Welcome to this blog, the story of a great big Australian adventure. It documents my travels, life in Australia, and a subject close to my heart – environmental conservation. 


Now to Investigate My-Byron's Intriguing Neighbours.

The whale-watching weekend was, by definition, extra special (see New south whales, October 2011). But there were additional treats during four days in MFP (my favourite place) a couple of weeks ago.

Kingscliff wasn't one of them. I'd decided we should look at what promised to be tucked-away coastal gems between Tweed Heads and Brunswick Heads if you detour off the Pacific Highway just over the border into New South Wales.

A huge stretch of beach at Kingscliff has been declared potentially unsafe by some nanny-state committee or other. This sign was really off-putting since what I'd come to see was the beach.

Marine Parade, the main drag, resembled so many others it was equally disappointing, so we headed south along Casuarina Way (great name). Cudgen Creek was, however, an unexpected surprise and delight.

Mt Warning loomed ghostly behind us, and a pair of Pied Oystercatchers (not that common in NSW) were resting, one-legged, despite the inevitable little-irritant jetskier. Nanny had also been here, too.

Further down the coast, Pottsville beach was another joy, although there were hints of trouble ahead.

When we arrived in Byron about four, clouds stormed over Julian Rocks. The light was indeed fantastic.

Sunday was monthly market day. In all my visits to Byron, I've never been there. The overwhelming first impression was of colour.

And the sort of items for sale that you'd expect...

You could browse without being bothered. It was sunny and warm; I felt relaxed; I was at home.

In the afternoon we walked the cliff path south from Broken Head. This resembles the track to the Lighthouse from Wategos, but there were far fewer people. Broken Head Nature Reserve guards a residual pocket of littoral rainforest. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (EPBC) protects the Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets of Eastern Australian as a specific ecological niche. Such areas are at risk from clearing and the invasion of weeds such as Bitou Bush. Even the ubiquitous Pandanus tree is under seige by an insect that causes dieback, and so is being monitored. The more unusual Kangaroo Grass headland also has to be protected – from those that wander off path.

A dirt road wends its way from Broken Head to Seven Mile Beach through the forest. You can access isolated beaches if you are minded to climb down. It was here I discovered my new favourite beach – Kings.

Monday was excursion day. To Nimbin and Nightcap National Park. Nimbin is what Byron used to be or could have been had adoring tourists not transformed it into a gold mine – capital of Alternative Australia. Cullen Street speaks for itself.

Once a sleepy village in the middle of a lush dairy valley...

...Nimbin hosted the Aquarius Festival in 1973 and never looked back. It's a mecca for hippies, backpackers, visionaries and idealists. Slap bang in the middle of the real world, however, following the completion of a solar farm project in March this year, Nimbin can satisfy 75 per cent of its domestic power needs on a sunny day. A shining example to the rest of this solar-reluctant nation.

Even the supermarket resembles an inner hippie sanctum, and everywhere you look there is the pursuit of alternativism. There is, inevitably, a 'Peace Park', a candle factory, an Aquarius Butcher & Baker and a Spangled Drongo restaurant.

Whim-catering: now, there's a worthwhile occupation.

I had wanted to drive around nearby Lilian Rock in search of the rarely sighted Lyrebird. This creature can imitate a number of other bird calls to thwart you. Along with landowners: the lady at the tourist information office on Cullen didn't seem to know about an unsealed back road around the rock, claiming it was all private property. Hmmm.

So we settled for Mt Mardi in Nightcap National Park. The Pholis Gap walking track is named after Athol Pholi who was killed by a tree fall in the area. (I don't know whether he fell from a tree or a tree fell on him.) Warm temperate rainforest gives way to drier woodland with grass trees near the escarpment you descend towards and from which you can look north over valley and range.

Unfortunately there were leeches to spoil a pleasant walk for my friend. He has never quite got over the leech of Mt Mee. While examining our boots for evil creatures, I spotted these at our feet.

On the way home we stopped for tea at The Channon. This image epitomises Australian small-town wayside hostelries on roads to nowhere very much.

Finally, although this is ostensibly a post about other places, here are a few reminders of how beautiful is Byron.

Welcome to Brisbane

Storm warning