Lockdown in our bayside Melbourne townhouse. With 2 VERY high energy boys. And only a small courtyard. With no kindergarten. Or playgrounds. With our local beaches closed. And chilly Melbourne weather. It would not have been fun. And there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t have sold one of them on eBay (with contactless pick up, of course!).
Our decision to relocate to Northern NSW in early March was the best decision we could’ve made for our little family. We will forever have fond memories of this family time together – of water fights in the yard, lazy afternoons in the hammock listening to kookaburras, walks along almost empty (but still open) beaches and rolling in the salty waves. Don’t get me wrong, #isolife still had it’s moments – there was yelling, fights, loneliness and days that I didn’t shower. It certainly wasn’t a holiday!!
There’s a few things I should mention before I continue this post. Firstly, we left Melbourne before there was a lockdown in place. At the time, there were no travel bans and caravan parks were still open. Secondly, our original intention was to spend this time in our camper. As the pandemic situation progressed and lockdown measures became tougher, we realised this was no longer the best option and decided to rent a house for the duration of our time in Northern NSW. Thirdly, there was someone living in our house in Melbourne, so simply going home was trickier than it sounds. Despite being away from home, we adhered to lockdown and social distancing rules, only venturing out for food and exercise, which included allowing the boys a run and swim on the beach. Any images of myself in pretty dresses by the beach were taken mid power walk where I quickly changed into a dress, snapped a photo and continued on my exercising way!
If you’ve been to Byron Bay, you probably know it as busy surf town with a boho vibe, usually full of backpackers and with way too much traffic. And while the surf and boho vibes remained, the backpackers and cars (well, most of them) were gone. This made social distancing relatively easy, even when we did venture out.
Back in January, we spent a couple of weeks at the Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park, about 10 mins south of Byron Bay, and had initially planned to stay here, before chasing the sun north to Queensland. Well Queensland went and closed their borders so that wasn’t going to happen, and it became increasingly clear that living in a camper during a pandemic was not going to be fun! The situation escalated quickly and like many others, our plans had to change – and so we began our hunt for a short term rental in the area.
Now finding accommodation in Byron Bay at short notice would usually be impossible (unless you like bed bugs or $6000/night ocean view mansions) but finding accommodation during a pandemic proved to be slightly easier. We found the gorgeous Pink Moon Bungalow and ended up staying here for nearly 2 months.
Pink Moon Bungalow.
If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll know this as “the pink door” house. The Pink Moon Bungalow is about a 20 minute walk from Byron Town Centre and just a few minutes walk to the divine Tallow Creek and Tallow Beach. The house is full of natural light and styled beautifully with a coastal/boho feel. And the fully enclosed yard and deck – with hammock and hanging chair – were the perfect place for the kids to play while we enjoyed a coffee. Or wine. Or vodka. Because #isolife.
Usually when you travel, you often end up spending very little time in your accommodation, with the majority of your time spent out exploring the local area. This could not be further from the reality of our stay in Byron Bay. We were total homebodies – baking cookies, planting a veggie garden and playing scrabble by the fire.
After the initial honeymoon period of happy hours in the sun, we found our new normal and began to sink into a routine of lockdown life away from home. Michael was working during the week, and the boys and I would head out for our morning walk before coming home to rest and play in the afternoon. We’d alternate between walking to get groceries, and exploring local beaches and national parks.
The hardest part of lockdown away from home for us would be not having all they boys’ toys and their playroom. I had to get much more creative with play ideas and there was a bit more screen time than we would usually have (but I imagine that probably would’ve been the case even if we were at home!). The upside was that we had beautiful weather and a good sized yard – it’s amazing how long you can occupy kids with a hose, a bucket and a few paint brushes!
Some of our favourite spots to explore were:
– Tallow Creek. This tea tree lake/creek runs right by the beach and was by far Archer’s favourite spot to swim. Although we saw a giant brown snake on our first visit so it took me a while to go back!
– Suffolk Park tea tree lake. Also hidden in the trees just behind the beach, this is another glorious spot to swim with kids. Even when we went in the middle of January it was still relatively quiet.
– Tallow Beach. This long stretch of sand runs from Byron Bay down to Broken Head and is perfect for a morning or evening walk. We were lucky enough to see the most beautiful sunset and full moon rising over the ocean on our last night here.
– Kings Beach. We went for a hike through Broken Head Nature Reserve and found this secluded little cove. With roads and car parks closed, we practically had it to ourselves. The long walk in was worth it! Usually you could drive in to the car park and then take a short (but steep) walk down to the beach.
