Australia’s hottest and most hashtagable holiday destination Byron Bay is overrun by celebrities, money and-
“F**kwits?” blurts one host at Loft, a hip upstairs bar on the main drag of town where shaggy straw pendant light shades and timber finishes match the relaxed-but-not-really style of the once sleepy, surfy town.
“D**head Australians who couldn’t go anywhere else in lockdown, so they came here. Last night I was walking home and there were 40 of them outside a kebab shop singing.”
A group of cocktail-fuelled 20-something girls wearing co-ordinated outfits – white high-waisted linen flared pants and strappy, booby tops that require constant yanking to keep them in place – start slapping their acrylic-nailed hands on a long timber tabletop while chanting over the nondescript thumpy music that’s playing on the sound system.
It’s a Tuesday and locals are exhausted after a summer like no other.
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“It’s the most bizarre holiday period we’ve ever seen,” says Michael Visser, who manages the retro Bay Motel that looks out over Main Beach.
“Byron is now a meme,” concludes a lanky hipster resident. His name is Snake.
We’re sitting in Wreck Surf – one of the last-standing long-running businesses that remain in town – in a part of the shop that owner Bert Reid has converted into a cafe to keep up with the increasingly trendy demo.
“If it’s a place where celebrities go, then rich people go there and then vacuous people who follow celebrities will go there and wanna be seen,” Snake continues.
“They’re spoiled brats,” Bert labels the new wave of young, image-conscious holiday-makers. “I think social media and Instagram … they’ve got a lot to answer for. It’s like, ‘Come to Byron and get ya photos!’ We’re, like, just be normal.”
The #ByronBay hashtag on Instagram has become a new around-the-clock reality show of bikini-clad and musclebound bar hoppers.
Byron Bay is in the grips of an Insta invasion.Source:Media Mode
Down at Wategos Beach, one guy with a meticulously crafted beard and wearing cream linen everything looks to be filming himself as he stumbles along the road when his fedora blows off and flips across the bitumen, tumbling into the path of a Rav 4.
He continues filming while chasing it before going back inside the trendy waterfront bar Rae’s – a stylish refuge for influencers – where his group are lunching and documenting every course of the meal on Instagram.
Upon exiting, he reclines his body over the hood of a Lexus before a waitress comes out and says something to the group about a card being declined. The bearded guy abandons his mates to chase a scrub turkey down the street.
Seconds later, he’s back with two of the boys and they huddle together – wrapping their arms around each other as they take selfies and look out at the waves crashing in the orange haze of the setting sun. They’re just like the Entourage bros, except all of them are Turtle.
They rope a passer-by into taking a group photo of them that’s later posted to Instagram where Francesca Packer – Kerry Packer’s eldest grandchild and heir to a billion dollar fortune – comments with a series of flame emojis.
L-R: Turtle, Turtle, and Turtle.Source:Instagram
I interrupt the bro-out and the bearded guy is quick to detail why I should know them.
“I’m JoeyAndHisBeard on Instagram,” he announces, giving his handle in place of his name. “That’s Jad from Gogglebox,” he points to a guy wearing white linen, “And that’s Ibby from MKR,” he points to the other guy wearing white linen.
They’ve been in town from Sydney for a week and the party is almost over.
“I start shooting tomorrow,” the Gogglebox guy shrugs.
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Their Instagram accounts are a comprehensive archive of the alcohol-drenched week they’ve enjoyed – endless Stories of them slamming together tequila shot glasses in cool local bars and restaurants. Later, more videos are posted of the bearded guy holding court at Rae’s while giving a loud, impromptu speech to the entire courtyard of diners. Then a clip of him grabbing the microphone off a local busker to address the gathered crowd.
“All I want to do is make billions and be in the best shape of my life,” reads the caption of an old shirtless photo posted to the Instagram account of My Kitchen Rules finalist Ibby.
@JoeyAndHisBeard treating confused diners to an impromptu speech.Source:Instagram
“Byron Bay is almost comical,” the skinny hipster Snake laments. “It’s a place to be seen, not to come and experience. People just wanna say they came to Byron.”
Wreck Surf’s Bert Reid describes scenes that occurred just days ago at the sushi joint across the alleyway where a group of people swarmed some guy who posts funny videos on Instagram.
“Everyone was going crazy,” he eye-rolls.
