Where both fashionistas and surfers share the local beaches, bars, and cafés.
Byron Bay, on the northern coast of New South Wales, is pretty relaxed. Going barefoot in the main street is perfectly acceptable and there’s not a resort in sight. But in recent years, Byron has acquired a grown-up sophistication that’s unique outside of Australia’s capital cities, with world-renowned chefs setting up shop and a burgeoning local art scene. After experiencing all this little town has to offer, you might even choose to adopt the locals’ chilled-out approach and extend your stay by a day or two.
Cape Byron Lighthouse
Cape Byron offers iconic views of the coastline and out across the Pacific Ocean. Here, at Australia’s most easterly point, you might even get the chance to spot turtles, dolphins, or humpback whales. It is possible to drive to the historic lighthouse, but the 2.3 mile walking track along the Cape Byron headland is an even better way to experience the surrounding wilderness.
Stone & Wood Brewing Company
Stone & Wood was at the forefront of the craft brewing explosion in Australia ten years ago and is now the country’s second largest independent brewing company. Their signature Pacific Ale is a fruity and refreshing golden beer, perfect for an afternoon at the beach. At the brewery in Byron, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour and try all the classics as well as some experimental, limited release brews.
Byron hosts three regular markets, packed with hippie treasures and local sustainable fashion and beauty brands, plus a huge range of food and live music. The Byron Twilight Market happens in Railway Park every Saturday afternoon over summer, the huge Byron Community Market sets up the first Sunday of every month, and the Beachside Market pops up four times a year. Many of the surrounding villages also have their own events which are worth a day trip.
There are so many great beaches in town you may find it hard to choose, but Wategos is a reliable local favorite for a day by the water. It’s small but spacious and protected by cliffs, with golden sand, gentle surf, and a park nearby. Plus, Rae’s restaurant is right across the park, perfect for an evening Elderflower and Gin Fizz.
INSIDER TIPGrab some supplies and stake out one of the free public barbecues for the most affordable beachside lunch in town.
At the southern end of Byron’s Main Beach, you’ll find a wooden lookout tower that you can hike up to check out the waves that break parallel to the coastline. Even if you’re not a surfer yourself, Fisherman’s Lookout the best place to get a bird’s eye view of the action in the water, of both the human and marine life variety.
Incredible Live Music
Nightlife in Byron punches well above its weight thanks to lots of students and backpackers passing through, and the local pubs are often the home base for bands that go on to hit the big time. (Parcels and Skeggs are a couple of recent exports.) Check out The Northern or the Beach Hotel for headline gigs most nights over summer.
INSIDER TIPThe Rails Hotel is the place to go for free live music every night of the week, with local artists playing blues, folk, roots, and reggae to the friendliest dance floor in town.
Iconic Local Fashion Label Spell
Founded by sisters Isabella Pennefather and Elizabeth Abegg, Spell started out as a little market stall in Byron a decade ago and has grown into an international sensation. With a retro aesthetic that single-handedly revived boho-chic fashion in Australia, the Spell boutique in Byron stocks a huge range of floral swimwear, feminine dresses, and loose blouses for women and girls.
The Farm perfectly encapsulates the Byron Bay vibe: clucking chickens, pigs, a plant nursery, and a macadamia orchard sit side by side with the Byron outpost of top-notch Sydney restaurant Three Blue Ducks. If you prefer to get even closer to the origins of your food, you can preorder a picnic hamper of local produce to take with you as you explore the farm.
Balcony Bar & Oyster Co.
Balcony Bar is a gorgeous, laid-back restaurant housed in an impeccably renovated historic hotel and serving up some of Australia’s best seafood. The fresh oysters are a must, as is the chill crab linguine. If you can snag a table on the historic balcony itself you’ll have one of the best views in town.
Arakwal National Park
Just outside the Byron town limits, you’ll find absolute peace and seclusion. Named after the traditional owners of the land in and around Byron Bay, Arakwal National Park is home to the lovely Tallow Beach and there are a bunch of great hikes. The Arakwal people of the Bundjalung nation have lived in this coastal landscape for at least 22,000 years and jointly manage the park with the New South Wales National parks and Wildlife Service.
Seven major breaks have drawn devotees to Byron for the past half-century, thanks to the warm water, consistent waves, and unforgettable natural beauty. The Pass is famous worldwide and is always packed, while the Wreck can be a little quieter and just as exciting. There are plenty of surf schools in town for beginners if you’re ready to take the plunge; Soul Surf School is a good place to start.
Take one of the winding roads inland and you’ll discover secluded waterfalls, lush mountain ranges, and alternative enclaves. The area around Byron is known as Australia’s hippie central (especially the cannabis-counterculture capital of Nimbin and tiny, friendly Mullumbimby.) Crystals, tie-dye, and vegan food abound, to the extent that a drive through the hinterland may feel like traveling back in time to the ‘60s.
INSIDER TIPProtesters Falls is the site of Australia’s first environmental protests in 1979. The protesters successfully saved this pristine rainforest from logging and Nightcap National Park is now World Heritage listed. A short hike to the waterfall will have you squarely on the protesters’ side.