– Wategos Beach. Still one of my fave beaches to swim in. Especially when it’s so quiet. It was also one of the only beaches with a car park still open so it made it a bit easier to visit with the boys.
– The Pass. One of regular weekend walks was from Pink Moon to The Pass, which was about an hour each way. The boys love exploring the rocks here and looking for crabs.
With every day feeling a little like ground hog day, we’d try to mark the weekends with Friday afternoon happy hour on the deck with pizzas from The Roadhouse and a Saturday morning walk to Suffolk Park Bakery for “chinos”. This was our new normal – and it wasn’t terrible, not even a little bit.
During our stay, we celebrated Easter, ANZAC day, my birthday and Mother’s Day. Archer weaned and Flynn gave up his dummy (finally!!!). With the permission of the property owners, we planted ourselves a little veggie garden. Basil for our pasta sauces and mint for my mojitos (as well as spinach, tomatoes, beans and thyme for future guest to enjoy). We borrowed and contributed to the community library at the bus stop a few doors up. We met the neighbours dog and came to know local families that we passed on our daily walks. The boys called it “our new house”. It was our home for a while, and we all felt a little sad the last time we closed that beautiful pink door.
I highly recommend Pink Moon Bungalow if you’re after a place to stay in Byron Bay – the house itself is stunning, it’s close to Byron without being in the town centre, the beach is just a short walk away and the hosts are so friendly and helpful.
For the last week of our isolation away from home, we stayed at the gorgeous Caba Cottage in Cabarita Beach. Located an easy walk to shops, Caba Cove, Cabarita Beach and Bogangar Beach, and with a little park a few doors up for the boys to ride their scooters, it was the perfect location for an iso stay. The yard was fully enclosed (a must with the boys) and the deck was an ideal spot for a little workout or happy hour as the sun was setting. Not to mention the stylish instagram-able interior!!! I seriously considered putting that giant floor vase in my suitcase (joking. kinda…).
Mention us when booking for a 15% discount! Click here to book.
My fave beach in the immediate area was the little cove at Norrie’s Headland (I’m still not entirely sure what it’s called – maybe Norrie’s Cove?). It was a beautiful spot for a swim, the surf was great and Flynn enjoyed a climb on the surrounding rocks. We also loved taking a long walk along Bongangar Beach – we attempted to have fish ‘n’ chips here on our last night and got caught in an EPIC storm!!
We really didn’t get a chance to explore much of the local area (because of the whole global pandemic thing…) but fish ‘n’ chips from stunned mullet were good, even after they got rained on, the ice cream shop was delicious and Archie Pie really rated the toy shop.
There’s a lot to be learned from slowing down and spending more time at home. A little shift in perspective has certainly left me feeling more content. Here are a few things we learned during our time “at home away from home”.
– I may be a teacher, but I’m a terrible homeschooler. I do not have the patience to teach my own kids (mostly because they are the devils spawn who don’t listen to a word I say). Thankfully since they’re so young we opted for more of an “unschooling” approach, with lots of time in nature and getting the kids to join in household activities.
– Increased exercising in iso is offset by eating cookies and day drinking.
– Less is more. We don’t need a lot of to be happy.
– Routine is important, not just for the boys but also for me. Having a loose routine that included play, exercise, rest/quiet time, work and time in nature worked best for us. The days without routine were always tougher.
– We eat out/order take away far too much at home. I’ve really come to enjoy all the family meals at home over the past few months. Of course, it’s much easier to plan and cook when Michael is home too and there are literally no other commitments to worry about. Despite that, I dare say we’ll be seeing a bit less of the Uber Eats delivery driver from now on.
– After over 2 months in lockdown together, Flynn and Archer finally learned to play nicely with each other. It took them a while, but they seem to be. realising how lucky they are to have each other.
– I swear too much. When your one year old says “for f**ks sake mummy” when you’re brushing his hair, it’s probably a sign to watch your language. And I can’t even pretend he picked it up at kinder…
– Family is everything. There’s no 3 people I’d rather do lockdown with.
Now with restrictions beginning to ease, it’s time to think about what we want our new normal to look like. While we begin to expand our bubble to include friends, extended family and kindergarten, I hope some aspects of lockdown life will continue to feature in our daily routines – like sleeping until 9am, daddy being “home” for dinner by 5pm and perhaps even living in Northern NSW!