Want to know where the best beaches in Australia are? Ask seasoned travelers! Lydia Vasko of The Straits Times gets the inside scoop on the hottest spots in Oz from Alicia Pan and her husband, Peter Thew.
Who: Singaporean Alicia Pan, 31, singer, songwriter and owner of the Yoga Movement chain. She is married to Australian Peter Thew, 33, who is Yoga Movement’s brand manager and director.
Favourite destination: Tweed Heads and Byron Bay, New South Wales, which are about two hours south of Brisbane by car.
Why: Since I have spent most of my life in a city, my preferred travel destinations always include the sun and ocean. I think Australia has the world’s most beautiful beaches.
My husband and I recently bought an apartment in Tweed Heads, a town right on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, and we are dividing our time between there and Singapore.
Our apartment overlooks Duranbah Beach and has a panoramic view of the ocean. The beach is a great place for whale-watching and is a world-class surfing spot as well.
Favourite hotel: The Atlantic hotel in Byron Bay is pretty, quaint and has easy access to all the attractions and shops in Byron Bay. The unique boutique hotel has a laidback surfer vibe and each of its individually styled rooms is in coastal cottages, surrounded by greenery.
Mexican food is one of my favourites and this restaurant has a long history and the cooking is consistent.
I recommend the tostada supreme – a soft taco salad of frijole (beans), Mexican rice, a mountain of vegetables, guacamole and sour cream.
A meal here costs roughly A$50 (S$50) for two.
Favourite art gallery: There are heaps of art galleries in Byron Bay, a 45-minute drive from Tweed Heads.
My favourite is Ahoy Trader, which sells beautiful oceanic, blue and white- themed textiles, crafts, art and table centrepieces.
Favourite tourist site: Cape Byron Lighthouse was built in 1901 and is still in operation today.
It sits on a 94m-high cliff, which is mainland Australia’s easternmost point and the first place in Australia to see the sun rise in the morning.
There are some beautiful walks around here and, from the headland, you get an amazing view of the surrounding beaches.
It is also an ideal spot for watching surfers, dolphins and turtles and, if you are there from May to October, you might see humpback whales during their migration.
You can stay in some of the beach and lighthouse cottages near the lighthouse and there are volunteer-run tours of the lighthouse every 20 minutes from 10am to 4pm every day except Christmas Day.
Best view: My favourite view is from Kingscliff Creek, a small, blue clearwater creek with a view of Mount Warning, which is the first place to receive the sun’s rays every morning.
I love the fresh organic produce that is readily available in Australia, but the way it is prepared at Bayleaf Cafe is so rich in variety and flavour.
Menu items include a “socca” Italian chickpea crepe piled with vegetables; matcha green smoothie with banana almond milk, chia, matcha extract, maple and banana cream; and a house-made ginger, turmeric and black pepper kombucha (fermented tea).
Best hidden find: Just around the corner from Snapper Rocks, one of the world’s most famous surf breaks, is Froggies Beach, a small, secluded beach at the farthest point of Coolangatta, Queensland. It is great for surfing and you can get to the locals’ favourite surf spot via a walking path from Snapper Rocks.
Favourite shopping spot: I am currently in love with Bangalow, a small town in Byron Shire, west of Byron Bay.
The people there are lovely and the streets are small and cute.
On the fourth Sunday of every month, they hold the Bangalow Market (bangalowmarket.com.au), a farmer’s market where hundreds of local artists, artisans, bakers, farmers and friends gather.
You can find anything from jewellery and clothing to homeware to food and drinks for less than A$10.
Tip for travellers: It is pretty laidback in Tweed Heads and Byron Bay. Take a chill pill, go easy and embrace Mother Nature because there is plenty of it to see.
Must-try food: It may be cliched, but you have to have fish and chips. Scales Seafood in Tweed Heads (47 Kennedy Drive, Tweed Heads, New South Wales; tel: +61-7-5536-6937) is a seafood market and take-away shop which makes the best fish and chips around. You can get a decently sized meal there for about A$10.
Lamingtons – squares of spongecake coated in chocolate sauce and desiccated coconut – are also very Australian and yummy. You can get them at most local cafes and bakeries. Depending on the cake’s size, it should cost no more than A$3.
Best day trip: Yamba, a small fishing town in northern New South Wales and a two-hour drive south of Tweed Heads, has beautiful beaches.
At the northern tip of Pippi beach is Lovers Point, with magnificent 240-degree views.
It is a great spot to watch passing whales between May and October, and dolphins at any time of the year.
By Lydia Vasko, The Straits Times, November 22, 2015