Beauty and the beast


As Byron Bay groans under the weight of tourists, Catharine Munro discovers that the conservation-minded coastal town’s greatest problem is itself.

Last Australia Day was a surprisingly sedate affair in Byron Bay, the nation’s counter-culture capital – to a point. The mayor swore in citizens, barbecues burnt and residents gathered to dig deep for victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.

The setting for the fund-raiser was the giant Beach Hotel, where proprietor John “Strop” Cornell sells dandy-cinos – dandelion cappuccinos as well as boutique beer. The peak summer season, when the town’s population swells from 6,000 to 30,000, had almost passed and with it the flood of tourists that is as challenging to holiday towns as it is lucrative.

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Byron Bay’s residents amassed $97,000 at the charity auction in response to the Asian disaster, but midway through the event, they added their own special ingredient – staging an unplanned boycott against Public Enemy No. 1, retail magnate Gerry Harvey. In these emerald hills that nurture political dissent, it was a predictable response from a community that wants to preserve its eccentric, eclectic and, these days, exclusive appeal.

From Beauty and the beast

I wonder when Bryon Bay – and the tourists that flock there – are going to realize that its funky counter-culture days are over. There are a few great restaurants and cool hostels, but there are plenty of places to surf, soak and shop elsewhere in Australia. Despite the ranting and raving of its citizens, Bryon Bayites are just as superficial and materialistic as everyone else.

The article is kinda all over the place and doesn’t propose any solutions to the future self-implosion.