Mel Sainsbury, who moved to the region at three and has owned the Essentially Byron kids toy store off Jonson Street for 16 years, says one sentence describes the new crowd that’s descending on the shire.
“I heard a lady yesterday and she said, ‘Oh, I just saw so-and-so from TikTok!’ And that’s the sort of people we’ve got here now,” she says. “That summed it up – that’s exactly our demographic at the moment: That person from TikTok.”
Byron Bay is “definitely at Hamptons stage,” one national newspaper recently declared, comparing it to the upper class seaside community where affluent New Yorkers and celebrities holiday.
“More like Bali’s Potato Head,” a local scoffs.
We’re drinking coffee in the “edible gardens” of Harvest Deli in the hinterland community of Newrybar – where Liam Hemsworth dropped $6.5 million on a nearby property in December.
The warm breeze blows over the smell of a nearby compost bin.
“There’s definitely now a Byron Bay look. All the girls are wearing the Elsa dress,” the local says, describing the billowy, floral-printed dresses worn by the wife of the town’s most famous resident, Chris Hemsworth.
Girls taking selfies in their Elsa dresses.Source:news.com.au
Dressing for Byron Bay is now like dressing for music festivals – everyone’s wearing costumes they’d never wear in their regular everyday life. But instead of appropriating native American headdresses, they’re all wearing linen shirts and linen shorts and Elsa dresses. Always with some kind of fedora and braided leather bracelet. Sometimes ‘70s-style ensembles picked up at second-hand stores. Occasionally those fake vintage band tees.
“What’s your favourite Iron Maiden song?” I ask a 20-something blonde girl wearing a T-shirt with the iconic band’s name splashed across the front.
“Who?” she replies.
“What brought you to Byron Bay?”
“The viiiiiibe,” another girl slurs later outside a kebab shop. She’s up for the week with mates from Sydney. “It’s just a … vibe. The food is a vibe, this kebab shop is a vibe. The only thing that’s not a vibe is the cost.”
Turtle, Turtle, Turtle and some girl at The Farm restaurant.Source:news.com.au
The holiday season has been raging for weeks. Now, it’s Australia Day – and the town is almost breathing a sigh of relief.
Most bars are starting to close for the night. Loft, The Mez Club, Balcony – where former Home And Away and Nova radio star Kate Ritchie was papped with her new baby-faced boyfriend just days ago. But the Beach Hotel remains open to revellers.
Out the front of the pub are two of the white high-waisted flared pants girls who were at Loft earlier. They’re standing on the footpath and one is yelling at the other for ditching her for a boy.
The hit of the summer, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams – made famous again after a recent viral TikTok video – drifts out into the street and a young guy wearing John Lennon sunnies drives by in a white Audi SUV.
“Elly, you’re f**king r**arded,” one of the girls screams. Let’s call her Clarissa. “That’s not how you treat a woman. I would never treat a woman like that. No, don’t say you’re sorry! Babe, it just sounds very ingenuine (sic). It’s ingenuine (sic).”
A nearby hotdog street vendor gives them a dirty look, as if they’re lowering the tone of his business. They are.
“I’ve been waiting 10 minutes! Babe, I’m just telling you, you left me waiting 10 minutes,” Clarissa continues.
Elly clasps her face in her palms. “He was someone I cared about but he won’t date me because I’m weird!” she pleads.
Clarissa doesn’t back down. “I don’t care! You’re supposed to have a brain. You think you’re a smart girl but you’re dumb! A normal person would have a brain cell! You left me waiting eight minutes! That’s so rude, babe. It’s rude. Rude. Eight minutes.”
I intervene. “I thought it was ten minutes?”
Clarissa looks at me like the hotdog vendor looked at her. “F**k off!” she screams.
Elly turns to give me a disgusted look, as if she has just tasted one of the nearby street hotdogs. “Seriously, f**k off!”
I back up against a parked Subaru as Stevie Nicks’ monotone vocals wash over me.
They move down the street and I squeeze into the pumping Beach Hotel – the iconic pub that sold for $100 million in 2019 – where the fedora-wearing bearded guy in cream linen everything is once again drawing attention.
He’s talking to one girl and then another girl and then everyone’s comparing where they’re from.
“Oh my god! You’re from Sydney? I’m from Sydney! Everyone here is from Sydney!” one of the chicks shrieks.
Yep. It’s basically Sydney.
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