Before arriving in Australia, people often recommended I visit two places: Noosa and Byron Bay – surf towns; paradise beaches; hippies; “people cry when they have to leave”… these places easily made my list.
But as I walked through both towns I noticed two things:
A) The shops and restaurants were often too expensive for me to even consider. How could (my idea of) a hippy even afford to come here?
B) There were no hippies in sight. There were many people dressed in boho style clothes. Even the odd person walking barefoot. But instead of hippies, there were loads of tourists roaming the streets, seemingly in search if something.
So to the beach I went. “Paradise“. But not quite. The beaches stretched far out with clear blue water and soft white sand. But the sand was often barely visible beneath all the tourists basking in the sun.
Obviously, tourism is important for these areas – probs why so many people recommended them to me. But to find the real Noosa and the real Byron, or at least to attempt to, I had to ignore the main strips and look deeper.
In Noosa, I found it at the National Park. I actually didn’t get too far before I found a cute little beach surrounded by small climbable cliffs. Relaxing here all afternoon, for free, away from the crowds, with the waves crashing on the rocks, I felt at peace.
Looking around this little nook, I found the hippy spirit. Painted on some of the rock faces, messages had been inscribed for future visitors. These may have been painted by the original hippies of the 60’s or just the day before, but it didn’t matter. There was the hippy spirit I was told about.
In Noosa, I stayed at the Dolphins Beach House. It’s away from the big crowds, nestled in a residential area close to Sunshine Beach. It attracts a more relaxed crowd, really friendly backpackers, with movie nights and always a guitar playing. But if you look on the walls, you see photos of the owner’s travels around the world. Speak to him or his family, and you automatically feel welcomed. They’re the true hippies of Noosa.
In Byron Bay, I stayed at the famous Arts Factory. It’s massive. And expensive (though camping is much cheaper). When I first arrived, it just felt like any other hostel – awkward curious backpackers; a travel desk selling overpriced tours; crammed dorm rooms. The hippy vibe almost seemed forced at times – rainbows everywhere; people intentionally avoiding showers; mismatched floral everything; and a guy, walking around with a rat’s tail, feathers and a cockatoo permanently on his shoulder. Seriously.
But regardless of the authenticity of this performance of hippy-ism, and after I stepped off my undeserved high horse, I realised that this retro, peace & love atmosphere did accomplish something. The people I met here were all friendly and welcoming. A relaxed, “everyone’s welcome” vibe spread through you as you walked around. It created true hippies out of all of us.