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THIS IS MY CITY | Samantha Hillman's Byron Bay

Samantha Hillman - the brains and beauty behind food blog Le Pirate - has just bid Australia farewell for a sunny European sojourn, and after that, New York, New York. But before she left our shores she lived in Byron Bay (and its surrounds) in northern New South Wales. Shamefully we have a limited knowledge of Byron, but seeing her many instagrams at various farmers markets, beachy enclaves and fantastic cafes inspired us to take a trip. Byron Bay really is one of those best-kept-secret Australian locations. This is Byron, by Sam.

 All images | lepirate instagram

The best thing about Byron Bay? The lifestyle is unparalleled to that I’ve found anywhere. It strikes the perfect balance between country and coastal living.

The worst thing about Byron Bay? The weekend tourist traffic and the resulting price inflations.

Favourite secret spot? Doma café, just outside Byron in Federal. It’s a little weatherboard cottage with a sun drenched lawn that dishes out the most incredible sushi hand rolls you’ll ever taste in your life. They also make a cameo at the Mullumbimby farmers markets on Friday morning if you don’t make it out to Federal. The sweet potato tempura roll will change your life.

Favourite everyone-knows-it-but-it’s-still-good spot? Watego’s Beach. The colour of that ocean just doesn’t even seem like it should exist beyond a watercolour palette. Saturday mornings have become very ritualistic for me. Some nice bread and cheese from the Bangalow market, some figs from the farm tucked just outside and then a picnic and a swim at Wategos. The chocolate coated frozen bananas sold in the little van are optional though highly recommended.

 Wategos Beach

What is the best place for … morning coffee? Meal with friends? Romantic rendez-vous? Late night drink? Even later boogie? Personally I’m still firmly grounded in that awkward hot chocolate phase of life, though friends swear by the Marvell Street coffee at Bayleaf. I can vouch for their coconut milk breakfast risotto and their generous avocado toast. Meal with friends? Aside from the aforementioned Doma Café (go there!), Top Shop is another beautiful weatherboard shop front (and the milk bar of everyone’s dreams). Order an omelet roll and a fresh juice and sprawl out on the front lawn. Milk and Honey in Mullumbimby do a great woodfired pizza (the silverbeet, feta, ricotta, garlic and olive is particularly delicious). Romantic rendezvous, St. Elmo does incredible tapas plates (caramel popcorn and sweetcorn scallops!) – start with the Spanish cheeses and house bread, whatever you do.

What are Byron Bay’s style spots? Where is the best shopping? Our Corner Store in Bangalow for threadbare necklaces, paper-wrapped chocolate, soft linens and Swedish clogs. AHOY Traders on Marvell Street, for furnishing the fantasy beach house you didn’t know you needed. Oh, and Spell! Spell for pretty little lace things and Marant-esque playsuits. Phyllis and Mimosa, and Hope and May are two little boutiques on the same street that are definitely worth a visit. Mudhoney is a lovely little spot for all things hair and beauty; appointments can often go quickly, though it’s often possible to squeeze in with just a few days notice. The Bangalow Pharmacy (in Bangalow, natch – just outside Byron) everything you dreamed of and more in a dispensary – old wooden shelves stuffed with Missoni towels, licorice toothpaste, Penhaligons perfume and eggwhite soap, they’ve also an incredible candle selection and stock the entire Aesop range.

What is something you can get/read/experience/eat that you can only do in Byron Bay? The lighthouse walk is popular for a reason, and as cliché as it is, I’d definitely recommend a stroll up there. Both the monthly open air markets and weekly farmers markets are also quite uniquely Byron Bay. Fresh orange juice plus sticky baklava and chocolate halva from Ilias the Greek is a non negotiable.

How would you describe Byron Bay to someone who has never been there before? Deliriously beautiful, but don’t forget the surrounding towns, Byron is just one part of a bigger picture.

Read more in our This Is My City series here.
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