Surrounded by lush hinterland and pristine beaches, NSW’s Byron Bay is beautiful at any time of the year. Here are several ways to enjoy this alternative and cosmopolitan coastal town.
Byron is renowned as a world-class surfing destination but you don’t have to be Mick Fanning to surf the breaks here. Beginners should head to Belongil Beach (about a one-kilometre walk from Main Beach) or Wategos, a beautiful strip of sand just north of the town’s iconic lighthouse. More advanced surfers might consider The Wreck, a distinctive break formed by the shipwrecked SS Wollongbar, just off Main Beach.
Want to take a lesson? The BlackDog Surfing school offers a range of guided excursions with instructors who will take you to the best spots, based on the day’s conditions. If you’d rather be under the waves than riding them, go for a dive at Julian Rocks, north of Wategos Beach, and The Pass – both of which are in the Cape Byron Marine Park. The area is home to more than 1000 marine species, including turtles, exotic fish and even endangered grey nurse sharks.
BlackDog Surfing; Shop 4/5, 11 Byron Street, Byron Bay. Byron Bay Dive Centre; 9 Marvell Street, Byron Bay
See Byron from above
You’ll get a true perspective of the Byron Bay Hinterland’s raw beauty from a hot-air balloon several thousand feet up. Gliding silently above the lush volcanic landscape, look for the majestic Mount Warning to the north and some of the world’s most spectacular coastline to the east. After an hour of floating above this spectacle in the soft light of dawn, round off the experience with a gourmet Champagne breakfast.
Byron Bay Ballooning; 1 Old Brunswick Road, Tyagarah
Walk the lighthouse track
The Cape Byron walking track is a gorgeous 3.7-kilometre loop taking in rainforest, beachside cliffs and sweeping ocean views as it winds through the heart of the Cape Byron State Conservation Area towards the iconic lighthouse. The walk takes between one and three hours and can be started from numerous points, including Byron Bay’s town centre, Captain Cook Lookout, Wategos Beach or The Pass; just look out for the signs. The trail is best tackled during the cooler winter months, when whale sightings are common, but it can be undertaken at any time of the year. In summer, start early to avoid the blistering heat. For more information, go to nationalparks.nsw.gov.au.
Watch the whales migrate
Each year between May and November, up to 17,000 humpback whales migrate from their Antarctic feeding grounds to the warmer waters of Byron Bay to breed. It’s thought that whales use land as a form of navigation and, as Cape Byron is Australia’s most easterly point, there are few better places in Australia to see these magnificent creatures. Several tour operators offer views from out on the water but you can also frequently spot whales from land. The best vantage points include the Cape Byron track, Brunswick Heads, Ballina and Lennox Head.
Whale Watching Byron Bay; 9 Marvell Street, Byron Bay
Book in some retail therapy
For cutting-edge brands like Scotch & Soda, Oscar & Frank and Fallen Broken Street, head to Unplugged, where you’ll also find black-and-white photographic prints and chic hand luggage. Habitat, a veritable marketplace within the Arts and Industrial Estate just out of town is among the best for homewares, from rustic throws and scented candles to cane furniture and handcrafted pieces. If you’re keen to add a little of Byron’s hippie-luxe style to your wardrobe, check out festival-staple Spell. The pieces have a distinctly ’70s feel, all crochet, lace and floral prints.
Unpugged; Shop 1, 2 Lawson Street, Byron Bay. Ahoy Trader; Shop 1, 3 Marvell Street, Byron Bay. Spell; 15 Browning Street, Byron Bay
Do a little people-watching
Just a few metres back from Main Beach, with sweeping views from a wraparound balcony over Jonson and Lawson streets (Byron Bay’s central hub), Balcony Bar & Oyster Co. is an idyllic location to watch the passing people parade while sipping cocktails. It’s also famed for its beautiful, plump rock oysters, which pair perfectly with a classic martini or a margarita made from El Jimador tequila, agave nectar, Patrón Citrónge liqueur and lime.
Corner of Lawson and Jonson streets
Unwind at the spa
Drawing design inspiration from the impossibly beautiful surrounds of nearby Belongil Beach, Osprey Spa is situated within the Elements of Byron resort. There are more than a dozen rituals and spa treatments to choose from, as well as massage, yoga and meditation. If you have only half an hour to spare, try the Foot Treat, which uses organic teas to cleanse and exfoliate. If you have an afternoon to yourself, opt for the two-hour-long Oceanic De-Stress Ritual, incorporating a full-body massage and facial.
144 Bayshore Drive, Byron Bay