Byron Bay on New South Wales’ north coast has long been a popular stop on the backpacker and hippy trail down Australia’s eastern seaboard — thanks to its laidback vibe and stunning coastal setting.
However, today the town’s ‘surf and spirit’ hybrid culture has much broader appeal, and Byron is a popular holiday destination with just about everyone. Tie-dye wearing hipsters reside comfortably next to well healed entrepreneurs, Hollywood A-listers, southern socialites, and suited and booted real estate agents, and whether you’re after sightseeing or solitude, spa treatments or alternative remedies, or simply a slice of sunshine, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Byron Bay.
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1. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse
Cape Byron Lighthouse marks the eastern extremity of mainland Australia and is one of Byron Bay’s most photographed landmarks. Constructed in the late 1890s, the lighthouse is still in operation and commands breathtaking 360-degree views (keep an eye out offshore for passing pods of dolphins — and depending on the season — humpback whales). The onsite museum paints a picture of what life was like for the lighthouse keeper of yesteryear.
Craniosacral balancing, transcendental meditation, activated charcoal cleansing — if an alternative therapy exists, you will find someone administering it in Byron. The Byron Body and Soul Guide (available at cafes and shops) contains a directory of practitioners specialising in various treatments purported to enhance your physiological and psychological wellbeing.
For a luxe wellness experience, check out Gaia Retreat and Spa (founded by the late Olivia Newton-John). From the standard (massages, body wraps, and facials) to the left of centre (sound-tuning, cupping, and tarot reading), Gaia offers pretty much everything on the holistic healing spectrum.
4. Tap into your spiritual side at Crystal Castle
Up in the lush Mullumbimby hinterland, Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens is a five-hectare version of nirvana, encompassing rainforest trails, floral groves, water features, giant ancient crystals, symbolic stone statues, and even a world peace stupa (blessed by none other than the Dalai Lama himself!). Stroll through the serene grounds, spin the hypnotic prayer wheels, place your order at the wishing tree, or simply sit and absorb the ambience. It’s quite a place!
5. Go skydiving
Why anyone would want to throw themselves out of a perfectly good plane is a mystery to many. But if it makes perfect sense to you, take the plunge on a tandem jump with Skydive Australia for sensational views of the entire Byron coast (not to mention a serious adrenalin hit!).
6. Buy fresh
Fertile soil and an obliging climate furnish the region with fabulous fresh produce, and it’s yours for the tasting and taking at the Byron Farmers Market. Held every Thursday morning in Butler Street Reserve, the market has some seventy stalls selling everything from organic eggs and coffee, to pasture-fed meats and hydroponic strawberries. It’s the perfect place to shop if you’re self-catering.
7. Believe the hype about The Farm
If you do nothing else in Byron, don’t miss a visit to The Farm — an amazing concept comprised of a working farmyard, bakery, florist, produce store, and eatery. Roosters roam freely and you can amble around the paddocks to meet other animals (including some cute-as-pie piglets). Shop for cheeses and charcuterie, or go on a guided tour to learn about the property’s sustainable agricultural practices. The on-site Three Blue Ducks restaurant is perfect for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Yummy!
8. Eat at awarded Paper Daisy
There are several hatted eateries in and around Byron Bay, but Paper Daisy is my pick if you’re celebrating something special. Located at the boutique Halcyon House hotel in Cabarita Beach, it offers inventive and beautifully presented dishes (the pipi and semolina pasta seasoned with lemon myrtle and native pepper was a treat!). Paper Daisy is only open to hotel guests for breakfast and lunch, but accommodates outsiders for dinner. Book well in advance.
9. Munch on cookies
Feed your inner cookie monster (go on, you know you want to) at the Byron Bay Cookie Company — without doubt one of Australia’s favourite crumb fests. The company’s range of cookies is baked and packed in Byron, and there are two stores to check out. Much sought after packs of ‘seconds’ are available from the factory outlet in the Ozigo Complex Industrial Estate off Ewingsdale Road — a few minutes’ drive from the centre of town.
10. Explore further afield
With the Pacific Highway in close proximity to Byron Bay, getting around the wider Northern Rivers region couldn’t be easier. So, set aside a day to explore neighbouring towns — each of which has its own unique charm. Located just a 20-minute drive north of Byron, ‘simple pleasures’ is Brunswick Heads’ marketing catchphrase and you get what’s written on the tin. Enjoy a languid morning or afternoon pottering by the beach and soaking up the relaxed village vibe.
Mullumbimby can be combined with a visit to Brunswick Heads, and is hippy, trippy, and worth a wander. Over in Bangalow, you’ll find a pretty main street lined with meticulously preserved heritage shopfronts.
Browse our range of New South Wales tours and experiences here.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Byron Bay? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Cindy Bingley-Pullin is a Sydney-based freelance writer, wanderluster, corporate bee, and happy homemaker. In between analysing spreadsheets in the office, she pursues her combined passions of travel and writing. Cindy’s work has appeared in Virgin Australia’s Voyeur magazine, International Traveller, Fitness First magazine, and the Sydney Morning Herald.