks, the main living area and out to the veranda so that the cook is not being left out of the fun.
There are six bedrooms sleeping 12, and four bathrooms. Two of the main bedroom and bathrooms are on the ground floor, with the other four bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs.
So that you can keep in touch with your business, there is a fully equipped office with high-speed Internet connection. This is the perfect villa for you and your friends to get together to enjoy the music festival and all the Byron Bay and its surrounds have to offer.
Just behind Wategos beach is the beginning of the walking trail that takes you onto the 37 km walk past cliffs and rainforest to the Cape Byron State Conservation Area with the working lighthouse.
When you reach the peak, make sure you have enough time to find a place to sit and watch the hang gliders that launch from the headland, and the dolphins, turtles and humpback whales cruising in the marine park that extends from Brunswick Heads in the north to Lennox Heads in the south.
To take care of mind, body and spirit and to refresh and relax from all the excitement of the music at the festival, there are a number of yoga schools in the heart of Byron Bay some only metres from the beach where you can do an invigorating class and then follow up with a relaxing massage.
Being so close to the beach, water based activities abound when staying at Villa 5279. On the neighboring Clarks Beach there is the surfing school where you can learn the most Australian of pass times almost right at your door. If you would like to know what’s under the waves that you’re surfing you could always book in for a scuba diving course. They offer fully certified courses and you will be taken out for an open water dive at nearby Julian Rocks to see all the unique Australian marine life such as the harmless, colorful Wobbegong shark.
For a day out on land, head north just up the road to Mullumbimby one of the surrounding country towns that still has that unique northern rivers atmosphere. Mullum, as it’s fondly locally known, has recently gone on the international map as it is the birthplace of US based rapper Iggy Azalea.
Or, go on one of the many walks through the grounds – the Buddha Walk, the Bamboo Walk, the Rain-forest walk – and then enjoy lunch in the Lotus Café and browse in the gift shop.
Byron Bay Villa 5195 – Tallow’s Beach
Tallow Beach was named after the an incident resulting from one of the many shipwrecks in the area when the ship – the Volunteer capsized off Cape Byron and over 100 casks of tallow washed ashore. Tallow Beach and nearby Suffolk Park are only 5 km south of Byron Bay, but have a different character along with its own shopping center and hotel. It is an unbroken 15 km of beach stretching from the southern side of Cape Byron down to Broken Head.
Driving up to the entrance of Villa 5195 you are immediately transported to Bali with the lush tropical planting, the tranquil pond and extensive use of stone, glass and timber.
Walk through the open plan ground floor and you find yourself on the back deck and spa area looking out at more tropical gardens with steppingstones down to the lawn area.
The kitchen and living areas, and indeed the whole house, features high ceilings with fans and exudes a relaxed tropical beach holiday ambiance with Asian inspired and designed furnishings throughout. Your privacy is ensured with the villa backing onto a nature reserve and stonewalls surrounding the property, but you are still only minutes away from the beach that can be seen from the second floor.
Upstairs the three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, all have their own character. The main bedroom suite, decorated in restful greens and warm timber, has a massive king size bed and adjoining en-suite with a claw foot bath and double shower. The other two bedrooms have different styles; one is decorated in a fresh colonial plantation style with a canopy bed and floor to ceiling white shutters, and the other in a more subdued masculine style with dark timber and one wall covered in a rich, dark-red fabric.
On the days when you’re not enjoying music at Bluesfest, there is plenty to do south of Byron Bay. Follow Broken Head Road south to the sleepy hamlet of Lennox Head just before Ballina where you will find Lake Ainsworth the most accessible of the Tea Tree lakes dotted around the Byron Bay region.
The water of the lakes resembles a cup of strong black tea with the color coming from the roots and leaves of the Tea Trees that fringe the lake. Tea Tree oil is a bush remedy for many skin conditions and was used by the aborigines and the first European settlers.
