Our visit to BluesFest Byron Bay was our second one, having also attended in 2017. We went for four of the five days from Good Friday, it’s always held over the long Easter weekend. We’d definitely recommend this festival to people of all ages. The music is an eclectic mix so there’s something for everyone. The atmosphere is fantastic with fellow festival goers, staff and volunteers all really cheerful and easy going.
The site is kept so well compared to many other festivals, even the toilets are not the hellholes that festival loos often are. We saw some superb headliners including Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, The New Power Generation and Lionel Richie. The standout act was definitely Nile Rodgers and CHIC – it’s amazing to think how much of our recent musical history was written by Nile and the set they delivered was one of the best we’ve ever experienced. However, for us, the festival this year, was really about some of the mid schedule and lesser known acts. We enjoyed bands we’d seen before and were introduced to some acts we’ll be following in the future. In no particular order, the following bands made #bluesfestbyronbay amazing for us; Con Brio, Steve Smyth, First Aid Kit, Dan Sultan, The California Honeydrops, Lukas Nelson and The Promise of the Real, Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, Rag n Bone Man, Clarence Bekker, Hussy Hicks, The Strides and Little Georgia.
There’s also a great range of food stalls and unlike many festivals, the beer wasn’t restricted to boring mid strength lager. Much of our respite time was spent in the Craft Beer Hall which included Brews from Byron Bay Brewery, White Rabbit, Little Creatures and James Squire. As for the title to this post, well the planets truly aligned; as mentioned above a certain reggae band were playing, and Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts were represented amongst the food stalls. My conversation with the lady serving the donuts went as you might expect:
Me: Good evening, can I have a Wailers donut please
Donut Lady: What’s that?
Me: Wi’ jam in wi’ jam in
She was so impressed she gave me a discount
Four festival days does require a bit of stamina so we recommend you choose your footwear carefully. You also need to take plenty of people watching breaks and resign yourself to not being able to see everything. Even so, we guarantee that by the end of the night your feet and back will be definitely complaining. By the end of the fourth day we could barely walk to the bus, but we’re still determined to do the full five days one year.
The festival is held at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm which is halfway between Brunswick Heads and Byron. In Byron we visited our first Australian extremity, the most easterly point at Cape Byron Lighthouse. You can read about our trip to the northernmost point here.
Although Byron Bay is definitely worth a visit, we actually prefer the small township of Brunswick to its larger, louder, more famous neighbour, and that’s where we stayed for BluesFest. It’s a beautiful location at the head of the river as it opens out to the ocean and there’s a variety of places to stay including a couple of motels and campsites. We stayed in a lovely 2 bedroom apartment managed by North Coast Lifestyle Property.
There’s a regular bus service run between Brunswick Heads and the festival by Brunswick Valley Coaches throughout the festival. There are also buses to all of the surrounding towns including Byron Bay, Ballina and even as far away as Kingscliff near the Queensland border.
As well as a number of speciality shops and an IGA thats open every day of the year, there’s a variety of cafes and restaurants. Our favourites were The Footbridge cafe; and the award winning Bruns Bakery. We also really liked Hotel Brunswick which had a great selection of beers and wines and regular live bands. Their chicken parmy was a great example of the Aussie classic.