Lunching at the Lighthouse

iconic byron lighthouse
Byron Lighthouse from the new deck of the Cafe

My Tuesday was not behaving itself!  I had intended to have of a lovely morning catching up with my fellow golf enthusiasts for a coaching session with Nicky Rickon, a leisurely coffee and perhaps,  a few holes of golf at Mullumbimby Golf Club. But sadly, it was not to be.  I found myself crawling along Broken Head Road. This was not good. I was going to be very, very late. But my golf clubs were nestled between the odd towel and beach chair in the boot and my feet were wearing socks and sneakers for the first time in months, ready to traverse beckoning fairways, so I detoured.  A few holes at Byron would surely satisfy my golfing itch.

Although it was a very warm morning, there was a breeze so it was with some enthusiasm that I paid my money and made my way to the back nine as directed. I hadn’t played for a couple of months and as expected it took me one or two more shots than usual to complete the my first hole. But to compensate for a less than celebratory fairway performance, I did sink a long putt!  I hit off the second and missed the water. All good. Then disaster. The Ladies Comp  caught up to me. They suggested, nicely, that I hightail it over to the 14th, hit down to the clubhouse and play a few holes on the front nine so that I didn’t get in their way. There was only one problem.  I got a trifle lost and ended up on the 13th. Where was the 14th?  Obviously, my map reading skills need a little fine tuning. Feeling decidedly hot and bothered, I decided to tee off. Then I heard the sound. The sound of an approaching golf cart. I looked up. The lady golfers had me in their sights. There was nothing for it but to pick up my ball and drag my buggy and myself back to the clubhouse.

I felt that I had already walked nine holes but wasn’t ready to give up just yet. “The front nine might be more challenging but is more scenic,” I’d been reliably informed. As I dragged myself down and up, across and back, I  got hotter and hotter. For once, my ball didn’t seek the trees like a ballistic missile. I was stuck in the middle of the fairway. Repeatedly.  Melting. In the tropical oasis that is Byron, I felt as if I was trekking across the Sahara … without a camel! Three holes later, I called it a day. I didn’t want the R.I.P sign at the side of the Golf Club driveway to commemorate me.

Lying on the couch under a fan with an ice pack on my neck, Kenn took pity on me. “How about I take you and Annie out for coffee and maybe lunch?”  My day suddenly brightened. Taking advantage of our new National Parks parking sticker, we decided that lunch on the newly completed deck at the Lighthouse Cafe would be perfect.

deck overlooks the bay
Can you ever get tired of such a view?

view of the deck at lighthouse cafe

 The cafe offers simple pleasures. Coffee, milkshakes, rolls, quiches, gourmet pies and sausage rolls to mention a few and the best ice cream in Byron Bay.

menu at lighthouse cafe
We tried the vegetarian quiche, the gourmet pie and the chicken and pesto roll. Needless to say, not a crumb was left on our plates.  And the coffee hit the spot!
gelati at lighthouse cafe
In the Pink ice cream and gelati. So hard to resist.

Lunch finished, we lingered a little. Rested a little.

the bay
Just dreaming

For newcomers to the bay, information about Lighthouse Tours and the National Park can be found in the Lighthouse Keepers House directly behind the cafe.

lighthouse keeper's cottage
Imagine being a lighthouse keeper here! There is limited paid parking available at the Lighthouse if you do not have a National Parks permit.

Refreshed, Annie and I meandered down the track, past the most easterly point of Australia to Wategoes where Kenn kindly picked us up.

overlooking wategoes
After the morning’s adventures, a strictly downhill stroll to Wategoes was all I could muster.

Lunch at the Lighthouse Cafe was a  lovely and unexpected way to end the morning.

 

The Worung Bagus

When Annie  Milic asked me whether I wanted to go to lunch at a new cafe on the beachfront,  of course I said “yes!” I love going to a new eatery. So many unknowns! What sort of eatery is it? How is the space decorated? Does it have a welcoming ambiance? Are the hosts approachable and obliging?  And most importantly how good is the food and the coffee?

