The once sleepy free-loving town of Byron Bay has in recent years, undergone a dramatic facelift. The town now is a major tourism drawcard for a wide spectrum of people who all acknowledge and embrace the laid back, carefree, and often beautiful lifestyle ‘in the bay’. Merely 70 km up the Pacific Highway and you find yourself at the foot of the Gold Coast in Coolangatta, and where most visitors will fly into the area at the Gold Coast airport. But, what about the space between? The stretch of coastline between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast- surely there is something to be seen here?
Coining the phrase the Green Coast might come off as a bit of a cliché to describe this area. Visit the area however and your opinion on this might just change. As visitors leave Byron Bay and drive North the lushness and greenery of the surrounds hit home. The area is incredibly fertile with volcanic Red Loam coupled with a sun-drenched subtropical climate — making it fairly possible to grow anything here. Small backwater townships of Clunes and Newrybar have a spattering of local stores and eateries where one can sample the local produce, top picks are Harvest, and a vanguard natural approach winery at Jilly Wines. Although almost all of winemaker Jared Dixons grapes are grown South in the New England area, he has only just recently planted vines locally. Doing so with very much crossed fingers.
Brunswick Heads is an interesting town just a twenty-minute drive north of Byron Bay. To most, it reflects what Byron itself may well have been like, say, 30 years ago. There are no major department style stores here or lycra-clad Sydney influencers. Instead, you will find down to earth locals wandering the streets, ambient cafes, and a collection of vintage clothing and knick-knack stores which will absorb even the discerning shopper. The Fabulous Mrs Fox boutique store is perhaps the highlight and is well worth a look for the quirkiest of gifts. Coffee and shopping aside, Brunswick Heads also has a respectable dining scene worth your attention.
Award-winning Fleet is a small 10-seater eatery at the very forefront of the much lauded paddock to plate movement we currently see in Australia. A new wave of regional restaurants who are truly working in sync with the land and ocean to bring diners authentic and astounding eating experiences. Sensational is, to put it mildly. A must visit for those who love to eat well and locally — booking ahead is a must as they often have a lengthy waitlist. But, should you find yourself lucky — what can you expect?
Chef and owner Josh Lewis approaches his menu with produce as the absolute primary driving force. With a heavier influence of seafood and vegetables with only a small inclusion of red meat: generally focussing on lesser-used and known cuts. On how the restaurant approaches the orchestration of the menu, restaurant manager Olivia Evans sums it up well,
“We are so fortuitous to have such dedicated and proud farmers in the region that we have come to feel included within the community through the restaurant. It is with the farmers and seasonal produce that the ‘kitchen pick’ shared style degustation menu is structured.”
That’s not all though. With a deftly put together drinks list and impeccable service acting as the harbinger to what can only be described as perfection — Fleet is most definitely one of the country’s greatest dining venues outside of a metropolitan area. Brunswick Heads is a day trip or overnighter you just mightn’t have considered before — but this said — really should feature as a firm part of your itinerary next time you are in the area.
Words by Alex Mitcheson