The epitome of the Australian beach lifestyle, Byron Bay is the ultimate seaside destination on many a backpacker’s bucket list. Sitting on the most easterly point of Australia, the coastal idyll has carved out a reputation as being a meeting point for hippies, gypsies and creative souls. It’s where you can catch some waves in the morning, let out your artistic side during the day and kick back in the afternoon with a bottle of beer, locally and independently brewed.
The community spirit is fierce and whilst the locals were very vocal in preventing McDonald’s from setting up shop in town, they have unfortunately been unable to stop the impending force that is tourism and development. Demand to witness and experience the magic of Byron Bay does not show any signs of slowing down. This comes down to the region possessing some beautiful beaches and a supportive base to the artisans and entrepreneurs producing high-quality, ethical and unique products; food and drink, hospitality service, clothing, jewellery, gifts, design – everybody wants a piece of Byron Bay in some way or another.
We haven’t resisted the lure of Byron Bay, having made the 2 hour drive down from Brisbane many times. Filled with plenty of charm, the promise of good times and a desirable lifestyle, it’s no wonder that it always feels difficult to say goodbye. We’ve pulled together this Byron Bay travel guide for the first-timers and repeat visitors – so that you can experience some of the magic too.
BYRON BAY AUSTRALIA: FOOD, FLIP FLOPS & FESTIVALS
BYRON BAY THINGS TO DO
Cape Byron Lighthouse
The renowned icon of Byron Bay offers visitors the opportunity to get the heart rate up and a blissful view of Australia’s coastline. The most popular way to reach the lighthouse is by walking either via Lighthouse Road or the longer route along Cape Byron Walking track. The latter route goes by Wategos Beach, loops to the most easterly point of Australia before a slight uphill finish to Cape Byron Lighthouse. There is a small cafe and museum so take your time drinking in the surrounds before wandering back down.
There is limited parking at the top of Lighthouse Road around the lightkeepers’ cottages. Parking costs $8/hour here (cash only and is manned by the lightkeepers) while the lower car parks charge $4/hour.
The Pass is part of the nature area which meets the end of Clarkes Beach. A popular spot for those wanting to surf or enjoy the gentle waves, there is also a wooden platform which you can climb that affords a good view to watch the surfers catching a break from Fisherman’s Point. There is a small car park at the end of Brook Drive, again all paid by the meters.
The long stretch of sand from the base of Cape Byron and stretching south towards Broken Head is an unpatrolled beach and a good option for those wanting to move away from the crowds. There are several walking tracks to access Tallows Beach, including Pacific Vista Track, Milne Track and the shorter Cosy Corner Lookout Track which is a short distance from Tallow Beach Car Park. This part of the coast offers swimming, fishing, whale watching and bird watching.
TIP: As it is unpatrolled, please take extra care if choosing to swim here!
As we do not take a natural affinity to bodies of water, surfing is usually a sport we prefer to watch rather than partake in. Surfing schools offer lessons from Clarkes Beach and those with more skill often catch the waves off Wategos Beach.
Hit the Byron Bay Markets
There are regular community markets held in and around Byron Bay. Farmers’ markets are usually held every week during the week whilst many arts and crafts markets showcasing artisanal products are mostly run on weekends. The Byron Bay Markets are on the first Sunday of every month. Keep an eye on this web page for the most up-to-date information.
Just outside of Byron
Immerse yourself in NSW’s national parks and head west to chase waterfalls. Protestors Falls is approximately 1hr 15 mins drive from Byron Bay and can be found in Nightcap National Park. From the Channon, it’s approximately 15 kilometres and the road does turn to gravel but can handle cars without 4WD. A carpark, BBQ area and toilets are available at the end of the road and the falls are a pleasant 10 minutes walk away.
The lookout to Minyon Falls is not as far as Protestors Falls, only 45 minutes drive from Byron Bay. This is another great option for those who enjoy hiking. The lookout offers fabulous birds eye views of the falls and the rainforest below. To see Minyon Falls in all its glory, it is best to visit after recent rainfall. Those who suffer from motion sickness, beware – the last few kilometres of the road are very windy and narrow so drivers also need to take care of oncoming cars and potholes. Picnic tables and toilets are available at the start of the trailhead.
Only 20 minutes drive from Byron Bay, the country town of Bangalow holds its famed Bangalow Market on the 4th Sunday of each month. The market is nestled underneath eleven huge camphor laurel trees which provide ample shade and is an ideal setting for the gathering of locals and visitors alike. Visiting Bangalow Market is a real treat so make sure to swing by for this get-together of artists, bakers and farmers and help support this tight-knit community. Parking is available at the market showgrounds for AUD $2 per vehicle. Pets are prohibited from attending due to health and safety regulations.