The Worung Bagus did not disappoint. Situated across from the Surf Club, the cafe has a  youthful vibe,  relaxed Balinese decor and delightful, enthusiastic hosts. The cafe offers both eat in or take-away.

relaxing
A lovely spot for tourist watching

 In the mood for something hot, Annie and I perused the curry bar.

curry bar
The smell was amazing

We decided on the ‘small’ plate for $11.90.  But there were difficult decisions to make: did we want Nasi Goreng or a wonderfully fragrant brown rice? What curry would we choose – vegetable, seafood, chicken or  beef rendang? Then we had to choose three vegetable sides and  I wanted all of them!  Eventually, I chose the eggplant balado, steamed vegetables  and Cap Cay. And there were additional condiments to adorn our plates as well. Heavily laden, and our coffees ordered, we made ourselves comfortable on the deck and enjoyed every morsel. Then our coffee arrived with a lovely complimentary gluten free home baked cookie. For what more could we ask?

curry and vegetable bar
The Salad and Fruit bar

Next time and there definitely be a next time, I will explore the salad and juice bar.  The ingredient list was just what you would hope to see, when experiencing a  ‘ I need to be super healthy today’ moment. For me, these moments often occur after close encounters with decadent deserts.

shakes
I like the sound of the Kelapa, what would you choose?

So if you are visiting Byron and looking for something a little organically different  or you just happen to be another  hungry local, consider visiting the Worung Bagus. Whether you decide to eat in or picnic in the park overlooking the beach and the bay, you won’t be disappointed.

the bagus

Melissa’s Kitchen High Tea

PicMonkey Collage
The scene is set!

 “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue  and a silver sixpence in her shoe,” are tokens of good luck that a bride traditionally carries on her wedding day. Something old represents continuity; something new offers optimism for the future; something borrowed symbolises borrowed happiness; something blue stands for love and fidelity; and a sixpence in your shoe is a wish for good fortune and prosperity.

This traditional rhyme captures the hopes, good wishes and above all else, the love that brings friends and family together for a wedding. What it doesn’t capture is the fun involved; both in the preparations and the event itself. To begin the countdown to the wedding and wishing for Lissa to feel a connection with our family’s country traditions, I decided to host a kitchen tea for her. I felt sure, that fueled with champagne, my friends, the bridesmaids and Lissa’s girlfriends would offer her hilarious and sage advice concerning her future wifely duties. I envisioned this event in the back garden and thankfully, the weather gods complied.

party table decorated with herb challenge
Table decorated with hot pink table runner, ferns, pansies and the Herb Challenge ready to go

Unfortunately, I couldn’t serve just champagne for Afternoon Tea. My wonderful girlfriend, Julie offered to help me with the cooking but I couldn’t leave everything to her, much as I wanted to.

The wonderful, thoughtful and hardworking Julie
The wonderful, thoughtful and hardworking Julie

So, I practised my high tea skills. Alas, I’m no Adriano Zumbo. I had to cross chocolate macaroons off the menu as mine resembled the dark side of the Moon. I experimented with gluten free vanilla cup cakes, wrestling with piping bags and butter cream frosting. (It looked so easy on Youtube!) Still, they passed the taste test and didn’t look too bad when I smothered them in decorations. Wanting to serve mini lemon and caramel tarts, I blind baked pastry for the first time. Imagine my relief when they came out perfectly. Not a burnt crust among them! I only had to practice the time-honoured country art of scone making. I had assured Melissa that Scone making was in our genes! My mother could turn out a wonderful batch of scones in no time flat without having to measure a thing: surely so could I? Friends gave me the lemonade and cream recipe, however the scones didn’t rise enough for my liking. Next came a melted butter recipe. Disappointment ruled my kitchen! Finally, I adapted a traditional recipe and remembering Mum’s secret touches, a great batch.emerged from the oven needing only strawberry jam and cream.

Feeling reasonably confident that my guests wouldn’t starve, I organised the games that we would play. In keeping with the culinary theme, I decided on an identify a herb game.

