3 Days in Byron Bay is Not Enough

A week into my life in Australia, my friend Anna invited me to fly up to Byron Bay for the long weekend (New South Wales celebrates their Labour Day the first weekend in October).  Byron Bay is brand itself now….an icon for hippie and surf culture. Amazing beaches, tasty food, my favorite kind of fashion ?  This is what I came to Australia for, so of course I went!!!

I thought three days would be plenty of time for a beach town and man was I wrong. I can see why so many Australians and people from around the world stop in their tracks and settle in Byron. Every step towards the airport was like walking down the plank. UGH I can’t wait to go back!!

So here’s what we did…

(at the end I made a list combining things I did and didn’t do that I would recommend for anyone going / this is what I’ll be doing the next time I’m there!)

Lots of beach chilling–a must. The surf was actually pretty dead while we were there but obviously surfing on any of the five main breaks at Byron is supposed to be awesome. Next time I go back hopefully I’ll be good enough to shred ?  The beach we went to above is Whites Beach–luckily we knew some locals and this is one of their favorite spots. We had to take a car up a winding dirt road for a while, and then a cool hike through trees to get down to the beach. Obviously chilling on the Byron beaches is a must while in Byron, but you should definitely look for one of the locals’ favorite spots because it’s cool to get away from the crowd too.

Most important part: WE SAW WHALES!!!!! This was my first time seeing whales ever. Someone was casually like “oh cool, a whale” and I flipped. Some of my crew said they enjoyed watching me see whales more than they enjoyed actually seeing whales. If you just picture me flailing and jumping and sprinting and being completed shocked and amazed, that’s about it. I almost want a little tattoo on my ankle of a whale because it was so exciting and I want to always be reminded of how magical that moment was ?  So now I am officially obsessed with whales.  And apparently seeing whales in Australia is a thing. COOOOL. I have officially realized I am in a place completely different from Chicago… ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Of course we hit up the party scene a bit! Labour Day weekend is also the Grand Final weekend for AFL (Australian Football League) AND for NRL (National Rugby League). Since Anna and I are of course huge Swannies fans we might’ve spent 6 or 7 hours our first day at the Beach Hotel, a massive bar on the beach. They put up extra screens for the game. It got pretty rowdy. Good thing we had the most AMAZING breakfast at the Bayleaf Cafe–could’ve been my favorite meal the whole trip (and that’s impressive) so I would definitely say hit it up.

For my friend Erin’s birthday, we had ‘breaky’ at Byron Fresh. Yummmm it’s all really delicious health food and amazing coffee and muffins. Really close to the beach too. Then it was a bit rainy that day so Erin and I did some shopping…cannot disclose how much money I spent but let’s just say my excitement about Australia’s fashion manifested itself in this day. Then we commenced the number one rainy day activity (drinking) at the Stone And Wood Brewery. This was super cool–their Pacific Ale is most popular and with good reason… After tasting a flight there we headed back near town to the newly renovated Byron Bay Brewery and then hit up Railway Friendly Bar which was probably my favorite (chill vibes, live music), and then back to the Beach Hotel for a boogie.

Ugh then I had to wake up at 6 and head to the airport to get back to work in Sydney. I know Sydney is supposed to be like a vacation for me but Byron just blew everything out of the water. Really got to do some of the Aussie things I came here for, so I can’t wait to go back ?

Checklist – Must Do’s While Visiting Byron Bay

  • EAT: Cafe scene is strong. Bayleaf Cafe, Byron Fresh and Cafe Byron are all in town and are very good. But if you have a car consult this article for other delish options.
  • DRINK: An ideal night would be Stone And Wood Brewery –> take a cab back in town for Railway Friendly Bar –> walk in town for a boogie at Beach Hotel. One of the Byron boys said he really likes the bar Woody’s too, sounds like it has a divey late-night bar vibe and sounds really fun!
  • DO: Bike out to The Farm and have coffee and/or a delicious meal. Hike up to the lighthouse for a magnificent view of Byron’s massive beach and then head down to the rocks to watch the surfers shred (and/or do some shredding yourself).
  • SHOP: Hit up the shops in town for cool clothes, art and gifts. If you really love fashion check out Spell Byron Bay. I’ve been following them on Insta for years and was bummed I didn’t get to check them out, but I will one day 🙂 Also if you time it right, the Byron Market is the first Sunday of every month. We were actually there for it but traded off for a beach day with the local boys (good decision) but I would LOVE to check them out.

What else should I do next time I’m in Byron???? Besides see more whales ?

More Aussie Travels

Moving vs Traveling: the big move to SYD!

Num one swannies fan ❤️? #afl #sydneyswans #sports

A photo posted by Emily Griffith (@emigriff) on

Whoa. Four weeks ago my world flipped upside down. ⤵️  On September 5th I traveled down under to catch the tail-end of Sydney’s ‘winter’ and start a new job at an integrated marketing agency (Now Comms Group, for those curious). I went from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean. Cubs baseball games to Sydney Swans footy games (Australian Football League - I am an avid Swans fan now). Living 2 hours from home and 2 minutes from 30+ friends to being 16+ hours ahead of most of my family and friends! ?

This all happened very fast. Emotional highs and lows but all-in-all it’s been super amazing so far. The first couple weeks were really hard, and the past couple weeks were not at all. Funny how things work like that. I felt things I’ve never felt before, but they were good feels to have. Moving somewhere far away is very different than traveling somewhere far away--The glamour and excitement are pushed aside to make room for the reality of figuring out a new life while a fun familiar life you once knew continues at home. To illustrate, here’s some thoughts that crossed my mind during the first few days of my Sydney life:

“I don’t think I’m cut out for this other side of the world thing”  


“This move has cost me so much $$ already. I could’ve built a nice base for my freelance business and joined Soho House and moved to California and all these things. I’m so close to my family and friends how could I leave them. This will be cool but is it worth it???”

