Byron Hinterland Hiking
Travel writer Nina Karnikowski from Travels with Nina, takes us on a breathtaking hike into the World Heritage-listed Byron Bay Hinterland.
It was an occasion that needed to be marked. One year ago to the day, my man Pete and I had moved to the dreamy Australian surf town of Byron Bay, a nine-hour drive up the east coast from our home, family and friends in Sydney. Realising we’d been stuck in one spot too long, we had thrown a bomb at our lives, changing jobs and homes and cities, leaping into the abyss and praying we had made the right decision. It was a terrifying time, but isn’t that what living a creative, adventurous life is all about? Embracing the shifts and transitions with your whole being, feeling all the fear but tumbling headlong into them anyway?
The move, as it turned out, was one of the best decisions we had made in our married life. In Byron Bay we found ourselves wrapped up in nature, in a pristine corner of the earth where dolphins and whales swim in the clear seas, koalas nestle in the eucalyptus, waterfalls lie hidden in World Heritage-listed national parks, yoga classes and energy healings are par for the course, and the sense of community and creativity is strong. The bay has become a haven for me, the perfect place to rest, restore and write in between my travel writing assignments, and to come back to myself and to nature so I can continue to face the wide world with all the strength and curiosity my job demands of me.
My list of favourite things to do in Byron Bay is long, and getting longer by the week. Taking sunrise yoga classes, sunning and swimming on deserted beaches, sipping bush chai in organic cafes, watching the flying foxes head out to feed of an evening as the hinterland skies turn seashell pink. Right up the top of the list, though, is hiking to our favourite waterfall, Killen Falls, which is exactly what we decided to do to celebrate our one-year anniversary of moving to Byron Bay.
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On a clear winter’s morning after many days of rain, Pete and I laced up Teva Arrowood 2 hiking boots, jumped in the car and headed out to the falls, just a 20-minute drive from our home in the historic hinterland town of Bangalow (or a 30-minute drive from Byron Bay proper). Pulling off the main road after ten minutes, we found ourselves on one of our favourite country roads, rolling green hills and fertile farmland stretching out all around us.
Arriving at the empty grass car park, we started the 20-minute hike down the narrow, rocky paths surrounded by tracts of ancient, untouched rainforest filled with massive tree ferns and lush palms, towards the falls. As we walked my mind dipped back to the time, just two months earlier, when I had taken my very pregnant best friend down the same track on a similarly cold, stormy morning, so we could ‘baptise’ her unborn baby in the falls. Wearing nothing but sundresses and Teva sandals, we had been freezing cold and soaked to the bone by the time we were halfway down the track. But we’d persevered, knowing how magical those waters would feel on our skin, and how important moments like those are for making a friendship last and bloom.
By the time Pete and I got down to the falls, we were hot and sweaty and ready for a dip. I pulled off my Teva Arrowood 2 boots and strapped on my Original Universal black sandals (a necessity at these falls unless you’re wanting an excruciating foot reflexology session from the submerged rocks) and entered the swimming hole surrounding the falls. I let the cool, crisp water encircle my body, then swam out to the ten-metre waterfall. As I pushed my body up directly beneath it, letting the waters pound down on my shoulders, I reflected on how far we’d come this past year, and how lucky we were to call this part of the world home.
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Change, I reflected in that moment, is not only inevitable, but also necessary for us all. Those terrifying leaps of faith are where the juice of life lies - the vibrancy, the bravery, the delicious mystery of it all. And once you hit the ground after taking them? Who knows, maybe a better, brighter future will be right there waiting for you.
FIVE OTHER BYRON HINTERLAND FAVOURITES
WOODS, BANGALOW Wrap your hands around a warming cup of chai or Orchard Street elixir on a cold winter’s morning. See @woodsbangalow.
MOUNT WARNING Take the 2.5-hour hike up Mount Warning, an ancient volcano, to watch the sunrise. It’s the first place in mainland Australia to be touched by the morning sun. Find out more.
HARVEST, NEWRYBAY Grab a seat by the fire and sample the best of Byron hinterland’s organic produce, much of it sourced from their own kitchen garden. Find out more.
MACAS IN ALSTONVILLE Famed for their buttery taste, macadamia nuts are native to Australia and grow abundantly in Byron’s hinterland, particularly in Alstonville. Drive around and pick buckets of them up from quaint farm gate stalls.
THE KIVA SPA, MULLUMBIMBY After a day of hiking, soak your weary bones in the heated spas, sauna and hammam set amongst lush tropical gardens. Find out more.
Written by Nina Karnikowski. Photography by Peter Windrim
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