If there’s one place I love, it’s Byron Bay. Situated on the Northern Rivers in New South Wales it was love at first sight back in 2004 when I landed there on a hot and humid January day. I was determined to divide my time between lying on the beach, and eating, both activities which are very easy to do in Byron. I have a tendency to pick my holiday destinations on whether I can eat well there, and I didn’t want to travel too far from Sydney so Byron Bay was a good choice.

Byron Bay is beautiful and I feel happy just to be there just taking in its energy. I love the sub-tropical climate, friendly locals, stunning hinterland and beautiful beaches. I love it all and I love it all year around. I also love Byron for the great food with great produce, restaurants and farmers markets it has to offer. Each time I visit Byron I make sure I head to the Byron Bay Farmers Market which takes place every Thursday morning 7-11am on Butler Street, opposite the disused railway line. Besides, I like going places in Byron where I can hang out with locals and pretend that I live there.

When I first went to the market nine years ago it was tiny with only a handful of stallholders. The weather was dark, wet and humid and I remember I bought fresh Thai herbs from a friendly seller called Kendrick Riley who happily explained the difference between fresh ginger, galangal and turmeric roots to me. I hadn’t cooked much Thai food up until that point so I was excited and appreciative to have the difference explained. I also bought beautiful organic produce and coffee from local growers. I was walking barefoot in the dirt with my camera and shopping basket, and I was very excited about getting back to my holiday house to cook (yes, I’m always happy to cook, even on holidays).

Each time I’ve gone back to the market over the years it has grown a little larger, and with my last trip there a few weeks ago it is even larger still. I arrived there at 8am on a hot sunny day and was greeted with what was large market with a lot of enticing stalls, musicians, cooking demonstrations and a big crowd of market-goers. I had my four year old son with me and he went straight for the juggling equipment and games which the market organisers had thoughtfully set up for kids. You’ve got to love a place which is child-friendly. So with my husband and son occupied with hoola hoops and juggling clubs, I took off for the markets.

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The Byron Bay Farmers Market naturally has a lot of regional produce for sale, and a lot of it is organic. Kendrick the Thai herb seller is still there as are Myocum Coffee in addition to the many other stalls selling local delights. It is fantastic to see so many providores in the one place and no matter who you speak with, they’re all passionate about what they have to offer and happy to see you. As a lover of raw, gluten-free and vegan food it’s great to see a lot of it available around town and at these markets. I went over to speak with Raw Ecstasy about their products and bought a green smoothie, a slice of raw pizza and a box of falafel. The raw pizza was extraordinary and I even had my hamburger-with-the-lot husband happily chowing down after initially looking dubiously at it. Raw food done well is such an art form and it’s great to see it is available in so many cafes in town and at the markets.

I wandered around the markets taking in the various stalls. Pinny’s Products had a large range of gorgeous jams, chutneys, dips and relishes. Owner Mary Pinzone explained she grows all her own produce which she then turns into her products. Coopers Shoot Tomatoes had an very large display of stunning tomatoes including the largest juiciest beefsteak variety I’d ever seen. With the greenest leafiest bunches of basil and marinated feta from Tweed Valley Whey Farmhouse Cheeses you could have had yourself a tomato salad made in heaven. Sunforest Organic Meats and Byron Bay Pork (who had mostly sold out by the time I got there), organic fruit and vegetables from Munch Crunch Organics and much more. There’s no doubt that this market is my personal Byron foodie paradise, and I can’t wait to come back.

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Words & photography by Tanya Zouev.