It’s shrugged off its hippie vibe but Byron Bay still knows how to do laidback like nowhere else. By the end of the weekend, you will, too.
What makes Byron Bay such a drawcard? Is it the beaches (stunning), the food scene (creative) or the natural attractions (breathtaking)? Mark off all three and then add top-notch accommodation, good coffee, a bustling shopping strip and friendly locals. And don’t forget the sun. A weekend getaway in the northern NSW town is very manageable – take a quick flight into Ballina Byron Airport, pick up a hire car and hit the road. You’ll be enjoying the charms of Byron within 40 minutes – or you could live like a local by taking your time and stopping off at the small coastal towns along the way. Rush? Up this way there’s no such thing…
Where to stay
Elements of Byron
This resort sits on the shores of pristine Belongil Beach, which means that you’re in the heart of Byron (just a 30-minute walk along the beach and you’ll hit town) but away from the hustle. This is rainforest-meets-the-sea territory – the owners of Elements planted some 65,000 native trees and plants on the site and there are more than 100 single-storey villas dotted within 22 hectares. Choose to be a sloth (nab a bure by the 850,000-litre infinity lagoon pool, kick back by the communal fire pit or book a treatment at Osprey Spa) or get amongst it. There’s horse riding, surfing, kayaking, beach volleyball and, if you’re feeling extra energetic, complimentary sunrise yoga.
Where to eat
Breakfast at Graze
Wander up to Elements’ in-house restaurant, Graze, for a solid buffet breakfast. Or go à la carte and tuck into everything from truffled baked eggs to blueberry, orange and dark chocolate pancakes.
Lunch at Balcony Bar & Oyster Co.
This iconic building on the corner of Lawson and Johnson streets was a tea house in the whaling days and has variously been a string of restaurants over the years. But since Sydney hotelier Fraser Short took over Balcony Bar & Oyster Co. last year, the Balinese artefacts of the ’90s have been replaced with white weatherboards, giving it a plantation feel. Grab a seat on the, ahem, balcony and tuck into executive chef Sean Connolly’s casual share plates (crab and lettuce tacos, salt and pepper school prawns) or more substantial offerings. But it would be a crime not to order the oysters.
What to do
Take in the views at Pat Morton Lookout
No, you won’t have the place to yourself. At any time of day, this sweet spot on Lennox Head, halfway between Ballina airport and Byron, is filled with locals and tourists alike, all enjoying sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the antics of the surfers below. But when the whales are migrating (June to November), there is no better place to watch their graceful arc.
Swim in a tea-tree lake
Drive to the end of Pacific Parade in Lennox Head and you’ll find Lake Ainsworth, a tea-tree-stained lake that, thanks to the tea tree oil that has dripped into the water from the surrounding trees, is said to have healing powers. Don’t let the copper-coloured ripples put you off – there is something quite magical about swimming here. A perfect precursor to lunch or dinner at Foam.
Visit The Farm
Every guide to Byron Bay mentions The Farm. Why? Because it’s that good. This working farm is a collection of “micro businesses” – The Three Blue Ducks restaurant and café, a produce store, bakery and florist. Wander around (and take the obligatory Instagram shots) before garnering a table on the patio and hoeing into brunch. It can get very busy so consider going early (or take a picnic blanket and pick up some takeaway from the café or pre-order a hamper). It’s a great spot for kids, too – there’s a playground as well as pigs, chickens and tractors to see, and workshops during the holidays.
This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.