Byron Bay has a special sort of charm that I’m please to say hasn’t changed much since my earliest memories of the coastal town. Having visited when I was 11 and 17 my experiences were filled with beach swims, rummaging through crystal shops and wishing I was old enough to enjoy a beer at the Beach Hotel. Recently I returned as a 30-year-old, walked along the same sandy shores, discovered new boutiques (with the same bohemian charm) and this time, enjoyed my fair share of cocktails at Balcony Bar. Although Byron has since become known for its summer crowds, the town’s popularity has also seen a boost in stunning places to stay and play. From luxury guest houses to designer boutiques and wholesome cafes, here’s a guide to Byron Bay’s chic travel scene…
ABOUT BYRON BAY AND GETTING AROUND
- Byron Bay is situated on the far north coast of New South Wales.
- Cape Byron marks the easternmost point of Australia and is surrounded by several surf beaches.
- Byron is a 30 minute drive from Ballina Airport. You can jump on a shuttle bus from there or Gold Coast Airport (50 minute drive).
- Once in Byron, most attractions are walking distance from accommodation. A pushbike is great for getting to the lighthouse which is 3km out of town. The same goes for shopping in the industrial area which is 4km from Jonson Street.
- For trips to the surrounding towns like Bangalow, Newrybar and Nimbin you will need a car or to rely on public buses. My pick is The Farm Bus which includes three of my favourite local stops.
Cape Byron Lighthouse.
Byron Bay is home to some of the most stylish beach houses and private rentals. Thanks to the town’s height restrictions on new developments, you won’t find a high rise hotel here! Instead, you can immerse yourself in local life with an authentic stay. Think private plunge pools, shaded hammocks and beach essentials on hand in the cupboard. Here are my favourite spaces:
28 Degrees: This is where I stayed most recently and absolutely loved. The French linen sheets are almost enough to stop you from even leaving the room. We booked a garden room which has its own plunge pool and is styled to perfection. Rooms are stocked with local tea, coffee, granola, yoghurt and berry compote to start the day.
The Atlantic: This property offers varying room categories to suit a range of budgets, all in keeping with coastal style. The Atlantic boasts a large communal garden area with fire pit, surrounded by lush palms. My pick is the albatros room with outdoor shower and Moroccan tiled courtyard.
Byron Beach Abodes: A collection of properties scattered throughout Byron, offering proximity to the town or beach. Each space is fitted with luxe furnishings, considering every detail. Some are well suited to group stays and offer multiple living spaces on the same property. I would head here if traveling with friends for the perfect balance of privacy and inclusion.
The Bower: This property is the latest addition to Byron Beach Abodes (above). I recommend checking out the individual website for this property as it gives you a good idea of different room options within the same original house. This thing I like about The Bower is its darker take on beach living, mixing inky black textiles with raw timber.
Our Garden Room at 28 Degrees.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
CAPE BYRON WALKING TRACK
By far the best way to see the coastline, Cape Byron Walking Track winds from Byron to Wategos, eventually leading to the lighthouse. Along the way you can take in views from The Pass, enjoy an al fresco lunch at Rae’s, and stand at the easternmost point of Australia. I’d set aside a whole day for this because with lunch and a lighthouse tour thrown in you’ll want to move at a leisurely pace. You don’t necessarily need runners for this track but your footwear should be sturdy and comfortable. Keep thongs handy if you plan on having a swim.
SUNSET AT THE PASS
The Pass lookout, at the eastern end of Byron Beach, warrants a revisit at sunset. It’s vantage point out in the water means you can shoot at least 180 degrees of the surrounding water. At sunset, the surfers are backlit in golden rays, a view usually only afforded to those out on the waves also. Make sure you hang around after sunset for colourful reflections off the water at beach level.
Byron is full of unique shopping experiences, from crystals and incense, to ceramics and local artwork. One thing that is apparent in my favourite boutiques is the connection between the product and Byron’s relaxed lifestyle. Expect to find lots of homewares made for living by the sea and dresses cut to relaxed silhouettes. It pays to visit local photographer Craig Parry’s gallery too. He captures Byron’s natural beauty so well and gives a glimpse into the marine world below. In terms of fashion and decor, I have so many shops to visit that I’m planning a separate post altogether. In the meantime, Hope & May is one boutique I recommend for sourcing beachwear and Mediterranean-influenced decor.
