The laidback lifestyle, the endless selection of beaches and an unofficial culinary tour that could have even London and New York quaking in their boots, there is much to entice tourists to world-famous Byron Bay.
Nestled on the easternmost point of mainland Australia, the ‘hippified’ coastal town rarely spends a moment out of the limelight – and is currently on the end of a sea of negativity mixed with a hint of optimism with the forthcoming arrival of a Netflix-produced reality TV series – but is often seen as a Mecca for those wanting to cheer up, slow down and chill out, as the welcome sign says.
It’s especially great for those wishing to actively tackle any mental health issues they’re dealing with, such as myself. I made the move from Sydney to Byron Bay in mid-February. I initially planned to move for only a couple of months to get away from the city and ‘find myself’ – how cliché – but have since settled in, made what I would consider to be lifelong friends and, perhaps best of all, have made great strides with my personal development.
One of the best rituals I’ve found to help with clearing my head and to make an attempt to rewire my brain for the better, is to tackle the notorious lighthouse walk. Technically known as the Cape Byron walking track, the 3.7km loop takes you through forests, past beaches and offers up some of the best views your eyes will ever be exposed to. While the official website for the walk recommends 1 to 3 hours to complete it, I prefer to take it on solo, and so complete it in around 30 – 40 minutes.
The time alone could not be more beneficial.
Not only is it a great cardio workout – I’ll take seascape views over a treadmill screen any day – the time alone in the fresh air and with headphones in my ears, allows me to escape whatever thoughts I may be thinking. Of course, there are myriad other walks in the Byron Shire and beyond, but for all my desire to get out in the great outdoors, I can be a little lazy, and the lighthouse walk is practically on my doorstep.
Plus, I know the walk, I enjoy the walk and I occasionally choose to run sections of it with the aim of improving my time. It’s quite possibly the best walk I’ve ever completed.
And as a method for tackling mental health head on, I can certainly vouch for its effectiveness.
Dr Lars Madsen of The Mindshift Foundation agrees that completing even just a short walk each day can work wonders for your mind.
“The mental health benefits of going for a good walk are wide-ranging”, he begins.
“These benefits, combined with walking in a group, are an effective tool for promoting emotional wellbeing as it encourages interaction, social engagement as well as physical activity.”
“Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise,” he adds. Though this may be less true of the Lighthouse Walk (where if you’re not lucky enough to grab one of the few free car parking spaces, you will need to pay) the rest of the points still stand – combined with nature and a group setting, walking is a “very powerful, under-utilised stress buster.”
“Walking is low impact, can be done at any time of day and conducted at your own pace. You can get out and walk without the risks associated with more vigorous forms of exercise. Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly or who haven’t exercised in a long time.”
In relation to Lars’ comments, I have occasionally completed the walk in the company of friends, which is great for the social aspect. But ultimately, I prefer to go it alone, as it’s pretty much the only time I can guarantee I can have to myself, besides going to the gym.
I encourage all visitors to the town, no matter how long they’re staying, to complete the walk at least once or twice. You’ll feel infinitely better both mentally and physically, guaranteed.