BYRON BAY – THE AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER GUIDE
No other town in Australia conjures more sense of idyllic holiday than Byron Bay. The North Coast NSW town was a sleepy fishing village on the decline that soon shot to stardom as the place for ‘fashionable alternatives’ to hang out and that quicklylead to holidaymecca for low key wealthy types. Now Byron defies logic as it equally attracts hippies, backpackers, wealthy middle age Europeans and the IT crowds of Melbourne and Sydney in particular.
At 780kms from Sydney it is a rite of passage for most 20 something uni students to do the north coast 10 hour road trip from Sydney to Byron for a summer holiday. Byron is in fact very close to the southern tip of the Gold Coast, just 66kms from Coolangatta.
To orientate yourself think of Byron Bay in four areas. First is the town centre where it all pretty much happens; the three big pubs, the main beach, supermarkets, shopping and restaurants. The second area is Wategos, a very sedate small cove below the lighthouse. The third district is Tallows Beach on the southern side of the headland is more the up market family rental area. The final precinct is on the northern side Belongil Beach, an extension of Main Beach and is more affordable family apartments, schoolies accommodation and backpackers.
Where to Stay
There is every conceivable kind of accommodation in Byron, the only question is which style and where about. The Arts Factory is legendary amongst backpackers, but it is not the cleanest of experiences. In more recent times there have been a number of resorts and boutique hotels built. The Byron at Byron owned by retailing legend Gerry Harvey was a significant green development resort just outside town centre.
Rae’s at Watego’s is an institution amongst the well heeled Sydney set and dinner at the restaurant on the patio overlooking the pretty Watego’s Beach is a fine way to enjoy summer al fresco dining. Just opposite Rae’s is Vicotria’s another option at Wategos. There are loads of apartments to choose from on the northern side of town. The house rentals around Tallows are great too.
But out of town can be just the trick and with a large group you can often rent an amazing executive home (code for posh and amazing). Try Unique Estates in Byron Bay for some of these amazing rentals that are inexpensive when there is a larger group.
What to Do
The Byron Bay effect is you wonder what all the fuss is about for the first two days and then by the third one you want to move. The experience is truly idyllic with cafes, beach, pubs galore. There is so much to do but most never do anything as they are seduced by the relaxing chilled out town. It’s a beach holiday to sit back and relax. That’s why the three major pubs in town require explanation.
Top Pub is the Beach Hotel and famous for being once owned by Paul Hogan’s sidekick ‘Strop’, John Cornell. This is where the tourists down beers and watch the main beach and is great for sun set drinks. The middle pub, the Great Northern is rougher and where most bands on tour will stop off for a few nights. Late at night it is full and because of its live music. The bottom pub, the Rails is an old Pullman car and is often referred to as the local pub. It’s not flash but mush less pretentious than the Beach Hotel. But it will be where the ferals and hippies drink.
The bar at Dish is well worth a more up market wine bar drink but the food and drinks are not for those on a budget.
Other than eating and drinking a trip into the hinterland is well worth it and most 20 something’s will want to trek into Nimbin to score pot and gaze in admiration at the Big Joint. Learning to surf, scuba diving at Julian Rocks, walking up to the lighthouse are the activities of most visitors outside relaxing on the beach.
When to Travel
Almost any time of year is well worth a trip to Bryon. Byron is becoming increasingly attractive to schoolies in November but they are far less obnoxious and destructive to relaxing holidays than they are on the Gold Coast.
There are in fact two airports close by. Coolangatta Airport which services the Gold Coast as well has all the major airlines and competition leads to fairly priced fares. There are transfers available from Gold Coast, the cheapest way is get on one of the transfer buses from about $40 per person per way. The alternative is Ballina Airport just 33kms from Byron Bay. Rex, Virgin Blue and Jetstar all fly to Ballina and transfers on the bus are far cheaper at about $15 per person per way.
