Ask any self-respecting traveller for a list of top places to visit in Australia and the chances are that Byron Bay will be on there somewhere. The town’s popularity as a tourist destination dates back to the 1960s when it was discovered by surfers, and it hasn’t looked back since. Still renowned for its laid-back, hippy vibe, Byron attracts phenomenal numbers of visitors every year: an estimated 1.7 million of them each year, which for a little town of some 5,000 permanent residents is pretty damn impressive.
We opted to bypass the town in our accommodation search, choosing to focus on the Byron Bay Hinterland. This beautiful area of rolling hills, rainforest and scattered villages is within easy reach of the main centre, but far enough away to avoid the masses. And after some searching (and it took a while, even in the off-peak season) we had a real find: Murojum Farm. Perched in the hills with the ocean glistening in the distance, just 15 minutes’ drive from Byron and Bangalow, this family-friendly farm comprises the owners’ beautiful homestead and three self-cater cottages for rent.
James’s cottage, our home for three nights, was simply but comfortably furnished, although I wouldn’t give it top marks for cooking facilities. Two hobs, a microwave and a kettle were somewhat limiting, especially after the gourmet kitchen we enjoyed in Iluka. It did, however, more than make up for this by being within a hop, skip and jump of the most fabulous swimming pool.
And for Icklegen, there was also the sheer excitement of being on a working farm. Twice a day, Trevor, or his son, Murray, would ring an old-fashioned bell from their veranda – our signal to help them with the animals, if we so wished. And oh, didn’t we! Icklegen got into the swing of things very fast, and we were pulling on our boots before the bell for the rest of our stay.
As an introduction to real-life farm animals, it couldn’t have been better. Murojum is not a huge operation, with just a handful of cows, goats, sheep, and hens in residence. And Trevor and Murray couldn’t have been more willing to show us around and let us assist them. Icklegen had the opportunity to milk a cow (twice), feed the goats, sheep and hens, hold a baby chick, and collect eggs. And she loved every minute of it.
So there didn’t seem much need to venture very far. We did visit the small organic market in lovely Bangalow one morning. And one grey, rainy day Ickle and I made a whistlestop tour of Byron’s iconic lighthouse and then braved the crowds in town. And yes, it did seem a funky kinda place dotted with quirky cafés and boutiques, but 25 minutes to find a parking space with a toddler in the back is no fun. And there were no cows to milk, or hens to chase, so we hot-footed it back to the farm.