It is now commercially extracted and sold all over the world. Another plus with visiting Lake Ainsworth is that it is only a hundred meters or so from the beach making it a perfect retreat to enjoy swimming and other water activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding when the weather is not so pleasant on the open beach.
Another unique experience is to be had enjoying a night vision walk in the nearby Nightcap National Park. On this walk you will be able to see many native Australian animals such as possums and pademelons, bandicoots and tawny frog-mouth owls that are only active at night.
Daytime adventures can include learning to ride a horse on the beach, and then when you are ready taking in a day ride through the beautiful hinterland
Byron Bay Villa 5267 – Bangalow
But of course the Byron Bay region is not all about the beach. Head south take a right turn off Broken Bay Road and in a few minutes you’ll find yourself in the picturesque village of Bangalow. The adjacent areas are rightly as famous as the nearby beach and surf culture. Driving through the hinterland is one ‘ah’ moment after another as every curve in the road and crest of a hill brings another rolling, green vista to take your breath away.
Villa 5267 designed with a classical Mediterranean inspired facade, is positioned to take advantage of the views, looking out over green hills and forest.
The front terrace has an infinity edge pool giving way to rolling green lawns and a tennis court with a pergola covered outdoor area to one side.
The back of the house is actually where you enter through a terrace with formal gardens complete with native Lillypilly trees sculpted into formal topiary and a view through house’s impressive entrance hall to the house to the pool.
The classical architecture faultlessly combines exotic touches that continue through the house and is enhanced by the elegant color scheme of calm greens and white. These features seamlessly combine with the beautiful timber furniture and Asian rugs, and makes for a unique mix of European and Asian classical furniture and décor.
There are two living areas, one with a fireplace and sumptuous Persian carpets. The huge galley-style kitchen, with views out over the gardens, is right next to the imposing dining room with a table that seats 12. There are two main bedroom suites with en-suites and two other spacious bedrooms that share a bathroom.
This villa is set on a 26-hectare property that gives you all peace, privacy and luxury you could ever require but is still only 20 minutes away from the excitement of the Bluesfest.
Bangalow is one of the most picturesque and architecturally intact of the local towns. It has regular markets, boasts health and beauty spas, antiques and arts shopping, cafes and fine dining, and also a thriving local produce industry with Ashtons Australian Coffee at the forefront. Ashtons is a small plantation of single estate coffee organically grown, sun dried and hand sorted with a flavor that is quite out of this world.
A little further afield is a day trip north to the commercial hub of the Northern Rivers area at Murwillumbah to visit the Tweed Regional Gallery and Tweed Regional Museum. Set on a hillside just outside town with magnificent views of Mt Warning in the west, this small gallery punches well above its weight.
One of the main attractions is the Margaret Olley Art Centre. Margaret Olley was a local girl born in 1923. As a young woman, she left the area to go to Sydney to further her art career. After her death in 2011 several rooms of her Paddington home was packed up and lovingly recreated as a permanent exhibition in the gallery.
If visiting country towns and art galleries is too sedate for you, then adventure and adrenalin awaits you at Skydive Byron Bay. First you are taken on a 20 minute scenic flight to take in the breathtaking wonder of Cape Byron and Mt Warning, then climbing to 14,000 feet before coming back to earth at the drop zone at Tyagarah Airfield just north of Byron Bay. There are tandem options available for those who have always wanted to try this but don’t think they could jump out of a plane by themselves.
With so much more to do in Byron Bay than just the Bluesfest, so you will need to book some time either side of the Easter weekend to explore this unique area – from Murwillumbah in the north, to Lennox Heads in the south and west to Bangalow and Mullumbimby.
There is so much in this area to engage, revive and refresh all the senses, mind body and spirit, and of course the music, the beach and the bush.
Byron Bay and it’s surrounds during the Easter weekend has got something for everyone and is an area that you will fall in love with and be sure to return to time and time again.