“This is an indescribably sad feeling.”

Okay those depressing thoughts and then some all happened on the plane ride over ?

After finding my lovely house in Paddington, a neighborhood I sat in just 9 months ago looking around thinking ‘this is where I need to be’, I felt a little better. I still could’ve burst into tears any moment but I was, you know, at least slightly pleased to be in Sydney. I took a nice run to Bondi Beach, met my welcoming housemates Lachie, Maddie and Alec, and went to my fun agency in the ~trendy~ neighborhood Surry Hills to meet my team. I got a smoothie bowl (YES) and was able to Facetime my family and my boy Chris when I got my phone figured out. Knowing I could still laugh and share moments with my family and friends while being on the other side of the world was sooooo comforting. I guess I forgot that Facetime would be readily available while I was having my little freak-out.

The new place in 'Paddo' aka Paddington. This is a signature old house in Sydney with the New Orleans-esque porches and gates. Coooool! The new place in 'Paddo' aka Paddington. This is a signature old house in Sydney with the New Orleans-esque porches and gates. Coooool!

My first night in Sydney, a bunch of my friends who convinced me to move here happened to be having wine and dinner in their cool backyard. All things considered it was an awesome first day. But still super surreal. My head was a bit in the clouds that first week, just taking everything in. My friends, my job, Sydney...they was all so good to me. I mean, my first weekend I went to my first Swans game, a sweet music festival to see Flight Facilities in one of Sydney’s main parks, and then went with my friend up to a beach town the next day to relax and eat healthy foods and watch movies. ?

(not everything was perfect-- I discovered a massive cockroach in our kitchen and realized these are my new friends. Also it’s been in the 60’s up until the past week...a bit chilly eh?!)

As things started picking up at work, I slowly started assimilating to my new ‘normal.’ On my fourteenth day I had an off-day. I was slightly over having to adjust to everything. Sometimes you just want things to be familiar and easy. That day I felt very ‘meh’ about this ‘exciting’ expat life I’m leading.

BOOM- then suddenly the start of my third week here, I had a very social week with my work and with friends, and it went so fast. I got into the groove with my job and the gym and was joking with friends back home and making plans with friends here and blahblahblah I was having a blast!! A new thought: “Things are good. I made the right choice to move to Australia.”

My first Sydney sunset with my friend Anna up in Avalon, a beach town My first Sydney sunset with my friend Anna up in Avalon, a beach town

After my third week being amazing and fun, I had a moment where I felt really bad that I wasn’t constantly thinking of my life back home anymore, like I didn’t care about my family or friends as much. That’s not the case. I can still become a better Emily and have a great time without losing that. After all, what a waste it would be to have flown all the way to Australia on a sponsorship and not have a great time ?

My girl Mia at the start of an awesome weekend in Jervis Bay  My girl Mia at the start of an awesome weekend in Jervis Bay

We just had a long weekend (for the New South Wales’ Labour Day, Monday off!!) and I took a last-second trip up to the legendary Byron Bay with my friends Anna and Erin. You’d think for smallish beach town, three days would have been enough. But having to fly back to work was so sad. Beaches, delicious hippie food, amazing Aussie clothing (ooooh went on my first shopping spree oops) and the cool chilled out people up there. ?  Oh also I SAW MY FIRST WHALES EVER!! So many of them. The most exciting magical wonder I’ve ever seen. That’s the kind of experiences I want! It made me so excited to explore even more and continue getting to know my cool peeps here. And seeing more whales. ? ? ?

But a funny thought I had coming back today (after getting over the sadness of leaving Byron): “Stinks to leave but I’m excited to be back. I’ll get some more sleep and back into my gym routine and working on my website and flossing and starting to cook again (bc I literally can’t afford anything)” Like...I was thinking about all the things you think about in your normal life, when you’re at home. Finally the thoughts going through my head weren’t anymore “holy shit I LIVE HERE???? What am I doing?!?! This is cool!! Wait this is scary!!! Ahhh!"

I guess I have settled into my new normal a bit more. It’s not forever but good to feel settled for a minute. And don’t get me wrong, I still can’t believe I followed through with this and am living the dream in Sydney. The jury’s still out whether/not I’m cut out for this whole other side of the world thing, but I’d say my Aussie future is looking bright ? ?

Trees overlooking Bondi Beach. I LOVE Aussie trees <3 Trees overlooking Bondi Beach. I LOVE Aussie trees <3

Some of my new coworkers on double denim day Some of my new coworkers on double denim day Friends and flames Friends and flames pics from home :)  pics from home :)

Did anyone not see this coming ??

A photo posted by Emily Griffith (@emigriff) on

My new ride I found on gumtree, the Aussie version of Craiglist My new ride I found on gumtree, the Aussie version of Craiglist Ocean viewz Ocean viewz There's tons of pop up shops and cafes in Sydney which is kind of cool--get to try new things. This pop-up coffee shop was outside of my work for the first two weeks I was there.  There's tons of pop up shops and cafes in Sydney which is kind of cool--get to try new things. This pop-up coffee shop was outside of my work for the first two weeks I was there. Aussie trees <3 Aussie trees <3 on the new running trail on the new running trail