Don’t you hate it when you can find no clean plates, cooking pots or cutlery in the communal kitchen? When the FEW things of use are lying unwashed in the blocked sinks, along with a whole bunch of food scraps? When there is such a lack of space on the food storage shelves and in the communal fridge that you have to jam your stuff into already occupied places, increasing the likelihood of someone interfering with your supplies? (and someone did indeed pilfer my supplies).
Well that was the scene facing me when I went to cook an early dinner on arrival at Arts Factory. I managed to dredge up and wash some plates, a cooking pot and some cutlery, but I never did find a bottle opener or a cup. And both tea towels (only 2 in a very busy kitchen) were so used and wet as to be a health hazard.
When I went down to reception to enquir, they told me I could hire most of those things by surrendering a photo ID or pay a small fee.
Confusion rules trendsetters - why didn’t they tell me that when I checked in about 20 minutes prior? And the longish lines at reception persuade you to hang on to your stuff for the duration of stay – but no bag or container is given to make carting them to and from your dorm easy and less prone to dropping.
More confusion – the hire thing is obviously intended to ensure people wash up their stuff before handing back – but where did the unwashed stuff in the sinks come from?
While I’m in a picky mood I’ll mention A FEW OTHER PROBLEMS:
- the 6 slot bike rack was surrounded with bossy signs forbidding locking of bikes to fence posts or other nearby structures. Only trouble: there were about 30 bikes. For 6 slots.
- the website’s “short walk” from my “WRECK” dorm to the bathrooms didn’t seem all that short in the rain.
- the double bunks in my dorm were pretty comfy but a bit rickety if you had a restless sleeper above or below. Thin pillows but I doubled mine. Soft.
- the Wreck Dorm is close to a boundary, the other side of which is a restaurant/bar with live music. Loud but not EXTREMELY loud llke a Thai full moon party. People wanting an early night who are noise sensitive maybe should pick another sleeping option. Other Arts Factory choices are further from the venue – I don’t think they would suffer adversely.
- Arts factory is not exactly close to town or the beach with 15 and 20 minute walks respectively. A regular shuttle bus makes the run but its timing may not suite your wants. The shuttle picks up from the intercity bus stop.
- reception is not big enough to handle the number of guests a lot of the time.
CAN I SAY SOME NICE THINGS? WELL SURE.
- VARIETY: Arts Factory has a way bigger variety of accommodation than the other 5 Byron Bay backpackers I’ve stayed at. Besides the traditional dorms there are a variety of tepee like tents, some nice cabana type things around the lake, a couple of other big detached dorms like The Wreck, a detached house for women only and a sizable camping area (with its own camp kitchen, thank God because the place was packed on this first weekend of the QL school holidays).
There was also a big variety of guests, not just predominately overseas visitors. Seems this place is big with mature age travelers and plenty of young Aussies. The latter seemed to be weekending surfers from Brisbane and a scattering of new-agers (some retro hippies trying to recapture the good old days, Back in the 80s Byron was a hippie hot-bed with the Arts Factory a ground zero. But apart from one lady offering Card Readings, Massage, Reiki, Theta, Meditation, yada I didn’t see any of the stuff I noted on passes-by in the good ol’ days – what’s happened to the arty stuff, hair braiding, face painting, chakras and reedy music?)
- NICE SETTING. This place is right on the rural fringe of town and has more of a bush than urban setting. Lots of trees, a nice (artificial?) lake, plenty of bird life.
- REASONABLE CONDITION AND CLEANLINESS. This is a very busy hostel but things seemed to be in fairly good repair and not dirty.
- ADJACENT MOVIE JOINT. Right next door is PIGHOUSE MOVIES which shows latest release stuff. Has a section with those old-style lay back canvas seats. Note this seems to now be Byron’s only movie venue – a newer place in the main street has closed down since my last visit.
- ADEQUATE PARKING. My stay coincided with a weekend. Byron is a super popular place on weekends and Arts Factory was just about booked out (I wanted a bed in the big tepee tent but it was fully booked 2 weeks prior – and you could not have squeezed another tent into the big camping area). The type of visitor is more likely to bring a vehicle than be off a tourist coach – yet there were still a few vacant places in the sizable car park.
MY RATING. I am giving a 2 star (below average) rating, marked down from 4 stars (above average) on account of the kitchen and other problems mentioned. I am discounting the stolen food problem – despite my earlier comments this can happen anywhere (and has happened to me before).
- A guy who has had his whole expensive Christmas dinner stolen in another backpacker joint told me he now packs all his stuff in one of those rectangular 10 liter inexpensive Woolis/Coles/Aldi cooler bags and puts a (small) padlock on the twin zip pulls at top. This of course will not stop someone stealing the whole thing – but it will stop small scale pilfering from the bag.
- You can short-cut the walk to town (22mins to 15) by taking the path across the (closed) railway tracks about 8 minutes into the walk. Look for the parked cars and people heading to the right just after a 90 degree left turn in the road.
- It might be a good idea to take your own dining kit. But people who want to travel light won’t want to haul around pots and fry-pans. Maybe a handy sized bag to cart your hired stuff would do the trick. And don’t forget the bottle opener – I got tired of the old rip it off with the back of a big knife-blade trick.
- Not all the booking sites show the variety of accommodation that Arts Factory’s own website contains (with photos).
- Book early for some of the more esoteric accommodation types, particularly for weekends.
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- The Arts Factory Backpackers Hotel Byron Bay
- The Arts Factory Backpackers Lodge Byron Bay