Byron Bay needs little introduction. The balmy sun-kissed town on the North Coast of NSW is known as much for its bountiful beaches as its rainforest hinterland, creative community and innovative food scene. It was once the favoured domain of hippies and boho seachangers – these locals never left, but have been joined by forward-thinking restaurateurs, designers and celebrities.
In this serene setting you can surf in the morning while watching the sun rise over the most easterly point in Australia (dolphins included), practice yoga by the sand, sip oatmeal lattes, then kick back at the pub with live music from some of the country’s top musicians. These same musicians headline the region’s epic festivals and markets, which transform the town into a hive of activity radiating outward to surrounding villages, from Ballina to Lennox Head, Mullumbimby and beyond.
Blessed with beaches, Byron has a stretch of sand for every taste. Main, Clarkes and Wategos beaches are patrolled year-round, while parts of Belongil Beach are dog-friendly. Little Wategos is Australia's easternmost beach and is accessible on foot from the path to Cape Byron Lighthouse. From any coastal vantage, look out for dolphins, turtles and whales (May through November) swimming offshore in Cape Byron Marine Park. For a closer perspective, sign up to dive off Julian Rocks (a pilgrimage site among scuba enthusiasts), or kayak alongside playful marine life.
Walk this way
Back on shore, the 3.7km Cape Byron walking track meanders through rainforest, around beaches, across grasslands and to clifftops – not least the most easterly point on mainland Australia, where the Cape Byron Lighthouse stands proud. Yes, you’ll likely spot whales, and you may even glimpse glossy steeds on the sand: these are the beautiful Zephyr Horses, offering regular rides along Byron beaches or through coastal woodland.
Inland, lace up your hiking shoes to explore Wollumbin (Mount Warning) National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Your explorations here are backdropped by an immense (and extinct) volcanic caldera, the lush soils creating a fertile home for all manner of native flora and fauna.
Shopping & markets
Byron naturally attracts designers, artists and creatives. Their presence here equates to standout shopping at independent boutiques like Spell & the Gypsy Collective, for high-end boho fashion; Hope & May, for covetable beachy homewares; and the Habitat precinct within the Arts & Industry Estate, uniting likeminded retailers with a penchant for craft and quality.
Then there are the endless regional markets – you’ll find one on every weekend (and most weekdays as well). The Byron Farmers Markets is held every Thursday, the Flea Market the second Saturday of every month, and the Community Market – with more than 300 stalls – the first Sunday of the month.
Women enjoying shopping experience at Zulu & Zephyr, Byron Bay
Eat & drink
You won’t go hungry in Byron Bay, with the bountiful produce here attracting some of the country's top chefs and cooks. Start your day with a vegetarian breakfast bowl at Folk or vegan eats at Byron General Store, then pick up sweet treats at Love Byron Bay – think dark-choc macadamia bites and elderflower choc-nougat.
You could spend the whole day at The Farm, a working property with an outlet of the Three Blue Ducks restaurant, as well as a bakery, shop and space for workshops. Take a tour, meet the chickens and Highland cows, then sit down to paddock-to-plate fare – you can also pick up a hamper to take home or enjoy on the grounds.
Move on to fresh seafood overlooking the ocean at Beach or Balcony Bar Oyster Co, and finally mod-Mexican beside the sand at Miss Margarita, tapas at The Mez Club, or woodfired pizza at The Roadhouse. When it comes time to sample locally made beverages, make a beeline for The Bucha Shed, Australia’s very first alcoholic kombucha bar. Then there’s time for beers at Stone and Wood before sampling spirits at Cape Byron Distillery, where the botanical-infused gin will knock your socks off.
From sunup to sundown – and well into the wee hours – the party doesn’t stop in Byron. Begin your evening with a beer at the legendary waterfront Beach Hotel, steps from Main Beach and sporting a lovely grassy verge for sprawling while the day disappears. Next stop? The Bolt Hole’s rooftop for a cocktail, or Supernatural for a glass of organic wine. Then catch some live music at The Rails Hotel (aka The Railway Friendly Bar), or dance to late-night tunes at Woody’s Surf Shack.
Surfers walking along Broken Head Beach, Byron Bay
Where to stay
When you arrive, accommodation ranges from luxurious beachfront resorts to boutique hotels, hideaways in the hinterland, holiday houses and lively backpacker hostels. Favourites include celebrity hangout Raes on Wategos, wellness haven Gaia Retreat and Spa and Elements of Byron, the latter set on a secluded stretch of sand and accessible via a solar-powered train, should you wish.
The 8.5-hour pilgrimage north from Sydney to Byron Bay is epic, following the Legendary Pacific Coast route through quaint coastal communities. If you’re travelling from Brisbane, it’s a two-hour commute south. You can also fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, half an hour from the centre of town.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the Traditional Owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.