Byron Bay is well known in Australia as the laid-back coastal town in the far northeastern corner of New South Wales. For non-Aussies, think: swimming, surfing, great food and shopping – and even a bit of seasonal whale watching from now until November. Jacqui Gibson spends the day amidst the boho-chic vibe and finds five great reasons to visit.
1. Surfing at Byron Bay
The days are getting longer and warmer Down Under, making it a great October destination for anyone keen on the outdoors. In Byron Bay, you’ll find plenty of reasons to have a dip, particularly if you’re keen to surf. Longboarders should try the protected break of Wategos Beach, best known for its slow, rolling wave and stunning sunrise views over the headland. Tallow Beach is the choice of more experienced surfers who like a consistent break and don’t mind the crowds. If you’re new to surfing, that’s fine too. At Byron Bay, you’ll find everything from half-day lessons to 10-day surf camps.
2. Cape Byron Lighthouse
For the best views of Byron Bay, put on your hiking shoes and walk up to the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is a stunning white structure built at the turn of the century that presides over the rocky headland and sheer cliffs on its eastern side. It’s really worth a look. Aside from enjoying the lighthouse, you just might catch a glimpse of a humpback whale (they’re said to be migrating south right now) – so don’t forget to pack your binoculars or use the public binoculars outside the lighthouse to spot yourself a member of the baleen whale family.
During the week there are several walking tours of the lighthouse and surrounding parkland, which range from a 20-minute, gold coin donation tour to a more comprehensive two-hour guided tour for $35 per person. If you’re up early and in Byron Bay on Sunday 8 October this year, you might want to join the free, public dawn yoga class hosted by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service to commemorate its 50th anniversary.
3. Cape Byron loop track
The Cape Byron lighthouse is part of a wider conservation area that includes a popular 3.7 kilometre loop hiking trail. Give yourself a good two or three hours to complete the track, which takes you through rainforest, across cliff tops and along grassland and beaches. The sun is ever present in Australia, so don’t forget plenty of drinking water, a sunhat and lots of sunscreen. