Byron Bay is a beautiful beach town on the far north NSW coast. It’s a great spot for families as long as you’re, like, max one hour flight away. Any more than that is just not worth the effort.
The locals are relaxed and friendly; the sort of free spirits that’ll only stare at you if your kids reach next-level feral.
The climate is really fucking hot so if you’ve got a new baby or a redhead you’re going to need to be ok with spending your holiday seeking cool, dark spots. Like a vampire.
The Byron Ballina Shire has countless beachside properties from which to choose, each with curtains more sheer than the last. This will guarantee your children won’t go to sleep until 9pm and will wake at precisely 5.24am to maximise the holiday fun.
This will also ensure they are sufficiently exhausted during the day so you can see the sights to the never-ending soundtrack of that whiny/ whimpering/ nagging/ tired cry until you cave and give them something sugary just so they’ll perk up (i.e. shut the fuck up). Great times!
As you are now a family, a hotel room isn’t your best option, so you’ll find plenty of holiday apartments with full-sized kitchens and laundries. You’ll feel right at home! And by ‘right at home’, I mean, you’ll still get to spend your spare time grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. Holidays!
The extra beds are ideal for the shit fight that will occur when your children wake in the night and realise they’re not in their own beds. The chaos will rival the Titanic hitting the iceberg. Everyone screams, they cling to the nearest human and the luggage will be inexplicably ransacked. You somehow end up sleeping with the toddler – but you are the Jack in this scenario and your child is the geometrically challenged Lady who couldn’t figure out there was SO MUCH ROOM on that goddamn door. She’s sleeping sideways and you’re clinging onto the side of the bed, wishing someone would come and rescue you.
Bonus: This means you will all be equally exhausted during the day #familybonding
Most properties will also have a pool – that won’t open until 9am. This gives you approximately 3-4 hours of arguing with small people about going to the pool and not waking up the entire frigging apartment complex. Ah the serenity.
As a family, you’ll find a hire car incredibly useful for getting around. Walking with children is just painful because their tiny legs give out after about 14 metres and you end up walking four kilometres with a 20kg child on your back. And no one wants to wait 15 minutes at a bus stop when your children are losing their minds and people are staring. When you need to get the fuck out of there, you need to do it immediately.
Cars are also helpful for the obscene about of shit that comes with children. Towels, sunscreen, hats, swimming gear, water bottles, three months worth of snacks, nappies, eight changes of clothes, a random assortment of toys that desperately needed to come with you. You are not a mule. Get a car.
Get a nice one because this car will become your second home. The aforementioned sleeping arrangements mean your children will fall asleep every time they get in the car and you’ll spend approximately 75 percent of your holiday sitting in a parked car with a sleeping child, peering out the window at all the other people enjoying their holidays. It’s like a retreat!
What to do
When you’re not trying to get people to go to sleep or wake up, you’ll have about 40 minutes in your day to have fun, so make the most of it!
There’s the beach and the beach and the beach.
The beach is the perfect opportunity to scream into the wind at one child who keeps running into the waves and at the other who refuses to wear a hat. Special memories will be made as one child cries for 30 consecutive minutes because there’s sand blowing in her face and the other cries because you won’t allow the face-first wave diving.
Thinking of writing a travel guide for parents of small children. One that represents a real holiday with kids. I did some research in Byron today and it would go something like this: . If you're heading to Byron Bay, my top pick for sitting in a parked car while your child takes an unscheduled nap would be under the trees next to the Bay Street Park. It's shady and you might be able to catch glimpses of your other child enjoying the holiday with their dad . This tree at the beach is my top pick for arguing with your children about applying sunscreen. You'll probably disrupt the peaceful sunbaking of the British backpackers but let's be honest they need to take a break anyway because they're bordering on third degree burns . Fish Heads cafe is right on the beach. Avoid the arguments and just get them the hot chips because you know they're not going to eat anything else. Take them back to eat at the sunscreen tree because it's almost on the beach but there's less sand for them to dip their food in. The Japanese tourists will adore it when your toddler throws everyone's lunch in the dirt 👉🏼 #photoopportunity . The cute ice cream shop on Bay St is ideal for making special holiday memories of your child having a public tantrum because you said no to rainbow flavour because sure you're on holidays but it's not fucking Mardi Gras and you don't want to deal with that level of hyperactivity right now. The holiday atmosphere will peak when the alternate strawberry gelato is thrown on the pavement . Highlights of the trip will include your ridiculous attempt at having an adult moment by popping in to the Beach Hotel for a drink. Don't worry, we all do it. These are the silly things we do when we're on holidays and the sun and sea air make us think our children will miraculously sit and be quiet while we enjoy our holiday. But no, they will continue to whine and fight and kick each other just like every other day of the year and people will stare at you until you race out of there and everyone will eat two minute noodles in your hotel room and they'll go to sleep so you and your husband can sit in the dark and try not to wake them #holidayswithkidsnotreallyaholiday
A great time to wrap up your startlingly brief beach visit is when your toddler drops a poo in her swim nappy. Sandblasting your child’s nethers is unadvisable, so skip the on-sand nappy change and head to the car boot instead.
What to see
The coastline is dotted with beautiful lookouts, perfect for the 12 million road-side stops you’ll make so your four year old can wee in the bushes because the sea air makes him urinate 400 percent more than at home.
These lookouts also make for wonderful photo opportunities, interspersed with terrified screaming as your toddler makes a run for the cliff face. Relaxing! Special memories!
Where to shop
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to darling boutique stores in the heart of Byron Bay. You’ll visit exactly ONE, because it’s filled with breakable beachy décor and after 15 tense minutes of trying to stop your children touching anything, you leave because you’ve given yourself a stress headache. You’ll spend the rest of your holiday pointing out all the cute shops you’d like to go back and see – but won’t – because you’re just too busy with all the nap supervision.
Where to eat
Anywhere with hot chips.
Where to drink
The Beach Hotel at Byron Bay is a must-do for people who’d like to confirm their children are not the kind of kids who sit quietly and sip water while their parents enjoy a relaxing, adult holiday moment with sparkling conversation and alcoholic drinks.
You’re stupidly hoping your children will catch the chilled vibe and will just sit back and be like the other kids who are oddly still and happy. You never learn.
Thirty tense minutes later you are on your way. Your ears still ringing from the shrill squeals of your offspring. You’ve thrown your phone at them to try and make them stop but the lack of sleep, the potato diet and the incessant effort at fun has dropped them three stops past demonic. You race back to the hotel, throw them through the bath and spike them into their beds where you will enjoy the exact same bedtime shit show you enjoy every other night of the year.
No seriously, there’s lots going on in Byron! Your nights will be filled with screaming from your obscenely over-tired children, hopped up on holiday levels of sugar and carbs. When they finally submit, you’ll have the chance to sit in a darkened apartment and stare at your beloved’s face by the glow of your screens. Talking or watching TV is unadvisable due to the paper thin walls. But those same walls will give you a fabulous surround sound experience of every person within a 200m radius – who are thoroughly enjoying the nightlife.
You keep hoping your children will suddenly realise how lucky they are to be on holidays and will show their appreciation by being grateful and behaving. You are an idiot. A holiday with small children is just your normal life in a prettier location with double the aggravation because you keep waiting for your holiday to begin.