Saturday, March 3, 2007

Coff’s Harbour and Byron Bay

We made it to Bonville without getting lost. But we were surprised to find a fairly modest restaurant and clubhouse, with a string of motel style units along the first fairway as the only accommodation. We had dinner on the terrace overlooking the 18th fairway, where large floodlights lit up the trees. The result was a very beautiful and romantic spot. But once again, we were surprised that it was not very busy. We subsequently learned that this is a relatively quiet time for travel in Australia. Although it seems like the middle of summer to us, this period is equivalent to early September, with the kids just back at school. The hotels consider it ‘low season’.

The next morning, we returned to our table on the terrace for breakfast. At 10 we teed off, and after hitting two relatively good tee shots that both ended up in a creek, we realized it was going to be a challenging round. It was, but the course was very beautiful with a variety of plants and trees that we hadn’t seen before. But it’s not Augusta.

Nearby Coff’s Harbour is a larger town which was of interest since it won the international ‘cities in bloom’ award. I have always been impressed with this program which encourages towns and cities around the world to try and beautify themselves with civic and individual planting initiatives. (The planting along Gilbert Road and Number 2 Road in Richmond BC is an example of then Mayor Greg Halsey Brandt’s desire for his city to be selected as Canada’s entry a few years ago.) But we didn’t really stay around long enough to discover what made Coff’s Harbour a winner. Instead, after a night in a bure at an ocean resort listening to the rain, (and we thought there was supposed to be a drought!), we set off for Byron Bay.

We were curious to see Byron Bay since it was Claire’s favourite place in Australia when we were here two years ago. And as soon as we arrived and saw throngs of backpackers hanging around the beach, local parks, and downtown jewelry stands, we understood why. What I didn’t expect was the ‘high end’ side of the place. There were elegant galleries, jewelry stores and restaurants. And $1,000,000 didn’t buy very much. So as not to disappoint Claire, rather than stay at one of the many rather ordinary motels, we ended up at the Byron Bay Beach Resort with its rustic cabins and nine-hole golf course, on 225 acres at the northern edge of town. One day, it will probably be redeveloped as a very fancy place, but its truly rustic character was just fine for us.

When we first arrived in town, we noticed The Balcony restaurant, and that is where we ended up eating dinner. Well, where we ended up eating a small portion of our dinner, since the main course took so long to arrive; by the time it came we were no longer hungry. Moreover, after the Mediterranean sharing plate, paella for two was more like paella for four. But the scene from the balcony was fun to watch, and we marveled at the fact that a number of the people we had met during our time in Byron Bay had arrived from places around the world, and stayed. That night we again listened to the rain banging on the roof.

After an early morning round of golf on a course significantly less challenging than Bonville, we were off to discover The Gold Coast. Unlike Suva in Fiji, where I had no idea what to expect, I thought I knew exactly what to expect as we entered Queensland, the Sunshine State. And I wasn’t disappointed. Although, I was a bit surprised.


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