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We don’t stay in a lot of hostels anymore. But, it’s rare that I don’t walk into one without getting an immediate sense of returning home to a long lost friend.
I slip into that stream of understanding and the memories come flooding in. I love being in the hostel vibe.
It’s a a vibrancy of youthful spirit, a place where those who are embarking on a journey live and a place that is open to acceptance and tolerance.
Anyone who walks through the door is a potential friend and everyone has an amazing story to share. Most often those stories get shared in the common rooms over games of shithead, quarters, or backgammon.
Accents and languages spoken may be vastly different as are customs and travelling styles and plans, but one thing you can be sure of is that everyone is having the time of their lives and is happy to have you be a part of it.
It’s different for us now with children. We are still open to staying in hostels and gathering in those groups to laugh and play, but with kiddies it just doesn’t quite work that way anymore.
Once you become a parent every conversation in your life becomes one where you are only half committed. You’ve got one ear on the conversation and one eye on your child and what they are putting in their mouths or what crevices they are about to put their head or finger in.
Even though I can’t really participate fully in the conversations, the games, and the parties that hostels are so good at creating, I love to loiter in the background like scary Seal during the Voice finale.
I was loitering on our recent stay at the Yamba YHA. And the vibe I picked up was the happiness and contentment of travellers who felt like they were part of a home for a short while.
The Yamba YHA has a great family story behind it.
It is not owned by a big corporation or developers threatening to destroy a town; it is owned by a local family who have put their entire life savings, heart and soul into providing a safe haven for travellers to enjoy during their stay in Yamba.
And if you read my post on Yamba, you’ll know why many travellers get stuck in this safe haven for months.
Those who travel for extended periods of time need these familial type of places to stay.
The owners are friendly and are often stopping to high five the guests, ask them about their day, provide helpful information and insider knowledge.
One of the owners Shane happily chatted to us about the hostel, his story and why he loves Yamba. He has a passion for surfing and has cleverly created a hostel that caters to fitting in as much board riding as possible.
Many of the guests at the Yamba YHA come here to get lost in the tubes; Yamba has some of the best waves in Australia.
Shane takes groups of guests out daily for surfs, not for lessons, but just for play. He teaches them about the local waves and gives them more practice to perfect their skills and prepare for the much bigger and more powerful waves out the back. Even on his days off he is collecting the wannabe surfers for some wave action.
Shane cheekily admits that he has a tough job.
This is what he says about his legendary 10 buck tour of the Yamba region.
“I created the tour because I wanted to get out of the office.”
Any wonder with the waves and natural beauty Yamba has to offer.
Shane’s tour has reached cult status amongst the backpacking community. Travellers from afar as Ireland have heard about it before they have even left the emerald shore.
“You’ve got to do Shane’s 10 buck tour.” Those who have done it are spreading the word and it’s quickly placed on their Australian bucket list.
I know backpackers don’t like parting with their money and for good reason; we’ve got to stretch it as far as it can go and leave some over for those socialising beers of an evening.
But this is one of those moments when you gotta blow the budget.
We had plenty of people screaming out “must do Shane’s tour” on Facebook when we announced our arrival in Yamba. A crew from Tourism Australia England even flew out especially to film his tour for their advertising campaign showcasing Australia a couple of years ago.
Check it out:
For three hours Shane will take you the local hotspots including the green and blue pools where you can freak yourself out with some cliff jumping. He’ll teach you a little about how to read rips and not drown (very important info to know in Australia), where the best surfing spots and swimming beaches are, the best places to eat, and he will take you to see the pelican and fish feeding where the “Yamba Piranhas”, will tear apart a loaf of bread in mere seconds.
We missed the tour, but I know from the conversations we had with Shane that it would be memorable. He’s a personable guy, loved a conversation and a joke, and is passionate about Yamba; you couldn’t get more of an authentic local experience.
The YHA Yamba has won several tourism awards and for the past three years, it has claimed best YHA in Australia, a pretty good accomplishment considering it has been only opened for four years.
It is the only hostel in Yamba, a rule made by the local council for fear that Yamba would turn into another Byron Bay and lose its charm. Thank goodness that won’t be happening.
The hostel has everything you need and want from a hostel: clean rooms, great location, large living area, kitchen and a soon to be fully restored rooftop area, which is perfect for those evening BBQ’s and cocktail evenings.
What makes it so special is the atmosphere that has been created here.
Charlie the dog wanders around hanging out with the guests and riding the lifts, the guests love to chat and play with the owners children who walk around with gigantic smiles and a playful spirit, and locals often come here for food and drink.
The owners had the savvy insight to include a café on the ground floor of the hostel to help keep them going during the quieter winter months.
Backpackers will appreciate the cheap happy hour prices of an afternoon, and special evening pizza nights and meal deals.
Having children we loved that we were in a hostel that embraces and welcomes them. A kiddie toy corner was set up in the restaurant downstairs, the staff stopped to talk and smile with our girls, the guests asked about them, and when Savannah made a mess of the table after breakfast, Shane cleaned it with a happy “Don’t worry about it mate, I have kids too!”
To be honest, I thought our experience in Yamba would just be a stop-over on the way up north. It ended up being a truly memorable experience. It was short, but in that short space of time I really felt the Yamba happiness energy. It’s a place that wants to share its unique beauty and trap you forever.
Tripadvisor: Read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor
Getting here: Greyhound buses stop 100 metres from the YHA. It is 40km to South Grafton Station. which has Countrylink/Busways connections to Yamba.
Disclaimer: Our stay in Yamba was courtesy of The Legendary Pacific Coast
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