February 17, 2023
5 mins Read
If you’re visiting Yamba for a lazy beach holiday, it’s worth spending one of those endless sunny days taking a road trip from Yamba to Byron Bay. Traversing the North Coast of NSW will see you dropping into some of the most quintessentially Aussie towns with turquoise blue waters, chowing down on classic hamburgers for your post-swim lunch and winding through rainforests high up in the hinterland. Here’s our guide to the best places to stop on the drive from Yamba to Byron Bay.
Extremely off-route? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. The ferry from Yamba to Iluka might only take 30 minutes (and runs regularly every day of the week), but the drive isn’t too bad – thirty minutes and you’ll be in a town where time feels like it stopped in 1975.
There’s one row of boutiques and cafes, but if you’re there after 11.30am you absolutely have to visit Sedgers Reef Bistro. A ramshackle old coastal pub, the food is top-notch, the outdoor seating is breezy and pet friendly, and the interiors are so Australiana it hurts. Don’t miss it.
Next detour is Evans Head. Busier than Iluka but not as popular as other Far North NSW towns like Lennox Head and Yamba, Evans Head has a great surf break (hire a board at Evans Head Surf Shack during summer) and a laid-back feel.
Muzza’s Milk Bar is where to head for stocking up on road trip snacks (the milkshakes are also a must-try), or if you skipped past Iluka and need lunch, Sandpit Cafe is right on the beach and does a good feed.
Made famous when Chris Hemsworth bought property just outside of town, Lennox Head is a huge hit with surfers that cruise the coast looking for the perfect breaks. Because of its surfing popularity, the town has plenty to offer tourists – there are stylish cafes like Shelter and Williams St Kitchen & Bar, nestled alongside classics like takeaway fish and chips from Fishy Fishy.
Head up to Pat Morton Lookout to really get an idea of the beautiful region, and pick up a handmade gelato from Lennox Gelato and Coffee Co for the road.
From Lennox Head you’ll want to wind up into the Byron Bay Hinterland as opposed to following the coast – while Suffolk Park is also a great next stop, we have a soft spot for the dense rainforest and hippie energy the hinterland holds.
Newrybar is famous for Harvest, a farm-to-table restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner that utilises the wide range of artisans and local producers in the region. Expect line-caught fish, Nimbin Valley brown rice and vegetables from their own on-site garden adorning the menus, plus a seasonal drinks menu of delicious cocktails and Australian wines.
If you have time, take some time for yourself at the nearby Gaia Retreat & Spa. Founded by the late Olivia Newton-John, its peaceful, tranquil surroundings and extensive self-care offering will shed a year’s worth of stress.
People that want the Byron Bay experience without the beaches head to Bangalow, a beautiful, historic country town filled with cafes, restaurants and shops that have that luxe-hippie Byron feel.
Island Luxe and Rowie are for anyone who loves fashion, while Our Corner Store will see you picking up everything from local produce to handmade mugs and plates.
If you can, pop into Ciao, Mate! for dinner – owned by renowned Melbourne chef Nick Stanton, it resides in a restored historic building in Bangalow’s main strip and offers up delicious classic Italian fare like seasonal pastas and woodfired pizzas – don’t forget dessert here, the cannoli with pistachio and spiced ricotta is what dreams are made of.
A short drive later and you’ll be at the famous Byron Bay signpost!
If you’re arriving in the evening, head down to the Railway Friendly Bar for a nightcap – there’s often a band playing in the outdoor bar. If there’s still time for a swim, Watego’s Beach is less busy on a late afternoon – park further up the hill and walk down, as there are usually easier parallel parks along the side of the road than down in the car park.
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Sedges Reef pub in Iluka has been demolished awaiting a new building.
Try New Italy, 10km south of the Woodburn turnoff. Also Woodburn, it needs the cashflow after the floods last February.