Geranium is not a herb is it?
Geranium is not a herb is it?

There were ten herbs to identify including Lovage and the Mother of all Herbs There was much merriment and discussion as the pots were passed around, closely examined and answer sheets filled in.

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The girls are having fun
Rachek, bride to be, Melissa, Toni and Helen
And so is the bride to be

There was also a Masterchef Challenge. The wonderful people at the Pass Cafe provided a tray of their unique gluten free brownies and a list of the ingredients. Everyone had to taste and decide what the ingredients were. These were so delicious that it was difficult to concentrate on separating the tastes in your mouth! This did provide a great segue into Afternoon Tea proper.

Chocolate brownie bliss
Chocolate brownie bliss
So much deliciousness
So much deliciousness

It was very difficult to choose what to have first! One good thing about fine china cups, saucers and plates is that the plates are small so that you don’t feel guilty about having seconds or indeed thirds. I couldn’t resist Leone’s White chocolate berry cheesecake or Julie’s chicken and cucumber sandwiches. And  I really do think that tea tastes so much better in bone china tea cups, don’t you?

Feeling very relaxed and replete, it was time for Lissa to open her presents. Helen got proceedings off to a hilarious start. She had Lissa don kitchen attire that would keep her future husband, Ben very interested in the kitchen, though one could wonder what was on the menu!

All that's missing is the g-string
All that’s missing is the g-string

Each lovely gift came with a family recipe and the story behind it.  I had sent the recipe cards out with the invitations.  Lissa was thrilled. I’m sure, she’ll enjoy making each of them  and adding to them as she embraces married life.

My gift was a sentimental one.As  Lissa loves candles,  I asked Kate Hogan,  Lissa’s cousin, creator of beautiful hand-crafted soy candles produced under her brand (www.numberninetyseven.com.au)  to make three special candles for Melissa. They will celebrate Ben and Melissa’s first Christmas as a married couple, their first anniversary and the birth of their first child. I wrote a small verse for each candle and Kate and her sister, Mel, did the rest. They were simply stunning.

it smells so good
it smells so good

It was time for more fun. The bridesmaids, Toni and Brooke, volunteered to be models as the rest of us created two alternative wedding dresses for Melissa out of toilet paper and masking tape. Don’t they look adorable?

Here come the brides
Here come the brides

More champagne and all too soon, it was home time. It had been such a fun afternoon!  Lissa and I had put together a small collection of kitchen goodies which we wrapped in a flour sack tea towel to thank our guests for coming.

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Love is definitely in the air!

Whale Mugging

Now I see you, now I dont
Coming up!

In winter, as you walk around the lighthouse in Byron Bay,  you can see Humpback whales on their annual migration to the Great Barrier Reef.  From numerous vantage points, as you peruse the ocean, you may catch sight of  these magnificent creatures spouting and occasionally breaching. Although it is always a thrill, indeed I feel cheated if I walk and don’t see any whales,  I am always aware that I’m on the land and they’re in the sea, a long way away.

A WHALE OF A TIME BEGINS

Whale approaching
Whale approaching

I longed to get up close and personal, so last week,  Kenn and I embarked on a whale watching trip to Hervey Bay, approximately 450 kms north of Byron Bay.  We traveled mid week, hoping to avoid the crowds and chose to stay at the Mantra hotel located on the Boat harbour at Urangan. Our room came complete with a very comfortable king size bed, a spa bath and a balcony with a view over the harbour. Perfect spot for admiring sunrise and sunset.

Sunset over the Harbour
Definitely a room with a view.

Having settled in, we explored our surroundings. We confirmed our booking for our Whale Watch on Quick Cat II. We selected the Day Away for Early Birds tour which included a half day whale watching adventure and an afternoon at Kingfisher Bay on Fraser Island. That sorted, Kenn and I chilled out for a couple of hours before salivating over a sensational seafood  dinner at La Baelana Cafe on the boardwalk, just a few steps from our hotel. The Hervey Bay prawns and scallops were better than a Masterchef finale. I would recommend booking, as this cafe is very popular.

