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Unleash the Hounds

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Beyond Byron's Beaches

From Main Beach, where surfers catch waves at The Wreck, to Clarke’s Beach, to Watego’s and beyond, the Byron coast provides beaches to suit most wishes. There’s The Pass, where longboarders mix it with beginners; there’s Tallows Beach, Lennox Heads and Broken Head. And then, our family has our own secret beach, reached via a dirt road and a bush track, where we can have a whole cove to ourselves, with only a few surfers in the distance and some divers snorkelling off the rocks.
But when the waves have worn you out, there is so much on offer within just half an hour’s drive.
A gin distillery, set on a macadamia farm surrounded by rainforest, serving gin-based cocktails–what a perfect start. Cape Byron Gin Distillery is only a 20-minute drive from Byron, and they are producing some of the best tasting gins in the world. Both their Brookie’s gins have taken out world gin awards this year at the 2018 San Francisco World Spirit Competition. Brookie’s dry gin has 26 …

The Espy: Track 1, Side 2

Day one. The Espy is back! Our local pub, our bay-windowed beauty. Two hours into my first re-visit, one of the new owners, Andy Mullins, spots me reading in an armchair on the fourth floor, shakes my hand, saying ‘this is what we want to see, people relaxing, using the spaces!’ and offers to buy me a drink. ‘Really? A shandy?’ he says. The barman comments, ‘You don’t order a shandy to improve the beer, you order a shandy to improve the lemonade.’ I’m somewhat shamed, shandy-shamed, but I’m revelling in my retro memories, so say cheers, and just drink it all in.

It’s been three years or so that the pub has been closed, and I’ve been time-travelling. I’ve come up the front stairs, past the patio where I used to watch over my sleeping kinder kids in the 15-minute carparks out the front. (Don’t judge me. OK, judge me; don’t care.) Up I go, through the double doors into the light-filled atrium. Down into the new public bar, looking for the old etchings on the windows. Out the back, to the …

Love a Plover

‘Are you aware of the birds? The birds nesting?’ I ask the couple, as they walk along the shoreline towards me with their two dogs off-lead. The bloke growls at me, ‘Our dogs are under effective control,’ as one lollops off, zigzagging its way into the sand dunes.Further down the beach, the small nesting boxes nestle into the grass, past the high water mark. There are ropes to signify ‘stay away’ from this marked-out safety zone.
In this space between land and ocean–a place of submerged and washed up things, of life teeming below the surface and skimming across waves and the shore–small birds, camouflaged among the seaweed and beach grasses, build their tiny nests in depressions in the sand.
I feel like I have a duty to speak, to alert these humans to the precious creatures, at risk on this coastal zone. I wonder how the dog owners will respond. ‘The whole beach here is on-lead during nesting season,’ I say. ’I’m just concerned about the hooded plovers. There are only a few hundred lef…

Magpies, my sentinel birds

Spring. Swooping season. Time for articles about magpies in attack mode. I have seen the terrifying images already, of the magpie approaching someone’s head at high speed. But, in my mind and heart, magpies are the birds that remind me of my father. When they visit, I try to sing their song to them: burdle-durdle-dup. I watch their heads tilt, they turn to survey me, and then they sing back. They are my sentinel birds: they keep watch and stake a claim.

At the beach shack, when we are singing, more maggies join us from beyond the tea trees. They are always at the gate when we arrive, heralding us in; they sing to us each morning we are there; and as we leave, the magpie family appears from the perimeters. They stake out their claim to the property again, as we turn right under the gum tree and sweep away down the hill. It's as if dad has seen us onto and off the block.

That’s one of the magic things about magpies: they turn up, like some kind of portal. And when they do, they pick m…