Laid-back Byron Bay on the north coast of New South Wales has long been a popular stop on the backpacker and hippy trail down Australia’s eastern seaboard.
But today the region’s ‘surf and spirit’ hybrid culture and scenic surroundings have much broader appeal, and Byron is a popular holiday destination with just about everyone. Tie-dye wearing hipsters reside comfortably next to fashionable foodies, 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.
1. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse
The Cape Byron Lighthouse marks the easternmost point 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. Visit the onsite Maritime Museum and discover what life was like for the lighthouse keeper of yesteryear.
Leave enough time to hike the headland walk, where you may spot pods of dolphins — and depending on the season — humpback whales.
The Brunswick River has spectacular scenery and prolific wildlife; hire a tinny and meander along its tranquil reaches. See eagles soaring overhead, flocks of pelicans and cormorants, and if you’re lucky, rays swimming by.
3. Fly high over the coastal landscape
Fancy getting a bird’s-eye view of Byron? Jumping out of a (perfectly good!) plane with Skydive Byron Bay is one way to do it. Take the plunge for the sensational views and serious adrenalin hit!
4. Try a new age treatment
Craniosacral balancing, kinesiology, feng shui; if an alternative therapy exists, you will find it in Byron. The Byron body and soul guide (available at cafes and shops) has a directory of practitioners specialising in various treatments purported to enhance your physiological and psychological wellbeing.
For an eco-luxe experience, check out Gaia Retreat & Spa (Olivia Newton-John is one of the founders). From the standard (massages, body wraps and facials) to the left of centre (sound-tuning, cupping and tarot reading), the retreat offers pretty much everything on the wellbeing spectrum.
5. Tap into your spiritual side at Crystal Castle
Up in the lush Mullumbimby hinterland, Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens is a unique property on five hectares, featuring rainforest walks, botanical gardens, gigantic crystals, hand-carved mystic statues and even a world peace stupa that was blessed by the Dalai Lama. Stroll through the serene grounds and spin the hypnotic prayer wheels, make a wish at the wishing tree, or simply sit still and absorb the incredible sight of towering crystal formations, some dating back 500-million years.
6. Buy fresh at a local farmers market
Fertile soil and an obliging climate provide a fabulous array of locally-grown fresh fruit and veggies, and the region punches well above its weight in terms of the quantity and quality of local farmers markets. The biggest one is held on Fridays in the township of Mullumbimby. Enjoy live entertainment, cooking demonstrations and face painting, and browse stalls selling everything from organic coffee and eggs, to pasture-fed meats and freshly grown produce. It’s the perfect place to shop if you have self-catering accommodation.
7. Believe the hype about The Farm
If you do nothing else in Byron, make sure you don’t miss this. The Farm is an amazing concept, comprising a working farm, bakery, florist, restaurant and produce store. Roosters roam freely and you can amble around the paddocks to meet other farm animals (including some adorable piglets). Three Blue Ducks restaurant is perfect for breakfast, brunch and lunch, and there’s an extensive selection of local beers on tap. Shop for cheeses and charcuterie, or go on a guided tour to learn about The Farm’s ethical and sustainable agricultural practices.
8. Eat out…a lot!
There are plenty of other great food venues in and around Byron Bay. Hatted Paper Daisy at the boutique Halcyon House hotel in Cabarita Beach offers inventive and beautifully presented dishes. The pipis and semolina pasta seasoned with lemon myrtle and native pepper is a highlight.
Fleet is a foodie destination in itself (book ahead!). This intimate 14-seat restaurant and bar offers an innovative menu based around the best local produce.
Also compact is 100 Mile Table. Its bland industrial estate location belies the eclectic and wholesomely satisfying fare it serves. Think delectable smashed avo, congee and very decent coffee for brekkie; smoked lamb rolls and zesty fish curry for lunch.
9. Shop up a storm
Byron offers plenty of opportunities for a session of retail therapy. Rummage the racks at Miss Brown Vintage for unique fashion finds, or try Island Luxe for chic fashion and interior design. A Curious Collective offers a cleverly curated range of recycled and vintage items — from fashion to jewelry, tea sets and even circus memorabilia.
The home-grown Byron Bay Cookie Company is an unbeatable option for delectable gifts for friends and family. The range is baked and packed locally.
10. Hit the road and explore
Wide highways mean quick access to neighbouring towns, and each has its own unique personality and charm. Located just a 20-minute drive north of Byron, ‘simple pleasures’, fittingly, is Brunswick Heads’ marketing catchphrase, and languid days here are spent pottering by the beach.
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.
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.