General Manager at Backpackers Inn
Hi Gunny, what is the name of your hostel, where are you located and how long have you guys been open?
We're Backpackers Inn On The Beach in Byron Bay. We've been here for over 35 years, going strong. We're one of the original hostels in town and also one of the most popular because of our unique location.
Cool, and whereabouts are you located?
We're located at 29 Shirley Street in Byron Bay just about a five minute walk from the central town and on Belongil beach in line with the wreck.
What sets you apart from other hostels in the area?
We offer a friendly youth and travel market vibe where we don't have any long-termers staying with us. We change the place over on a daily basis. We have a surf culture in the hostel, that is not all about party. People come here and they can party but we strongly focus on the relaxing surf vibe where people come to go surfing in Byron Bay and also the cleanliness of the place. We clean the hostel three times a day in different areas. Although we're an old hostel, we're certainly popular because of our high standards.
How do people get to and from the bus station?
We have a transit bus goes down and picks up from the bus stop and meets all the Greyhound and Premier buses. Then we take them for a drive through town, show them where the shopping centres are, the supermarkets, and up to the beachfront and show them down the beach from where our hostel enters out onto the beach and then we drive back to the hostel and give them a tour of the hostel and show them all the facilities and then we check the guest in.
We also have a six meter outdoor cinema which runs three nights a week; Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. This is weather permitting of course. We put bean bags out in the backyard, some deck chairs and it’s a great spot for guests to chill out and watch a movie under the stars.
What's the most popular airport that people would fly into and how do they get to and from?
We have two airports close by. They're both pretty much in a proximity of each other in different directions. The first is one is the Gold Coast or Cooloongatta. It's probably the most popular out of all of them. There's a number of transport companies that bring them up and take them down to and from the airport. The other one is Ballina, which is probably about the same distance in the other direction and it's a growing market at the Ballina Airport. It's being expanded every year and we have transits that go from there and bring them into town and drop them straight at the front door.
What types of rooms are available at Backpackers Inn On The Beach and how long do people usually stay there?
We start with four shares, we have fours multi-mix and the four females as well, female only. Then we have five, six and a couple of nine shares. It depends on what people want when they start checking in. Sometimes they're checking into a nine share, which are a little bit cheaper but then they move up into five or six share.
Do you have a time of year, high or low season, events that travelers should be aware of?
The big times of the year are the Byron Bay Blues Festival, which is generally at the end of March, beginning of April every year. There's also another festival, Splendour in the Grass, which is generally around the end of July. Then the other time is over the New Year's period, around the 29th of December through until around the 3rd or 4th of January, those are our peak times.
What facilities do you have on offer at the hostel for your guests?
We have free high speed wifi for every guest and it works throughout the hostel and in all the rooms. We have internet machines, they're all free to use. We have a really good travel desk and a surf school that operates out of here, a run down to the backyard. We also have free bikes and free boogie boards for the guys that want to go out and have a surf. We'll run them to town to get some food or just have a look around. We also have premium surfboard hire as well.
We also have a six meter outdoor cinema which runs three nights a week; Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. This is weather permitting of course. We put bean bags out in the backyard, some deck chairs and it’s a great spot for guests to chill out and watch a movie under the stars. In winter, we play a couple of movies a night and in summer, we play one movie a night. People can bring their own drinks and sit out there and watch a movie. It's good fun.
So people are allowed to bring their own alcohol back to the hostel?
Yes, So they go in town to the bottleshop. We encourage people to head into town and bring some alcohol back. They can go in on our bus which can drop them off and pick them up at the same time.
Do you have a kitchen where they can cook their own meals and what time is it open until?
We have a huge communal kitchen upstairs and it opens at 7:30am in the morning and it closes at 10:00pm at night. It does close for an hour during the day in the afternoon to be cleaned, ready for the evening crowd. It's got a huge amount of fridges and storage place and four multi burn cookers and a couple of ovens.
Where is the closest supermarket or 24 hour convenience store to you guys?
In town, there's a 24 hour convenience, which is the closest to us. It's right next to the main roundabout but another 200 meters further down the road from the bus stop in an Aldi, We find that that's the best in town for convenience and also price.
When checking in, what should guests have ready? Do you offer luggage storage? Do you offer early check ins? Late check outs? What is the procedure there?