Score: 8.57 It doesn’t matter if you’re splurging on outrageous Wategos opulence or camping at Clarkes; Byron is blissful every which way. Though ‘the beach break’ scored most highly of all Byron nominations (how could it not?), our panellists also rated eternally popular Bluesfest, hiding out at luxe retreat The Byron at Byron, and the town’s beloved music festival Splendour in the Grass as great holiday experiences. “Constantly evolving,” says Catriona Rowntree, “Byron thrills all.” Indeed. Licence to chill Three bargain Byron beach shacks 1. The Happy Shack: Hammocks, a mango tree, basic but airy wooden interiors. From $250 a...
Relaxation, rejuvenation, pampering and play... now that’s a holiday. Georgia Rickard joins a luxury, womens-only surf and yoga retreat in beautiful Byron Bay Bonds. Bottle-os. Budgie smugglers. There are many aspects of being ‘strayan that this journalist wholeheartedly supports (yes, budgie smugglers – there, I said it), but surfing isn’t one of them. Neither is the bronzed and buff archetype – I’m all arms and legs, a body type best suited to reading, according to my mother – but I’m here all the same; standing at the shoreside in Byron Bay and squinting through the humid rain, while a chipper,...
Learning to surf is just part of it – Byron Bay has a bucket list a mile long. Journalist, author, food activist and adopted Byron local Sarah Wilson shares her local favourites Best secret beach? It would probably be Cosy Corner [at the lighthouse end of Tallows Beach]. The locals go there when it’s a windy day because it’s the most protected spot you can find. Or for a swim, go to the Tea Tree Lakes – locals will give you directions if you ask around. Best dinner spot? I really like the Rails Pub for some complete local action. Bands play there every single...
Byron Bay is the place for out-there and indulgent experiences, but how to tell the chic from the backpacker? Cut through the hype and get straight into authentic Byron this Christmas holidays. Spa, yoga & learn to surf Combine surfing, yoga, a cooking workshop and massages in one place at Escape Haven Retreats (1). The seven-day retreats are designed for eight women at a time (from 25 to 55). As far as spas go, The Byron at Byron (2) is a decadent option and Mullum Sari (3), a boutique day spa at nearby Mullumbimby, is also somewhere to consider on your wellness quest – complete with...
There are few things more silently soul-stirring than watching the dawn of a brand new summer’s day, and what better place to do it than at Australia’s most easterly point? Get into the Byron spirit and embrace all the wonders of mother nature by setting the alarm clock nice and early, rousing the kids, and trundling up the walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Cameras at the ready, watch the big golden ball slowly rise from the faraway ocean horizon, before heading down to Byron Beach Café for a scrumptious early breakfast with a side of gorgeous beach views (it...
One of the most beautiful spots on the Australian coast now has a cookbook focussed on journeys through its 'foodscape'. ‘Byron Bay: A food journey through the region’ comprises of recipes and offers three 'food routes' for the reader to follow: "commencing in Byron then venturing south, over the hills to the west, and finishing in the north”. The book was produced by publisher Remy Tancred and photographer Nelly le Comte with a number of guest recipes from local celebs such as Olivia Newton John, Shelley Craft and Katrina Kanetani. The 208-page cookbook costs $44.95 ($34.95 for softcover) and is...
Australia’s best secret beach Whites Beach, Byron Bay, NSW It came as no surprise that this little treasure took out the top spot – as anyone who has been here can tell you, Whites deserves it. You’ll find this beach at one of Australia’s most popular destinations, Byron Bay, but even though it’s just down the road from million-dollar Main Beach, it feels a world away from anywhere. To get here, you need to drive down a dirt road through rainforest, stop at an unmarked spot, and wander down a quiet, tree-filled path onto the white shoreline – a bit...
