The best beaches in Byron Bay
On the far North Coast of NSW, the coastal enclave of Byron Bay is blessed with beautiful beaches. With more than 30km of sandy coastline in the region, there’s a stretch of sand for every outdoor pursuit imaginable.
Best beaches for swimming
The surf’s not always up along the NSW North Coast, with many sheltered coves offering consistently calm conditions for swimming and paddling.
As its name suggests, Main Beach enjoys a covetable location in the very centre of town. The long sweep of golden sand boasts gentle waves and daily surf life saver patrols, making it ideal for families, who can also make the most of the neighbouring playground. When you’re not in the water, take advantage of oceanside restaurants, cafes and bars, including the perennially popular Beach Hotel, with its legendary beer garden fronting the sea.
At the southern end of Main Beach lies sheltered Clarkes Beach. Waves here are generally low, and rock pools for splashing about beckon, but be aware that the beach is unpatrolled.
Continue along the cape headland to Wategos Beach, a powdery curve of white sand fringed by forest – dolphins often play in the waves here. Linger in the nearby leafy picnic area, replete with barbecue facilities, and paddle about in rock pools, safe in the knowledge the sand is patrolled in summer.
Continue even further along the coastal path to reach Little Wategos, the most easterly beach on the Australian mainland. It’s only 150m long, but what Little Wategos lacks in size, it more than compensates for with calm swimming conditions and dramatic scenery.
In the other direction, quiet Belongil Beach runs north of Main Beach to the mouth of the Belongil Creek. Lifeguards are on patrol on weekends and during school holidays. It’s also dog-friendly.
Whites Beach at Broken Head has long been a local favourite and, even though tourists have discovered the secret, you’ll often find it mostly deserted.
Lennox Head also offers patrolled swimming beaches as well as the freshwater lagoon, Lake Ainsworth.
Ballina hosts a number of safe, patrolled swimming spots at various beaches across town, including Lighthouse Beach and East Ballina’s Shelly Beach and Flat Rock.
It’s a 30min drive north to Brunswick Heads, where calm swimming conditions await all along the coast. Head to Torakina Beach near the mouth of the Brunswick River, for a crescent of powdery white sand and flat, turquoise water.
Surf beaches & surf breaks
Surfers the world over make the pilgrimage to NSW to tackle the legendary Byron Bay area breaks.
Top of many lists is Lennox Head, a seaside town between Ballina and Byron Bay, designated one of Australia’s National Surfing Reserves – the largest in the country, at 7.2km long. Experienced wave riders head to the Lennox Point break, but other popular spots to jump on a board include Boulder Beach and Seven Mile Beach.
In between Clarkes Beach and Wategos is The Pass, an epic right-hand point break that can deliver serious waves – you can ride for half a kilometre when the swell is up. At other times, its gentler waves are ideal for those new to their board.
Just north of Main Beach is The Wreck, so named because waves break here in front of an old shipwreck. Its proximity to town means the sand can get busy when the swell is up.
If you prefer less competition for the waves and are an experienced surfer, try the big breaks at
Wategos Beach is great for long boarders and paddle boarders, with long, slow waves. It’s good for all levels, and a beautiful spot for non-surfers to enjoy too.
Brunswick Heads also boasts consistent breaks along its open beaches, with the river entrance the stuff of legend in these parts. Strong currents and big swell mean it’s more suitable for experienced surfers.
Byron offers great waves for beginners, too. Both Main and Clarkes beaches are a base for instructional outfits like Soul Surf School and Let’s Go Surfing Byron Bay. Rusty Miller (a former world surfing champion of the ’60s) offers one-on-one lessons at The Pass and Wategos, alongside his daughter, also a talented surfer. For a gnarly immersive experience, sign up for a multi-day surf camp with MojoSurf or Surfaris Retreat – both offer tours for all levels of experience.
Snorkelling & diving
The world beneath the ocean in the 220-square-kilometre Cape Byron Marine Park is just as impressive as the waves above it. Snorkel or scuba dive at Julian Rocks, regularly voted one of the finest dive spots in Australia for its plethora of wildlife. And it sits just off the coast of Cape Byron in Byron Bay. Lennox Reef, known as ‘the moat’, is also easy to access, only 200m off the shore of Seven Mile Beach. Bring your flippers and mask to snorkel with a menagerie of tropical fish.
Best coastal walks
Even when you’re not actually in the water, you’re never far from it in Byron Bay. Lace up your walking shoes and follow the coast on the five-kilometre Cape Byron walking track, tracing the headland from Wategos Beach to the whitewashed Cape Byron Lighthouse. A vision at all times of the day, the edifice is particularly pretty at sunrise and sunset. Continue your stroll south, along Tallow Beach (a powdery 6km-long stretch) all the way to Broken Head. Pause en route for a swim or to spot whales during migration (May to November).
Beachside accommodation in Byron Bay
Byron Bay does beachside accommodation well, whether you’re checking in to a holiday house steps from the sand, like Tallow Beach Houses or pitching a tent beside the water (as at Reflections Clarkes Beach Holiday Park). For luxury, there is ultra-exclusive Raes on Wategos, a magnet for celebrities, or Elements of Byron, which sits on 22 hectares of absolute beachfront land beside Belongil Beach.