It’s the ultimate Aussie beach town, seducing all who pass through with an irresistible combination of natural good looks, welcoming hippie values and a laid-back-surfer attitude.
If you’re yet to experience the magic of Byron Bay, here’s a handful of excuses to add it to your Australia bucket list.
Byron Bay: good looks, great waves and a laid-back attitude © munkeyflex / Shutterstock
Byron might have developed a sophisticated shine in recent years but its hippie heart still dances to the beat of bongo drums. Head to Main Beach at dusk on a balmy evening and you’ll find an eclectic cast of free spirits celebrating the sunset with drumming circles, interpretive dance and hypnotic fire twirling. The vibe is inclusive and the upbeat energy is infectious – claim a patch on the grass and join the party.
Time your visit to coincide with whale migration season (May to November) and you’re practically guaranteed to spot a few giants of the deep playfully breaching in the bay, perhaps as tempted by Byron’s vibe as we are. But if you miss the whales there are plenty more locals to meet and greet: bottlenose dolphins and ancient turtles cruise the cape (take a kayak tour for a close encounter), while echidnas, wallabies, brush turkeys and a diverse range of seabirds call the coastline and its surrounding rainforests home.
Crowd-pleasing surf breaks
'Grommet' or pro, Byron’s majestic headland dishes up world-class waves. The north-facing Clarkes Beach offers a gentle launch pad for learners, and when you’re ready to take on the green water, the long, peeling waves of iconic break 'The Pass' will do nicely. Thrill-seekers should watch out for a hollow right-hander created by the wreck of the SS Wollongbar off Belongil Beach, while Watego's, sheltered from southerly swell, delivers a leisurely ride for chilled-out longboarders.
A long-time magnet for people seeking enlightenment, Byron is spoilt for spiritual experiences today. For those looking for an immersive yoga experience sign up for a stay at the Byron Yoga Retreat Centre (byronyoga.com) on the outskirts of town. An extension of the respected studio in town, it runs three to eight-day retreats that include twice-daily yoga classes, massages, meditation workshops and organic food in a peaceful setting.
Early Thursday mornings you’ll find half the shire filling their baskets with organic produce at the sprawling Byron Farmers’ Market (byronfarmersmarket.com.au). The paddock-to-plate philosophy is fully evident in this abundant region and the Byron Farmers' Market, which offers everything from fresh oysters to homemade halloumi, could easily be the movement’s headquarters. Stock up on picnic supplies while chatting directly with the growers, sipping a latte brewed from locally grown beans.
Big-name music acts
The lure of a few days in a beachside idyll sees plenty of top music acts include a Byron date on their tour schedules. The Beach Hotel (beachhotel.com.au) and The Northern (thenorthern.com.au) play host to a good mix of local and touring artists, and when music festivals Bluesfest and Splendour in the Grass roll into town it’s not unusual for headliners to tack on a sideshow. For grassroots action, simply wander the streets – Byron boasts a vibrant busking scene and you’ll likely catch a polished set from a star on the rise.
You’ll have to set the alarm unspeakably early, but all will be forgiven when you reach Cape Byron to catch the sun emerging from a gold-dusted ocean. There's a car park below the lighthouse (note: it is $4 per hour after 6am) but for the full, soul-enriching experience follow the walking track from Captain Cook Lookout to Australia’s most easterly point, taking in the rainforest canopies, pandanus-fringed beaches and grassy cliffs along the way.
Idyllic country drives
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, the lush hinterland surrounding Byron makes a refreshing day trip. Cruise through rolling hills strewn with banana plantations and macadamia farms, stopping to explore the chic cafes and antique stores of tiny villages such as Bangalow, Newrybar and Federal. Keep your eyes peeled for roadside stalls offering a bounty of honey, avocados, fresh veggies and eggs.
Secret swimming holes
When Byron starts to sizzle in the summer sun, locals retreat to their secret waterholes. The joy is in finding your own paradise, but we’ll give you a few leads: A 10-minute drive south will get you to Broken Head, where a steep bush track leads to a pristine ribbon of sand known as Whites Beach. If the wind’s up, you’ll find shelter at Cosy Corner, tucked into the southern side of the Byron headland – and when the tide is just right a magic swimming pool appears in the rocks at Little Watego's.
Seriously stylish shopping
This small town is big on style – and entrepreneurial gusto. Locally grown, globally revered fashion labels Spell and the Gypsy Collective (spelldesigns.com), Auguste (augustethelabel.com) and Afends (afends.com) have developed a 'luxe boho' look that’s quintessentially Byron – think floaty floral gowns and vintage-inspired denim. The Spell flagship store is an experience in itself: housed in a sun drenched, whitewashed cottage it features a spa-like courtyard where shoppers can recover from retail fatigue.