Many flock to Byron Bay for surf, sand and sun. But there’s so much more beyond Byron. So get behind the wheel and drive to Brunswick Heads for its tasty food, good coffee and shopping. We’re sold.
If you want a glimpse of what Byron was like before it became such a well-known mecca for surfers and tree-changers alike, make a beeline for Brunswick Heads.
A retro-style beach town that’s 17 kilometres north of Byron, visiting feels a bit like stepping back into the ’70s courtesy of Brunswick’s slower pace of life and a rotating group of kids that you’ll always find jumping into Simpson’s Creek from an old timber bridge in the middle of town.
Don’t be fooled, though – nestled among Brunswick’s Art Deco architecture, a fisherman’s co-op that’s a firm favourite with the locals, and camping grounds with tent-worthy riverside views, are some serious food offerings.
The most intriguing is Fleet, a tiny but perfectly formed place that’s part wine bar, part restaurant housed behind an unpretentious shopfront (seriously – blink and you could miss it).
The brainchild of owners Astrid McCormack and Josh Lewis, who previously worked together at Victoria’s Loam, a two-hatted restaurant that closed in 2013, Fleet is laden with beautiful bespoke features, including furniture and stoneware crafted by local artists.
There’s also a solid concrete slab that serves as a large communal table and, running without interruption from restaurant to kitchen, means it feels less like dining at a restaurant and more like eating at your favourite chef’s home (which is a very good thing!).
The menu is designed to foster a lots-of-little-dishes dining experience, and the 15 or so that you can pick and choose from to create a meal changes on a whim to reflect Fleet’s dedication to locally and daily sourced produce.
A word of advice – book before your holiday, preferably a loooong time before your holiday. This place is in hot demand.
If you’re hungry earlier in the day the locals love the Footbridge Cafe (02 6685 1991) and Yami. How to choose? Head to Footbridge if you fancy a tasty coffee, made from locally grown beans, and top-notch cafe fare crafted from free-range and organic produce wherever possible.
But if you’re vegetarian (in fact, even if you’re not!) then Yami is a great spot. The food is fresh, healthy and wholesome with a distinct Middle Eastern flavour – think pitas stuffed with tahini, tabouli, pickles, Israeli salad and falafel, little balls of chickpea goodness that every local you meet will tell you are the best in Byron and beyond (and they’re right!).
But before you let your belt out a notch, don’t worry: Bruns isn’t all about treating your tastebuds. As well as checking out the beach (some of which is dog-friendly if you’re travelling with four-legged friends), be sure to pop into Sunshine Trader (next door to Fleet). A home-décor-cum-gift shop, inside you’ll find unique products made by designers and artists with finely tuned ethical radars.