6 Reasons to Stop in Byron Bay
Featured destinations: Australia
Published 19 May 2016
Located in the northern coastal corner of New South Wales lays the bustling town of Byron Bay, where shoes are optional and an indulgent trip to the spa is a must. Once a bohemian surfer town, Byron Bay’s beauty has seen it grow in recent years to offer a curious mix of easy-going vibes and high-end sophistication. From hippies and surfers through to executives and CEO’s, Byron lures an eclectic bunch with its sprawling beaches and organic living. It’s a combination that should be truly experienced to be believed and so a stop in Byron Bay when driving between Brisbane and Sydney is ideal. And when you do, here are the things not to miss:
There’s certainly no shortage of beaches along the New South Wales coast, but as many locals will attest, there’s something special about Byron Bay’s beaches. It might be because Byron Bay shies away from high-rise resorts, instead focussing more on eco-friendly accommodation that's nestled within nature, and so the beaches are mainly surrounded by green bushland. Because of Byron's eco-friendly efforts, the beaches here are also truly pristine and wildlife sightings, particularly dolphins, are common.
Many visitors here will flock to Byron’s popular Main Beach, but stroll just south and you’ll find the local favourite, Clarkes Beach. The headland juts out, shielding Clarkes from the elements so the water is often calm and flat, making it the perfect pick for a relaxing dip. Dry off at the Beach Cafe with a world famous Byron Bay Coffee Co. brew and take in one of the best views of Byron. If you’re looking for a surf spot - Clarkes is not the beach for you. Instead, head further south to The Pass or Broken Head. For more secluded spots Wategos or Tallows Beach offer stunning stretches of sand to lie back and soak up the sun.
No visit to Byron Bay should be without a visit up to the Byron Bay Lighthouse. Built in 1901 and perched atop Australia's most easterly point, you can soak up the best of Byron right here. The trek up the steps is a rigorous one but it’s more than worth it. Kick off your one hour journey at The Pass and work your way up the rocky cliff to be rewarded with sweeping views of the ocean and hinterland. A shorter and less intensive trip is via Lee Lane and if you opt for this route, chances are you will come across a kangaroo. When visiting between May and September, be sure to keep an eye out for the humpback whales on their annual migration.
It may be known for its beaches but Byron Bay is also home to some lush hinterland that’s dotted with farms. With this incredible combination of oceanfront and farm land, Byron Bay has a strong passion for local and sustainable produce. On many of the menus in town you’ll find local organic eggs, freshly baked bread and green garden produce aplenty. The Farm Byron Bay is one such institution that fervidly lives by this paddock-to-plate philosophy.
Pull up a chair, order the black sausage and scrambled eggs topped with red currant jam, and tuck in. Afterwards, be sure to wander around the 32-hectare sustainable property and meet the animals.
For fine dining, I recommend visiting Targa or St Elmo, or for something that’s more akin with Byron’s relaxed vibes, I love The Roadhouse for its exposed brick, leafy sun-drenched terrace and cosy corners. Want to keep the good times rolling? The Bolt Hole is the place to be for a simmering taco and a zesty cocktail.
Similar to Byron’s love affair with local produce, its shops are also proudly packed with independent local designers. Fletcher and Marvell Streets are home to a handful of my favourite stores - Island Luxe, Spell & The Gypsy Collective, Hope & May, and Ahoy (sequin-adorned cushions anyone?). For a wide selection of arts and craft, I also recommend stopping into the Industrial Estate. It’s there you can wander between galleries and studios, see artists at work, pick up a bottle of real roses and pure sandalwood oil at Perfume by Nature, or adorn yourself with hand-crafted jewellery at Hammer & Hand.
While Byron Bay may be the most famous town in northern New South Wales, it’s not the only one worth visiting. Just outside Byron is the trendy little town of Bangalow which (for those you have uncovered this little gem), is beloved for its old world charm complete with antique stores, buskers, art galleries and seriously good restaurants. The food in particular is worth the trip in itself and I highly recommend hunting down the Byron Bay Organic Doughnut truck as soon as you arrive as they sell out fast and are too good to be missed. I also recommend timing your visit to Bangalow on a Sunday for the Bangalow Sunday market, which is a great way to sample the local produce and get a feel for how special this part of the world is.
Located a short drive from Byron Bay, Newrybar is where you can enjoy a taste of the charming Australian countryside. Within the town I highly recommend stopping at Harvest Café for one of the best coffees you’ll ever have. A short stroll from there and you’ll find the eclectic Antique Store and the Newrybar Merchants next door which offers a collection of curators and artisan retailers all held under the same tin roof.
Talk to one of our Australia Experts about adding a stop in Byron on a Australia fly drive holiday itinerary.