When they come and check in, all they'll need is a passport. They will need to pay a cash fee of $10 for their room key deposit. We run the passports through the scanner. It's puts their information in the system. We do have luggage store that we store people's luggage if they do get here before check in time. Generally, check in time, especially during the peak periods, is around 1:00 pm and all they'll need is a deposit, a cash deposit for their key as well. That's it. They just run the system, it's a very smooth process and they're in their rooms and in a bean bag or down to the beach in no time.
Do you offer free stuff activities, events for travellers. So what are your main events? Do you have a weekly activities roster that people can do in your hostel?
Absolutely, yes we do. On Wednesday and Saturdays, we have a barbecue, in-house barbecue and we have live music. On the Wednesday, every Wednesday, also included with the live music we have a fire show that runs for about half an hour. It's a pretty in depth fire show. It's good that we've been doing it for many years. Every other night of the week except Sunday, we have a deal with the bar where we take them down, you know, Cheeky Monkeys, sort of Sticky Wicket, a reggae night. There's different events every night and we have an entertainment guy who lives on site and he's the guy that stamps everyone and takes them out, makes sure that they get in the real venues. Yeah, it's all good fun.
What do guests find most surprising about your venue?
The proximity to the beach is probably the number one and also the cleanliness. I mean, people sometimes think it's an old hostel because it's been here a long time but I think if you keep it spotlessly clean then people still find it refreshing. Also the vibe. We have a real surfer vibe. People enjoy staying here and then we seem they seem to book in for a minimal amount of days but then once they've been here, they'll go ahead and extend for two or three days because it's an enjoyable part of town. We're not too close to town that we are not right near all the traffic and noise. So we've kind of got the best of both worlds.
What measures do you have in place in regards to keeping your guests safe and their belongings safe?
So we have security systems throughout the place, security cameras in every aspect in all common areas of the hostel. I live on site as well. I live upstairs with my family. I've got my six year old and a four year old and we all live up here and we enjoy it. I have security on in the evenings and it goes right through until 7:30am, from 10pm at night to 7:30am in the morning. So there's always access to reception. There's always someone here if they need anything. We have a number of in-house staff, Backpacker staff, and they're always keeping an eye, an ear and an eye out, and they're helping customers when they have questions as well.
What is the most the popular tour activity that people do in Byron Bay?
Well there's a couple of really good ones. I think the number one would be Nimbin Tours and the kayaking. Kayak with the dolphins, it's just phenomenal when you get out there on a beautiful day. The dolphins and turtles are around you and Nimbin is always a good one because it's an old hippy town. It's very popular, people go there. But we at different parts of the year, we get a lot of skydivers as well because you get to drop out of the sky above Byron. It's a pretty awesome feeling.
Can travellers charge their phones or electronic devices in the rooms, there?
All the rooms have four main power boards and then every bed has its own power point. Also, in the common room, there's power points everywhere that people can place their phones and iPads. We have four internet machines machines and we also have a couple of stations where you can plug your laptop into the and hook up your own device.
Where's your closest favourite late night eatery, such as KFC, McDonald's, kabob shop? Secret hidden gems you're willing to share with us?
Well, there's no McDonald's and there's no KFC. You're going to have to drive for that one but we have a really good place in town, Bay Kebads. It seems to be a late night popular spot, and even during the day, lunchtimes. But they've been making big kabobs here for years, been looking after all the surfers in town and we definitely send people down there but Byron has so many eateries and so many great restaurants and places you can get drinks and food. There's just too may to mention.
What would you say, Cheeky Monkeys would be the kind of Backpackers favourite, do you think?
Cheeky Monkeys. Funny enough, Cheeky Monkeys is an awesome party bar but they do awesome meals. They can get half price dinners most of the week when they come in from the hostel here. But there's also another one, Sticky Wicket in town, and it's a sports bar and they get a lot of Backpacker contingency. It a little more upmarket. They're both very, very popular. It's not hard to get a crowd to go there.
Last but not least, Gunny, do you have a funny hostel story that you can share with us?
Well, I don't know whether it's funny but I went on holiday a few weeks ago. We've got a hostel dog called Max and he's been here six years now, a little Jack Russell. Everyone loves him. Went on holidays and they took Max to the vet because he got sick and the vet rang me up and I was in America. I found out because the dog's been working, going down the stairs and working the tables, getting fed, for the last six years and then coming upstairs, he's developed diabetes. So now I have to give him an injections in the morning and at night, which is a little bit weird. I've never given anything an injection my life so it's defientely a strange one haha. You know, the hostel loves him and the kids love him, so it's pretty weird and wonderful.