TOP BYRON BAY RESTAURANTS
“Grow, Feed, Educate”
This is the philosophy of Byron Bay’s The Farm and the numerous micro-businesses which operate on the 80 acres of land. The land is home to free-roaming farm animals, rows of vegetable plots that are 100% spray and chemical free and buildings which offer eateries, workshops and event spaces. All those who work and operate on The Farm share a common values and belief system, that we all play a vital role in improving the health and wellness of ourselves and our communities from the group up. Visitors are encouraged to explore the grounds and learn about where food comes from. The Farm is well catered to families offering farm tours, horseback tours and activities specifically for the kids. If you’re visiting in the morning, make sure to visit The Bread Social before their stock runs out. For a special treat, reserve a dining experience at the Three Blue Ducks restaurant.
Rae’s Dining Room
The Top Shop
An old 1950s milk bar turned cafe, one of the best things about Top Shop is that it feels like you’re hanging out at a friend’s place. The grassy space out front is usually always filled up with people lounging on picnic mats in the sunshine. The Top Shop works with local suppliers to whip up brekkie, single-origin coffee (by Single O Roasters) and delicious burgers. Vegan and vegetarians are well catered to and a seasonal fruit juice doesn’t go astray on a hot summer’s day.
On the outskirts of town, Folk is a local, ethical and organic cafe restaurant. Committed to vegetarian and plant based eating, the eatery is proud to serve home made and house grown ingredients. Place your order at the counter before taking a seat in the lush garden. We recommend arriving hungry as the Folk Burrito and Buckwheat Banana Hotcakes ensured that we remained full and pushed back our lunch plans. Coffee beans are from Dukes Coffee Roasters and the drinks menu also features organic naturopathic teas, lattes and elixirs.
Light Years Asian Bar & Diner
Tucked behind the boutiques on Lawson Street, don’t let the pastel pink walls and white lattices of this little Asian diner fool you into thinking that you’re in for sweet and delicate flavours. The menu packs a punch where oyster sauce, chilli and kaffir lime rule. We loved sharing the Fried Cauliflower (the strange flavour sauce is actually delicious), Crispy Pork Belly and Asian Greens. The cocktail list would certainly serve a date night or girls night well. We were lucky to nab an early dinner table on a Sunday evening with no reservation but if you have a party larger than two, then a recommendation would likely be necessary any night of the week. Sister restaurants located in Queensland at Noosa and Burleigh Heads.
BYRON BAY BARS AND CAFES
Bars and Breweries
Stone & Wood Brewery
Beach Hotel Byron Bay
Byron Bay Brewery
The Bolt Hole
“We are purveyors of good times and tasty cocktails”
Now doesn’t that sound enticing? Sometimes, you may want to escape the crowded Byron Bay streets and seek refuge in a dimly-lit haven – enter The Bolt Hole. A 6 metre tarnished copper bar with recycled timber features jam packed shelves heaving with over 200 whiskeys and gins. Hunker down for an evening in one of the squishy green couches in the corner or place your butt on one of the bar stools and let the staff do their thing with a cocktail shaker. And once you’ve knocked back a few, take care when walking down those stairs on your way out.
Byron Bay Coffee
Sparrow Coffee - Byron Bay
We’ve now had the pleasure of drinking coffee from two of the Sparrow Coffee branches and we’re happy to report that the coffee brewed is up to scratch. The Byron Bay branch is next door to the ALDI and clearly a popular go-to for locals. Brewing with Allpress Espresso coffee beans, the baristas are friendly and nimble. The cafe itself is a little hole in the wall with limited seating so selecting the takeaway option is most common.
Barefoot Brew Room
The tables and chairs are hardly ever empty at Bayleaf Cafe and for good reason. This popular Byron joint serves some of the best brunch dishes in the Northern Rivers. Bayleaf supports local suppliers, sourcing their ingredients from around town and nearby. Their coffee is supplied by Gold Coast based, Blackboard Coffee Roasters. Make sure to head around the corner to check out the art featuring on this brick wall. This is a free art wall and changes regularly so you will always come across unique artwork in this space.
Beach Byron Bay
SHOPPING IN BYRON BAY
Spell & The Gypsy Collective
Rowie The Label
Hope & May
Yӧli and Otis
BYRON BAY ACCOMMODATION
Alternative towns to staying in byron bay
Two smaller towns only 20 minutes north of Byron Bay, there are several camping and holiday parks accommodation options here. The parks and Brunswick River are popular spots for families too. The Mullumbimby farmers’ markets are held every Friday and the Mullumbimby Museum Market (Mullum Market) is the third Sunday of each month.
Broken Head is 20 minutes drive south of Byron Bay. There are country cottages listed on AirBnb perfectly located to access the hinterland the coast. The Three Sisters walking track is an easy 1 hour return trail walk offering the opportunity for whale watching whilst Macadamia Castle is just off the M1, a theme park alternative suitably attractive to children and adults.
HOW TO GET TO BYRON BAY
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN VISITING BYRON BAY
If you’re a music fan, you may want to time your visit accordingly. Byron Bay and the surrounding play host to some of Australia’s most popular music festivals. These include Byron Bay Bluesfest, Splendour in the Grass and the Falls Music & Art Festival. During the festival period, expect accommodation to be at capacity and prices to skyrocket. Conversely, if you’re not a music fan, avoid visiting Byron Bay at these times.