In Sydney these days, there’s a good chance you’ll find him or her in the town of Byron Bay. The past few years have seen an exodus of urban Australians to Byron Shire, a lush and hilly region about 470 miles north of Sydney, near the Gold Coast. Pristine beaches stretch for miles with views of breaching whales and amazingly consistent point breaks. Centered on Byron Bay, which juts out like a nose into the Pacific, the area has long been a destination for small farmers, international surfers and hippies. Now, a small but steady flow of talented chefs and restaurateurs who want to disconnect from the stress of city life are settling in.
“There is a bit of a culinary renaissance going on in Byron,” says Darren Robertson, one of the scruffily handsome founders of Three Blue Ducks, a Sydney café that helped spearhead the local and sustainable food scene. Last year Robertson and his partners left the city to open an offshoot of Three Blue Ducks in Byron, joining a crew of entrepreneurs behind the ambitious but beach-shack-inspired restaurants, boutique hotels and coffee shops that are scattered around the region. (The baristas take as much care with their espresso pulls as they do their surfboards.) The food at these places tends to be next-level hippie: healthy, delicious dishes like jerk chicken served with raw spinach and quinoa, or kedgeree, a spiced rice bowl loaded with smoked fish and boiled eggs. “If you live an outdoor life and have a passion for exploring, what you put in your body definitely influences your energy and vitality,” Robertson says. “We noticed when we started to introduce pulses, nuts and grains into our diet, and reduced some of the sugar, that we could spend a few hours longer out on the waves.”
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Like Sydney locals, people in Byron Bay are spoiled when it comes to expertly made lattes and gorgeous breakfasts. Among the options: Top Shop, near the main beach, which serves single-origin coffee and what some claim is the best burger in town, and Federal Doma Cafe, where Japanese hipsters prepare sushi and poached eggs with Asian-style hash browns. The new favorite breakfast destination is Corner Kitchen, located on the charmingly old-fashioned main street of Bangalow, a short drive west from Byron Bay. Opened by the owners of the nearby Our Corner Store (a whitewashed boutique filled with unusual design objects such as animal-head hooks, as well as necessities like the perfect jeans), it is less a surfer hangout than a stylish all-day café. Owner Aneka Sidoti’s menu is as well curated as her store, offering a superb mix of wholesome meals and indulgent baked goods, like the signature Hummingbird, a frosted banana-spice mini cake.