Byron Bay: the land of sun, sand and sea. It’s the place where wandering tourists bask in soul-reviving sunshine – until it starts raining.
Locals and seasoned visitors know that when it rains in Byron, it pours. For those planning to spend their holiday surfing, cycling, walking and sunning, Byron’s infamous subtropical rain can throw a spanner in the works. Yet there’s so much to explore in Byron these days that the whims of Mother Nature need not put a dampener on your holiday.
1. Kick back in a cosy eatery
Byron does alfresco dining with aplomb, but when the rain starts lashing, there are some excellent indoor dining spots. Bang Bang, in the centre of town, is almost like being transported to a super hip Melbourne restaurant –but mixed with a North Coast relaxed vibe.
The place is dimly lit and has an ‘old world’ feel about its chandeliers, candles and distressed plaster walls, while the South East Asian-inspired menu is bursting with fresh and vibrant flavours that belong right in Byron. Dig into a Thai-style curry or opt for the ‘bang-quet’ and have the kitchen bring out six or seven delectable courses for $55 a head. The Harvest Moon cocktail, with gin, elderflower, kaffir lime, lemongrass and fruit is the perfect palate-cleansing accompaniment.
Address: 4/1 Byron Street, Byron Bay
Nestled beside the iconic Beach Hotel on the main beach is The Italian, where you’ll find a bustling yet laid-back atmosphere. The menu is a mix of simple contemporary and classic Italian dishes cooked to perfection, ideal for enjoying in grim weather – think lasagne with slow-cooked lamb and goat’s cheese ravioli. Great for couples or, if going as a group, book the comfy booth seating.
Address: 2 Bay Street, Byron Bay
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2. Indulge at a day spa
No Byron trip is complete without a spell at the spa. For a truly fabulous day of pampering, you can’t go past Cabarita Beach’s hedonistic Halcyon House. The former surf-motel-turned-luxury-hotel, located half an hour’s drive from Byron proper, strikes a perfect balance between flamboyance and utter tastefulness. The heady combination of white tongue-and-groove walls, terracotta honeycomb floor tiles, splashes of cobalt blue, antiques and gold furnishings is enough to make you feel as if you’re at a friend’s gorgeous home in the Hamptons.
The waiting room features brightly upholstered couches, kitschy paintings and a terrace complete with sun lounges, while the treatment rooms and treatments themselves are absolutely sublime. Make sure you allow time to enjoy the steam room beforehand and a cocktail afterwards at on-site restaurant Paper Daisy.
Address: 21 Cypress Crescent, Cabarita Beach
3. Zen out with yoga
Any yoga practitioner will tell you that their favourite time to practise is when it’s pouring with rain outside: something about the combination of wild weather and drawing inwards is utterly delicious. Creature Yoga‘s original site is a large warehouse space in the happening Arts and Industry estate – just behind the Allpress Espresso Bar – and offers four or five classes a day, from ultra relaxing yin and restorative styles to power vinyasa.
Their second studio, located on the Suffolk Park side of town, is a smaller space nestled behind the excellent Roadhouse cafe, so be sure to pop in for a ‘magic mushroom’ latte post-practice. As a traveller, you can pick up an unlimited weekly pass for both studios for $50.
Address: Creature industrial studio – 6B/11 Banksia Drive, Byron Bay and Creature town studio – 2/142 Bangalow Road, Byron Bay
Closer to the town centre is Space Foundation: a relaxed, boutique studio that offers not just yin and vinyasa classes but also mat Pilates, Pilates Barre and beginner classes from a great team of teachers. Visitor passes are $49 for an unlimited week.
Address: 2B/144 Jonson Street, Byron Bay
4. Explore some favourite local shopping spots
The Book Room at Byron
Bookshops are generally cosy, hearty places, and The Book Room at Byron is heartier than most. Curated with obvious care and passion, its shelves are full of everything from new releases, coffee-table books and classics to spiritual reads and crime books, while there are also great notebooks, quirky cards, posters, postcards and a bright and cheery kids’ section out the back. Curl up in a leather armchair with a hot drink from coffee shop The Cart, stationed out front, and while away the hours until the rain clears.
Address: 27 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay
When the outdoor markets are rained out, head to an indoor one. MARR-KETT has a beautiful collection of direct-from-Morocco homewares (rugs, cushions, decorative pieces), plus jewellery, crystals, candles, fragrances and skincare. It’s the perfect place to grab a gift for yourself or someone else.
Address: Shop 5, 21-25 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay
Spell & the Gypsy Collective
It doesn’t get much more Byron than Spell & the Gypsy Collective, which moved a few years ago from a small shopfront to a beautiful, large stand-alone boutique space on the outskirts of town. Browse through racks of whimsical dresses, shirts, swishy skirts, lingerie and swimwear with plenty of dreamy retro flair.
Address: 15 Browning Street, Byron Bay
5. Find some indoor entertainment
Step back in time with a visit to the adorable Brunswick Picture House. It began operating in the 1950s, fell into disrepair for 30 years and then came back to life in 2016 with a mixture of live shows and film. The live offerings span comedy, circus, live music, and cabaret for all-ages family entertainment. Regular film events feature old favourites (think Dirty Dancing or Grease) and locals attend dressed in costume.
Address: 30 Fingal Street, Brunswick Heads
The best thing about Byron in the rain – apart from the fact that it encourages you to check out gems that you feel guilty exploring when the sun is shining – is that it always comes good. Just when you think you can’t take any more downpour, the rain clears to make way for sunshine and it’s back to outdoor cocktails, walks to the lighthouse and long days spent at the beach.