Byron Bay. Once the heartland of free love and un-bathing, this northern New South Wales hub has slowly but surely risen in status and price. With it has come artisan crafts people, gourmet food and world-class accommodation and facilities.
And in a time where international beach travel is off the cards for the foreseeable future, it has also become the must-visit destination.
While the long-term locals aren’t particularly happy with this development, the moment you step out of your lodgings and either east to the beach, or west to the rainforest, it’s really not hard to see why.
I took five days between jobs to scoot up to one of my favourite places in Australia to get some sun and scout out my future home.
At the risk of writing a novella to summarise my time there, I’m going to break this post into two “what to do” posts, one focussing on Byron itself and then the greater surrounds.
Where I stayed
Being a mid-30s single traveller, I value my privacy and amenity, so an Airbnb seemed the best option for my journey. I chose the Lotus Room at Balyarta in Suffolk Park, just south of the main part of Byron.
This gorgeous home features four private rooms, which are individually rented out, and have a very homely, safe vibe. There’s also a kitchen and lounge area to use, and you might even meet the resident chickens, if you’re lucky!
Located super close to the beach, it’s also walkable to the Suffolk Park shops or you can rent a bike to get around and into town. I rented a car, which I would highly recommend if you want to do any trips into the hinterland or up/down the coast.
Other recommendations include:
Where I ate
Naturally, being me, I made a list and asked everyone I knew where I should eat in town. Are you ready? This will be a big one!
The Top Shop – ideal for if you’ve just trekked up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Topshop is heaving from about 6am, with a vast array of breakfast goodies and decent coffee (I’m from Melbourne, so obs standards). I had a bagel and apparently their burgers are killer.
Byron Bay General Store – also located a touch out of town, this local favourite is choc full of healthy, mainly vegan food options, and a huge array of hot and cold beverages. I just had a coffee here but the smoothie bowls seem to be a raging success.
Combi – Actually an Elwood (Victoria) recruit, Combi is all about healthy beverages, with a small food menu attached. I had a super delicious green smoothie on a drizzly Wednesday morning.
The Farm – if you’re at all familiar with Byron Bay and you haven’t heard of The Farm, you must have been hiding under a rock. Located on the outskirts of town, the sprawling property consists of Three Blue Ducks cafe/restaurant, adjoining bakery (with a delicious selection of quiches I may add), and a farm. Crazy hey!
The wooden bench below is located in the middle of the macadamia orchard and features a beautiful little prompt to take some time to stop and reflect. I think we all need one of these little wooden benches.
Kura – located upstairs behind the Beach Hotel, Kura is a delicious representation of a traditional izakaya. Had I been more than a party of one, I would have ordered half the menu, which is made up of a whole range of small bites.
I, however, ordered the spicy edamame, tuna sashimi and gyoza, plus a cute little plum wine cocktail.
Treehouse on Belongil – Treehouse is mega popular so it’s absolutely necessary to make a booking (most places actually do these days). Pizza is the game here, so make sure you come with an empty belly and stretchy pants. The burrata is also next level, so get your mouth around it!
Walk off your dinner with a meander along the stunning Belongil beach, you may run into a beach party or four.
No longer being 20 years old, I found it a bit of a struggle to find a bar or club that really resonated with me. But we luckily stumbled across the aptly named The Bolt Hole, which led to countless jokes and a great selection of cocktails.
Other recommendations include:
What I did
- Cape Byron Lighthouse walk – Much to my surprise, I got up before 7am every day to do this beautiful and somewhat strenuous walk. You can start right in town and walk the whole way along the beach and around the cliffs, or it’s easy enough to park at Wategos beach if you get there early enough to do the short sharp up bit.
- Beaches: The beaches all along the coastline are magnificent and all worth checking out.
Fun fact that I learnt from my Hinge date: the best beach to go to depends on which way the wind is blowing. A northerly wind, head to anything south of the point. A southerly, go north. You’ll be protected from the wind in either case.
- Byron Main beach
- Little Wategos
- There are also some lovely secret coves, but I’ll leave those to the locals…
- Markets – I am a market fiend and cased every one along the coast while I was there. I missed the Saturday twilight one, but every Thursday the Byron Farmer’s Market is located in a very unglamorous carpark near the industrial estate which has a great range of produce including breakfast oyster shooters.
- Industrial Estate – once home to factories and mechanics, the Industrial Estate just north of town is home to most if Byron’s iconic fashion brands (think Spell, Rowie the Label etc). There’s also a range of cafes, Pilates studios and art classes that have popped up in the park, as well as the Stone & Woods Brewery.
- Fitness – speaking of health and wellness, you are absolutely spoiled for choice with a myriad of yoga, Pilates, meditation and fitness studios strewn across town. I did a beautiful meditation and sound bath at Space Yoga Byron Bay on a Thursday night (which I promptly followed with a spicy margarita, it’s all about balance ya know). And surfing is apparently a thing here, go figure.
Honestly, I could keep writing, but I’ll save it for the second instalment!