White-washed walls, polished concrete floors, light-filled open-plan interior and a delicious daybed for post-swim snoozes on the verandah... this is what a beach retreat is all about. Two queen beds, a king-sized bedroom with ensuite, and an outdoor shower to rinse the sand off, set amongst a frangipani-filled tropical garden. And did we mention Broken Head Beach is just a two-minute stroll away? The house is also close to many of Byron Bay’s attractions, including hikes through the rainforest, local markets and the odd appearance by a passing pod of whales. From $350 per night (low season, three-night minimum); $500...
It’s the quintessential family beach shack: an original, open-plan timber house in the heart of Byron Bay, with high ceilings, timber floors and French doors that lead onto a large verandah. But it’s the outdoors we love most about this property – with mountain views, hammocks for lazy summer siestas and a backyard mango tree for the picking. Fire up the barbeque, or light the wood-fired pizza oven for a slice of the best this side of Naples. The shops and main beach are a 10-minute walk away, where you’ll also find the best coffee and fish burgers in town at...
Where is it? 815km north of Sydney in the Tweed Valley How to see it for yourself? Drive south-west of Murwillumbah, pass through Uki and turn south onto Doon Doon Rd. Why I love it “Due to its proximity to Cape Byron, the easternmost point in NSW, the mountain catches the first rays of sunlight in the morning." - Kim MacDonald, The Legendary Pacific Coast Pacific Coast...
Australian Traveller Magazine's 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes Multi award-winning architect Sharon Fraser calls it a 'sunken lounge', but we know a good old-fashioned conversation pit when we see one. But even that 'purely for fun' element of Fraser's astonishing never-before-rented uber property in the Byron Bay Hinterland isn't the home's standout feature. It's competing for cool-and-quirky status with an outdoor fire pit, a synthetic Stick fence that ripples in the breeze like wind through grass, absurdly large swimming pool and of course that giant signature rouge rabbit sculpture - an original in steel by Melbourne's Peter McLisky. Fraser's otherworldly,...
NSW's Affordable Accommodation - Backpackers Where is it? Byron Bay, NSW North Coast. Situated on five acres of subtropical terrain in the idyllic coastal town of Byron Bay, the Arts Factory Lodge is a 10-minute walk from Main Beach. It is also close to Byron Bay CBD, less than two kilometres away. What’s it like? Reminiscent of the 1970s hippie movement, the Arts Factory features hammocks, psychedelic painted walls and alternative workshops like African drumming, yoga and didgeridoo making. There are traditional facilities, too, including a heated swimming pool, communal games room, on-site café and juice bar. Just be aware...
Crank up Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, sing it loud and proud, you’re on the great road trip north. There’s an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and freedom to be had spending nine hours in a car with your best mates. And Sydney to Byron Bay gives you 772km worth of opportunities to dump some of your excess baggage. I’ve been to Byron many times, but the trip I remember most fondly was on the way up to the East Coast Blues and Roots festival. We took to the road in a big old RV. I invested in Wavefinder...
If you feel like you’ve done everything there is to do in Byron Bay, Graham Simmons says think again. His ten best insider secrets will allow you to see the iconic destination in a new light, and pass yourself off as a local at the same time. Take the Cumbebin Wetlands Boardwalk Just a ten minute walk from the Byron CBD, the Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary is a pocket of rejuvenated paperbark wetlands hidden behind the Butler St market grounds. Volunteer labour has transformed this reserve from a lantana-ridden wasteland into a sheltered haven for birdlife and frogs. Bangalow palms and...
Australian Traveller Magazine's 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes Some holiday homes you just want to run away to and hide in until forever comes and goes. We’d put The Rock Retreat firmly in that category. Overlooking the Tweed Valley in far northern NSW and perched on such a high plateau that you’ll occasionally look down at eagles flying past its massive wraparound balconies, this eyrie-cum-holiday home leaves the stresses of the city far below. The beaches of Byron are about 45mins away. On a clear day you can see to Queensland. With panoramic views to Mt Warning, you’ll be one...
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