Local's guide on the best things to do in Byron Bay, by Parkway Drive singer Winston McCall
Cult punk-metal outfit Parkway Drive singer Winston McCall, Byron local, shares his favourite spots.
- April 2019
Byron Bay’s music scene most likely inspires thoughts of surfers strumming soft acoustic tunes, or folk ballads sung by barefoot buskers. But arguably the biggest band to hail from NSW’s hippie idyll has a different sound.
Formed in a Ewingsdale garage in 2003, Winston McCall, Luke Kilpatrick, Jeff Ling, Ben Gordon and later Jia O’Connor became metal meets punk outfit Parkway Drive. “It’s generally the first question in any interview,” laughs lead singer Winston when asked about the disconnect between Byron’s boho reputation and the reality. “[Our music] gave an outlet to a restless youth, a voice to a young community who felt unheard, a chance to create an identity and a soundtrack to fuel our days in the surf.”
The band’s first gig was for some 50 kids at the Byron Bay Youth Club. “We couldn’t go to pubs to watch bands so we started our own,” Winston says. “The gigs were always crazy. Underage kids letting loose in a space they created. Heavy music, pure fun, zero dramas.” Soon they were pulling crowds of up to 1000 and the industry took note.
But even though the band has left the youth club far behind them – after 15 years of acclaimed albums and world tours – Byron is still home. On the eve of an exhaustive European tour for new album Reverence, Winston shares his favourite spots in Byron Bay.
1b Byron Street
Sparrow Coffee is right in the middle of town – coffee on the go, and great bread. These guys make the best drop in town. It’s the first port of call any day, and [has the] best playlist too.
Cape Byron Lighthouse Walk
It might be a little busier these days, but the Cape Byron Lighthouse Walk never loses its magic and is still the best way to see the bay. The whales have been coming in super close the last couple of years so always keep your eyes peeled. The lighthouse is still the best place to watch the sunrise and sunset, just make sure to snag a good park – it gets crowded.
Near the Main Beach car park, Jonson Street
If you’re here on a nice clear, calm day you can almost walk to it on low tide. Almost. It’s a short swim, but bring your snorkel and check out what’s left of the wreck. You might see some little sharks and a bit of history. If you’re game, you can climb the old rudder and jump off. Don’t bother when the swell gets up though, better to watch the waves break over the entire thing.
The Byron Bay General Store
26 Bangalow Road
I’m a little biased because our drummer owns it, but the iconic Byron Bay General Store has had new life breathed into it. There’s awesome, healthy food and a great atmosphere. The beet relish on their veggie burger is next level.
Between Clarkes Beach and The Pass [surf break]
Just down from The Pass, this is probably the most protected stretch of beach when the southerly picks up. The sand has a habit of forming an amazing lagoon on high tide, making it the perfect place for grommets to learn to surf next to the pandanus palms.
4/8 Jonson Street
Bay Kebabs has been here as long as I remember. Still the best kebab I’ve had anywhere in the world, and that’s saying a lot. With a bunch of non-traditional ingredients you can make some crazy customisations. I’m partial to the falafel with extra pineapple and jalapeños and cheese. Sounds like a flavour crime, but it’s amazing.
Julian Rocks Marine Reserve
If you have the time, jump on a dive boat and go check out the rocks. It’s not the Great Barrier Reef but it’s pretty amazing. You don’t have to scuba, snorkelling is fine and the depths vary. Green turtles, manta rays, nurse and leopard sharks; they are all common. Hold on through the boat launch at The Pass – any swell makes for an exciting start to the trip – and keep an eye out for dolphins on the way back.
15/90-96 Jonson Street
Finish off your day at O-Sushi. The menu is varied and amazing with plenty of veggie options. The staff is always accommodating and the space is awesome. Keep your eyes on the train – the chefs like to get experimental from time to time, whipping up plates you’ve never seen on the menu, that might never be seen again. Take the risk and try something new, you might end up finding your new favourite flavour.
Jetstar has great low fares to Ballina Byron Airport from across the network.