The Farm is a little out of town but well worth jumping on a bus or a bike to. This working farm gives a first hand experience of the Australian countryside and the fresh produce it provides. Veggies, meat and eggs from the farm are served in the on-site restaurant, Three Blue Ducks. A visit to The Farm is an immersive experience, with lush fields, animals and veggies patches all accessible to walk around. Working alongside the Produce Store, The Bread Social and Flowers at the Farm, there is always something to indulge in straight from the land.
BANGALOW AND NEWRYBAR
If you’re seeking a day trip from Byron then jump on The Farm Bus and head for Bangalow and Newrybar. The former serves as a great example of traditional country streetscapes, with restaurants and antique stores occupying the old bank facades. I’ve been eying off the Oriental rug shop in Bangalow for a while now and would love to visit the Farmers Market on a Saturday morning too. Moving onto Newrybar, a smaller hamlet, there are still plenty of opportunities to shop. Newrybar Merchants is a collective of local designers under the one 1890’s roof. Merchants include; TIGMI Trading (yep, more rugs for me), homewares by Mr. Jason Grant and leather goods from Wolf & Maiden. After all of this shopping a pit stop at Harvest Newrybar is a must. Its restaurant, shop and deli showcases the region’s best produce and makes for a wonderful foodie experience.
Hope & May boutique on Fletcher Street.
Exploring Cape Byron Lighthouse.
*TIP: There is a free lighthouse tour that runs every 20 minutes from 10am-3pm. It takes you up to the top for stunning 360 degree views. Wait inside the lighthouse office to grab a ticket for the next departure. You can donate to the upkeep and running of these services on the way out.
Inside Spell Boutique on Browning Street.
Sunset at The Pass.
EAT AND DRINK
Byron Fresh: This bakery-meets-bar is good for a feed any time of the day. The French provincial interior offers up a pastry shelf for your quick morning snack.
Bayleaf Cafe: Bayleaf was my go-to coffee spot each morning. Their brunch options are hearty and offer more savoury dishes like the veggies below.
Combi: A great find for superfood lovers with fruit and veggies dominating the menu. The interior is playful and just as colourful as their raw cakes and smoothies.
Folk: This darling cottage cafe sits outside of the heart of Byron, making it a great stop on your day trip. The menu focuses on organic, plant-based ingredients served with colour, in carved wooden bowls.
Safya Cafe: Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Safya is an Egyptian injection into modern Australian cuisine. Think dukka-crusted poached eggs and salads drizzled with rosewater and pistachio.
The Balcony Bar: Thanks to the August Oyster Festival we spent several afternoons here knocking back freshly shucked oysters. No visit is complete though without enjoying a cocktail out on the balcony at sunset.
St Elmo: Save this one for a dinner date girls. The St Elmo setting is chic and intimate, serving up Spanish Tapas with a selection of 100 wines from around the world.
The Mez Club: A little slice of the Mediterranean in Byron Bay. The Mez Club’s all-white interior is reminiscent of the Greek Islands, as is its menu which draws on flavours from Morocco through to Turkey.
Italian at the Pacific: Everyone loves a hearty Italian meal and this restaurant has the best reputation for it in Byron. The menu is traditional with endless options to be enjoyed opposite the beach.
Interiors at The Mez Club.
Oysters at The Balcony Bar.
The divine flatbread from Bayleaf Cafe.
WHEN TO VISIT BYRON BAY
One factor that can really change your holiday experience is the time of year that you choose to travel. Cost, crowds and weather are all varying factors that change with the seasons. We visited at the end of winter (August) and had sunny days with temps in the mid-twenties. There weren’t really any crowds to speak of but of course we took a risk that the weather could have been quite wintery. Personally, I would steer clear in summer, instead taking a spring or autumn break outside of the school holidays.
Byron is really the perfect destination for Aussies wanting to further explore their own backyard. Whether you’ve visited previously or not, it still offers up a relaxed sensibility that forces you to truly unwind. And if you’re traveling from abroad, this coastal town is absolutely worthy of a stop on your east coast road trip.
I’ll be publishing my shopping and packing guide to Byron Bay soon so feel free to sign up to be notified when it goes live :) As always, please fire away with any questions you may have below.