15 February 2016
Hole in the wall: Kartel Espresso Bar at Cabarita is a coffee joint with a handful of seats. There’s nothing commercial about this place. Hipster smiling staff, your choice of every hippy milk on the market (love their ‘Nut Milk’), cleansing juices, super food snacks, just baked goodies, fresh flowers and the best cold drip coffee ever.
Sunset sip: Fingal Headland does romantic and is my favourite place for a sunset picnic and glass of wine. The little Lighthouse dates back to the 1870s. It’s unassuming and there’s almost never a tourist in sight and the panoramic views of the ocean are archetypal North Coast.
Art daze: For a Sunday day trip, my wife and I love the Tweed Regional Art Gallery which is hugely underrated. The permanent collection here is world class (particularly if you like portraiture and figurative painting) and the Margaret Olley exhibition is outstanding. Shows change regularly so it’s not a one-hit experience. We kick off with coffee and freshly baked scones with whipped cream and house made exotic fruit preserve in the gallery cafe (the boys from the hugely popular Mavis’s Kitchen now run the kitchen). A little known fact, and something I didn’t know until recently, is that Margaret Olley was born in Lismore, hence her strong local connection.
Amazing hikes: Mount Warning is undoubtedly one of Australia’s great walks. Leave plenty of time (at least 3-4 hours) to reach the summit and return. This walk (the mountain is a volcanic plug) is positively life changing. The last section to reach the summit requires you to pull yourself up on chains. There are other walks that are less energetic and you can reward yourself with a beer at the newly revamped Uki hotel on the way home.
Baker’s delight: I love a day cooking in the kitchen with my wife after a huge stock up at New Brighton Farmers Market every Tuesday morning. Go early as it’s done and dusted by 11am. Make sure you don’t leave without some handmade wood-fired bread and pastries from Byron’s Heart Breads. They bake for me at Fins and it is the best bread in Australia!
Buy local: The best local seafood is from Freckle at Bay Seafood in Lawson Street, Byron Bay. However, a good local secret is to visit the docks on the Tweed River and buy local prawns, three-spot crabs and bugs straight from the trawler.
Golden sands: The best hidden beach in the local area is the small cove at Cabarita headland. Located right below the stairs of the headland walk, it’s easily missed if you are driving past. Pure white sand, beautiful cove and shady pandanus palms to sit under plus a great point break and stunning – it’s paradise.
Simple pleasures: My regular casual dinner hits are at Milk and Honey (artisan wood-fired pizza) or Rock and Roll Coffee Company (spicy, clean, killer Asian food by night and very good coffee night and day) in Mullumbimby. Both are very local, down to earth and simple.
Pop back for more: Best new discovery in the area is our pop up restaurant The Butchers BBQ, located within the Fins Bar. Enjoy a night of serious dining at Fins before returning for something cheerful in the pop up.
Love local: I love local producers who are committed to quality. Brookfarm in Byron Bay is my ‘local hero’. They make brilliant macadamia nut oils, the best muesli ever and awesome healthy snacks. Stone and Wood brewery has moved from Byron to Murwillumbah. Try and book a brewery tour (not common knowledge) which is really interesting. Salumi is another great local hero with a range of cured small goods.
Cool boho: If you’re travelling with your wife or girlfriend, visit Spell in Byron for the great ‘boho’ fashion. Created by two Byron designers, it‘s my wife’s favourite place and she looks beautiful in their clothes.
Tropical delights: My favourite shop is the fruit barn at Tropical Fruit World. I love trying the exotic fruits many of which have made it onto our dessert menu. Our ‘world’s healthiest dessert’ is full of superfoods and uses chocolate sapote fruit as a base. Kids and adults love the tours around the plantation. I am currently consulting on a new restaurant to be built on the site for 2016 so watch this space.
Breakfast treat: For breakfast its either Choux box or Mockingbird in Kingscliff. My order usually involves avocado, sourdough, lime and free range eggs.
Hidden gem: Sitting on the end of the break wall with my wife and baby girl at Brunswick Heads and looking back at the sun setting over Mt. Warning while the fishing trawlers steam out from port is as romantic as it gets.
Fabulous Fins: If you want to splurge then order the degustation menu at Fins which showcases the best local seafood we can source.
Best deal: The best bargain occurs on Sunday at Spice Den where you pay $33-90 for a banquet. They have a great cocktail list too.
Local fruits: Finger limes are endemic to our region and have been around since the time of dinosaurs. We use them extensively at Fins. I grow them in my back yard; if you want to take a tree home with you, the person to see is Judy Viola, the queen of finger limes.
Pre-dinner cheers: Get the ‘Gintonica’ spell at our new Gin Bar at Fins, offering more than 20 handcrafted boutique gins from both local and international producers. They’re served with freshly smashed aromatics, bush foods, spices, bruised organic citrus and herbs, with a chunk of ice and your choice of Capi, Fever Tree or Schwepps tonics. Exclusive to Fins Gin Bar is the rare Four Pillars barrel aged gin, served from our very own oak barrel, the perfect base to a Negroni.
Best thing to do: My favourite pastime is surfing. So there are two things I love about living here -the great waves and the abundance of wonderful local people.