If you’ve managed to get your fill of Byron Bay's legendary beaches, it’s time to switch it up and explore your surroundings with a day trip. Take the scenic route out of Byron (as the locals call it) to discover the region’s quaint villages, cool culinary delights, hippy enclaves and, okay, maybe a few more beaches…
If you've grown tired of this view, switch it up with a day trip © Camila Se / Shutterstock
Village life in Mullumbimby
The region’s alternative spirit is alive and thriving in Mullumbimby, a small but vibrant village at the foot of Mount Chincogan. To get there, take Ewingsdale Road out of Byron Bay – stopping for a tour and some sustainable snacks at The Farm. Then swing onto Coolamon Scenic Drive, a winding country trail that offers sweeping views across rolling hills to the cape. Along the way you’ll pass Crystal Castle, a unique attraction where you can wander a labyrinth and commune with the tallest crystals in the world.
Scratch Patisserie's offerings depend on the available local, organic produce © Scratch Patisserie
Time your trip to Mullumbimby for a Friday morning to experience the town’s bustling farmer’s market from 7am to 11am. Mullum’s leafy showground bursts with stalls selling organic produce, flowers and tempting breakfasts, while locals catch up over coffee. Later, stroll the palm-lined main street and stock up on fresh sourdough at Scratch Patisserie, sink a schooner at the grand Middle Pub or indulge at the lush Kiva Spa.
Food and fossicking in Brunswick Heads
Just north of Byron Bay lies the sleepy holiday village of Brunswick Heads, a little smaller than its counterpart down the road but just as charming. If you’re visiting Mullumbimby, it’s just a short detour east, otherwise head north on the freeway from Byron. Bruns (yes, locals do love shortening names) is a vintage shopper’s dream. Driving into town you’ll pass sprawling antique stores like Clem’s Cargo and A Curious Collective, while the streets closer to the river are peppered with shops stuffed with secondhand treasures and handcrafted homewares.
Brunswick’s idyllic river and beach combo might be the main allure for holidaymakers, but its excellent food fare is just one more attractive reason to stick around. Leading the charge is Fleet, a sliver of a restaurant with a reputation that belies its size: book well in advance to experience the sophisticated seasonal menu. A few steps away, Milk Bar is reinventing the Aussie corner shop concept, serving up spicy bibimbap bowls and tacos along with coffee and ice cream. And if you’re a fan of lazy Sundays, get down to the recently revamped Brunswick Picture House and enjoy your breakfast accompanied by live music in their funky retro garden.
Harvest Newrybar's riberry and passion fruit pavlova alone is worth a day trip © Harvest Newrybar
Rewind time in Newrybar and Bangalow
An easy day trip for first-timers to Byron, these pint-sized towns offer big rewards. Head south from Byron and turn right onto Midgen Flat Road at Broken Head for a charming country drive dotted with roadside farm stalls and you’ll emerge opposite the historic village of Newrybar on Hinterland Way. Established in 1881 it’s now a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strip of boutique goodness. Start with coffee and a fresh pastry from acclaimed restaurant Harvest’s deli, then wander around the organic kitchen garden below. Across the road you’ll find Newrybar Merchants, a bower-like co-op where local creatives display their wares, from pottery to luxe, one-of-a-kind bed linen.
Island Luxe's aesthetic is inspired by travel and nomadic lifestyles © Island Luxe
A five-minute cruise down Hinterland Way should land you in Bangalow, once known for its dairy farms and now home to a cluster of chic boutiques, like the achingly cool Island Luxe, as well as a handful of upmarket cafes, a well-preserved 1940s pub and an art deco patisserie. Keep an eye out for plaques detailing the town’s intriguing history as you tour the streets.
Surf and turf in Lennox Head
Visitors flying into the Ballina Byron Airport are likely to catch a glimpse of majestic Lennox Head on their way to Byron Bay. It’s worth taking a 15-minute drive back to explore this relaxed surf strip. Take the Coast Road south from Byron for a highlight reel of Northern Rivers scenery: you’ll pass through picturesque pockets of subtropical vegetation, cane fields and a forest of tea trees before turning into Lennox Head.
Idyllic Lake Ainsworth is a perfect spot to visit if you've had enough of the waves at Byron © Penny Carroll / Lonely Planet
Experienced surfers will be frothing for the powerful right-hand point break below the headland, but you won’t miss out if hanging ten’s not your thing. Potter along the path over the headland for dramatic views of the coastline, or head down to Seven Mile Beach for an ocean swim before dipping into the cool, fresh water of Lake Ainsworth, just behind the beach a little north of town.
Finish your day trip with an Aussie tradition: takeaway fish and chips on the grass overlooking the beach, followed by a scoop of your favourite flavour from the indulgent Lennox Gelato & Coffee Co.
Good vibes in Nimbin
The heartland of Northern Rivers counter culture, Nimbin morphed from a sleepy farming town to the nation’s hippy capital in 1973, after hosting the Aquarius Festival – Australia’s version of Woodstock. Forty years on, it remains a psychedelic homage to alternative lifestyles. Located 70km west of Byron Bay, the trip to Nimbin is a dreamy tour of lush hinterland and rainforest. Plan your visit for the second Sunday of the month and you’ll run into a huge craft market at The Channon, a small village on the edge of Nightcap National Park.
The Nimbin Rocks are rhyolite spires remaining from a volcanic eruption some 20 million years ago © Auscape / UIG / Getty Images
Continue on to Nimbin and stroll the colourful main strip: soak up the street art, visit the Hemp Embassy and explore the quirky galleries and shops before stopping for wood-fired pizza at Nimbin Pizza & Trattoria. Nimbin is surrounded by natural wonders, including Nimbin Rocks, three rhyolite extrusions created by a volcanic eruption 20 million years ago. A significant cultural site for the local Bundjalung people, it’s best viewed from a lookout 2km out of town.
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