 WHALE MUGGING!

Friday morning dawned calm and clear: perfect conditions for whale watching. The Quick Cat II was underway promptly at 7am and breakfast, consisting of fresh fruit, cereals, pancakes and muffins, was served as we made our way past Fraser Island into the bay. Soon, we were in Whale territory. Several pods were steaming towards us. The captain cut the engines and the magic began as they swam up to our boat.

rainbow
Rainbow Spray

I couldn’t believe it, they were right there and I was so close I could see rainbows in the spray as they swam past. Then they dived under the ship to the other side, coming up to look at us. “They re mugging us,” the captain exclaimed. “They can see and hear us, so wave your arms and yell!”  Obediently, we waved frantically, yelled and whistled.

coming up
Stand still, I’m taking a mug shot!

The whales must have liked our response for they kept us company for the next hour or so. The sunlight filtered through the water and cast shifting patterns on their bodies as they cruised beside us, just below the surface.

underwater 1
I’m so cool, just drifting along

Then, when you least expected it, they would breach. The most spectacular breach was right in front of the boat, but I was so awestruck, that  I forgot that I had a camera in my hand. Alas I only caught the after splash.

going down
 Alas, going down

They frolicked the morning away, rolling over to show us their tummies,

I'm so pretty!
I’m so pretty!

swimming away only to return and begin their performance again.

I've got my after burners on
I’ve got my after burners on

But all wonderful experiences come to an end. The sun was directly overhead and it was time to return to the harbour. Our friends of the deep, waved us farewell.

See you next time.
See you next time.

Everyone was quiet as we cruised to Kingfisher Bay, where some of us were finishing the cruise. I think we were all savouring the moment. I overheard a little six year old poppet exclaim to her grandparents, “This has been the bestest day ever!”  Yes, some dreams do come true.

Pass Perfect

Do you have a favourite cafe or eatery? A place to catch up with friends while you sip  a latte or cappuccino  or perhaps a peppermint green tea while basking in the sun? A place which delivers a delicious bite to eat if you wish to indulge? A place, perhaps with a deck or veranda overlooking a beautiful view? There are many such establishments in Byron, but one of my favourites is the Pass Cafe.  (www.thepasscafe.com.au)

pass cafe 5-001
The path leading to the Pass Cafe from the Lighthouse walking circuit. The elevated deck is to the left.

 The cafe is situated in the Arakwal National Park, overlooking the iconic Pass Beach.  You can get there by car: drive along Lighthouse Road, turn left into Brooke Drive and park in the adjacent car park. It is a paid parking area. But my preferred option is to walk to the cafe following the circuit which eventually leads to the lighthouse. A little bit of exercise, lovely views, nice people to encounter, what more could I ask for?

looking out to the lower deck
View from the deck, looking into the rain forest of the Arakwal National Park

There on the deck you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast while you watch the birds or admire the view of the ocean through the trees. I love their brekkie burger but have suffered acute menu envy when others have ordered the Spanish omelette.  As a reward for walking  even part of the lighthouse circuit,  morning coffee  and cake is a must.  I can recommend the gluten free brownies and the Middle Eastern orange muffins in particular but really it is always so hard to choose which delicious calorie laden morsel to have! In the name of research,  I should work my way through the lot!  (it would be a service for my fellow man)  It goes without saying that the coffee is very, very good.

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My skinny cappuccino! Love it.

 The staff are amazingly helpful and always make you feel welcome. The cafe is also open for lunch but not for dinner. Lunch servings are generous, seasonal, varied and very reasonably priced.  They also have a takeaway menu for those who fancy a picnic on the beach, only a few steps away, or a snack to tide them over as they tackle the steps to the Lighthouse.

pass cafe 3-001
Service is quick!

The Pass Cafe is simply Pass Perfect.

