Renowned for its surf beaches, bohemian-luxe vibe, and A-list locals (including all three Hemsworth brothers), Byron Bay, 800km north of Sydney, is one of the most popular seaside escapes on the New South Wales North Coast. A 30-minute drive from Ballina Airport, or 45 minutes from Gold Coast Airport, Byron has a subtropical climate, making it perfect for holidaymakers year-round. Here’s how to plan your visit.
- Relax in nature, from Byron’s beautiful beaches to the lush hinterland
- Indulge in wholesome, farm-to-plate produce at local cafés and restaurants
- Shop for covetable local designer fashions
Where to eat and drink
Byron Bay has long been a wholesome dining hub, and here you’ll find an incredible array of cafés focussing on nourishing cuisine showcasing local produce. Fuel up with a hearty breakfast at the likes of Bayleaf, The Byron Bay General Store or Topshop, or perhaps grab a healthy smoothie from vegetarian café Vagabond, one of the newer foodie openings in Byron’s hip Arts and Industry Estate. Five minutes’ drive further west, Three Blue Ducks at The Farm is another popular brunch spot; you can also sign up for a tour of the working farm, perhaps by horseback with Zephyr Horses.
For lunch with a water view, treat yourself to a smart modern Australian lunch at Raes Dining Room in the luxe Raes on Wategos boutique hotel, just steps from magnificent Wategos Beach; or at Beach Byron Bay, perched above Clarkes Beach. More casual restaurants such as Balcony Bar & Oyster Co. and newer addition Loft also offer great people-watching from their breezy, elevated locations.
You’re also spoiled for choice for dinner options in Byron, with more recent openings including modern Asian restaurants Light Years and Bang Bang complementing old favourites such as St Elmo Dining Room and Bar with its Spanish-style tapas offerings, and Mexican cantina-style eatery Miss Margarita.
Opened just before Christmas 2020 by the Three Blue Ducks café/restaurant team, Oma wine bar is a top spot for an aperitif or a nightcap, while Raes Cellar Bar, opened in 2018, is the place to go for a sophisticated afternoon cocktail. If it’s a pub you’re after, head to The Rails, the Beach Hotel or The Great Northern Hotel for bistro fare, beers, and tunes.
Where to play
A sunrise stroll on the Cape Byron Walking Track, a 3.7km loop that passes Byron’s heritage lighthouse, is a quintessential Byron experience. From May to November, look out for humpback and southern right whales making their annual migration along Australia’s east coast; bottlenose dolphins can also be spotted throughout the year.
Byron’s famous beaches include the year-round patrolled Main Beach, which curves east towards The Pass, a famous surf beach with an epic right-hand point break. Further east, Wategos is also popular for swimming and surfing, while Little Wategos, accessible on foot, is Australia’s easternmost beach. If you’re interested in learning to surf, Lets Go Surfing Byron Bay offers surf lessons, including women-only classes and sessions just for kids. Soul Surf School also offers a variety of lesson options.
You can also get below the water with turtles, fish and myriad other marine critters on a snorkelling or scuba diving trip to Julian Rocks (Nguthungulli), 2.5km off the coast, with Sundive or Byron Bay Dive Centre. There’s also seasonal Byron Bay Whale Watching tours, and you can kayak with dolphins with Cape Byron Kayaks or Go Sea Kayak.
To learn about local Aboriginal history and culture, sign up for a walking tour of Byron Bay or nearby Broken Head with Arakwal woman Delta Kay. Delta also guides bush food tours with Vision Walks Eco Tours.
Dip into Byron’s wellness scene by signing up for a morning fitness class at the likes of Creature Yoga, Bende, or Hustl in Byron’s Arts and Industry Estate before indulging in some retail therapy in this precinct, where many local brands have stores. Don’t miss St. Agni for handmade leather footwear and apparel for women, McTavish for men’s surfwear, and Zulu and Zephyr for women’s and kids beachwear. You’ll find more boutiques in town, including cult womenswear label Spell & the Gypsy Collective, which also sells whimsical clothing for little gypsies; Auguste, known for its feminine floral dresses; and Rowie, another popular homegrown casual-chic womenswear label.
Beyond the beaches lies Byron’s lush hinterland. Just a 10-minute (8km) drive to the southwest is Bangalow, a picturesque hinterland town with plenty of boutiques and cafés. Just six minutes (6km) to the south, the tiny village of Newrybar is home to one of the hinterland’s most lauded restaurants, Harvest Newrybar. Set in a beautiful timber house and celebrating underutilised native ingredients, it’s an atmospheric destination for a memorable long lunch.
Another 20 minutes’ drive (16km) northwest lies the equally tiny village of Federal, home to popular Japanese fusion restaurant Doma. Not far beyond lies Nightcap National Park, where you’ll find rainforest hiking trails and two particularly picturesque waterfalls: Minyon Falls and Protestors Falls.
Where to sleep
An oasis tucked in a verdant subtropical forest, the luxurious Byron at Byron reopened in 2020 following a refurbishment by its new owners, the Crystalbrook Collection. Its excellent new restaurant, Forest, showcases the hotel’s emphasis on sustainable luxury via its commitment to supporting local growers and producers.
At the other end of town sits the similarly luxurious Elements of Byron resort, which has direct beach access and an adults-only pool. If you prefer a guesthouse vibe, The Atlantic Byron Bay, 28 Degrees, and Bask & Stow are suitably stylish choices. Centrally located, small boutique hotel The Bower Byron Bay offers the best of both worlds along with a highly Instagrammable circular pool.