I don’t know if anyone is interested in the opinion of someone who isn’t a local, but I must say that every time I visit Byron, I appreciate Brunswick more.
I have been coming down from Queensland to visit this region regularly over the past 25 years. Byron Bay used to be a lovely spot to spend quality time and mellow – great beaches, good walking and great atmosphere.
A few years ago, I started hearing rumours that ‘Queenslanders were no longer welcome in Byron’ – although with the onset of the blues festival and schoolies, I can understand why they might want some peace.
I don’t recall where the rumours came from, perhaps it was just friends voicing their concerns about the changes since their last visit. All I know is that I needed a break, and decided to see for myself, as it had been a while. I spent two nights in a hostel, and that was enough.
As you come into Byron you are greeted with the same old welcome sign ‘cheer up, slow down, chill out’. Problem is you can’t cheer up when you’re stuck in traffic for the next hour, which is forcing you to slow down, and you can’t afford to chill out any more with paid parking everywhere you go.
So I left my car at the hostel and walked in (!) and made my way to the pub for a beer. As I sat and tried not to see all the schoolies strutting around, staying in the expensive accommodation their parents paid for, I started reading the local paper with all the articles for and against paid parking. Was this project supposed to provide more parking for visitors? – fail, less traffic jams? – fail, nice reasonably priced family holiday? – double fail.
Then there’s the shopping. I’m not much of a shopper, but I used to enjoy ambling around, poking my nose into the lovely cheap boutiques selling crafty knick knacks, cool hippie duds, and the hair weavers on every corner (I did find the old bead store and skallywags still going thankfully).
Now it’s mostly expensive outlet stores, tourist traps and pretentious eateries. From the outside,
Byron has become a victim of its own hype – no longer a community, but a business. I came here to get away from that.
Maybe it would have happened anyway, nothing lasts forever, but we’ll never know. If this is all a result of paid parking, then ‘careful what you wished for’.
So I can’t get out of here fast enough – back to Brunswick, still paradise for now.
Please don’t do the same to this lovely second home of mine. I know I don’t live here, but I leave a little piece of my heart here every time I leave. I’ll just go back to the crossword and minding my own business now 🙂
Amanda Drouyn, Queensland