Souvlaki and chai energy muffins

Until  relatively recently, my culinary  skills could, at best be described as rudimentary.   This I attribute to my childhood.  The kitchen was a place where I had to mop the floor and peel potatoes. It was the place where my sister Jenny always got to wash up, while I had to wipe up and put away the dishes, a much more time consuming task. To this day, I don’t know how she managed to convince our mother that she was the superior washer upper when she completed the task in a time worthy of an Olympic 100 m champion.  So,  in protest at my unfair treatment (and a desire to finish my current book), I avoided the kitchen as much as possible. As a result, I  left home  knowing how to pour milk on cereal, boil an egg, cook toast and open a can of baked beans – real survival stuff!

But one  of the joys of living in Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers is the foodie culture.. There are an amazing variety of restaurants and cafes to sample. This week, I revisited The Cyprus Tree, our local Greek restaurant. This restaurant never fails to deliver memorable and delicious food,from souvlaki to scrumptious seafood, perfect for a birthday dinner for my friend Annie.

PicMonkey Collage
Champagne not Ouzo was the order of the night!

 

As well, the area is full of  really knowledgeable, capable people willing to share their skills and help you develop yours.  This week saw the inaugural meeting of Byron  Library’s  Recipe Club.  The club will meet on the  third Tuesday of the month at 2pm,  at the Library. There was a very promising roll up of interested parties. The guest speaker was the bubbly, Julie Ray.
I had met Julie before when I had attended her seafood paella class in Lismore at The Pepper tree Kitchen.  I shared the photo of my success on that occasion with as many friends as possible. My culinary efforts had never looked or indeed tasted so impressive!  So I was looking forward to listening to what she had to say. I was not disappointed. She came laden with ideas about interesting ways to use macadamias,  a totally decadent recipe for a passionfruit cream curd cake and her chai energy muffins which we shared for afternoon tea. The muffins were delicious and you can find the recipe at Julie’s website,  julieray.com.  I noticed that she also had a great recipe for Gramma Pie on her website,  that she had sourced from Bangalow grandmother, Mrs Jarratt. I love trying heritage country recipes.  Maybe it’s because I love to daydream about all things historical.

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Super healthy Chai energy muffins

 

 

Classic Byron Beach Walk

Have you noticed how a change in the weather makes the familiar, unfamiliar? And waiting to be explored anew!  It’s misty and a little drizzly as  I stroll out on my version of Byron’s Lighthouse walk; a walk which maximizes photo, conversational and coffee stop opportunities without  leaving one dripping with sweat and  gasping for breath, in dire need of  resuscitation and a cold shower.

Leaving the car resting in the Clark’s Beach car park ( it’s always easier to park here and I’m one for a stress free life),  I make my way up Lighthouse Road to the boardwalk and gaze at the bay and check out what’s happening on the beach.Yep,  definitely worth a paddle later.

Shades of grey ... looking good.
Shades of grey … looking good.

I cross the road leading to the Pass and continue along Lighthouse Road a bit further.  Palm Valley to my left, is drippy with tree ferns and palms.

palm valley greeness
palm valley greenness

I walk until I see the crossing sign and head up the road to the lighthouse. It is always cool and shady here. I could be trekking through Middle Earth!  Often I spot hang gliders here, but not today.

the winding road
the winding road

At last, the Lighthouse beckons. Pit stop. Today it is just water but tomorrow it might be coffee and cake from the cafe … or an ice cream … or ….

Down the steps to Wategoes Beach and up and over the hill to the Pass. There are exactly 46 steps to climb. (I have been reliably informed by my personal font of all knowledge, my husband, Kenn.) I  trudge, I count,  I lose count and I trudge slowly, very slowly over the hill. Are there only 46? Surely it’s more! It feels like a lot more. I notice that the sky is clearing and the sun is coming out. Below the beach beckons.

Beach path at the Pass
Beach path at the Pass

Shoes off and a short splash  back to Clark’s. I do not give into temptation and stop at the Pass Cafe or the Beach Cafe. Rather, I dig my toes into the sand and the sea and dream.

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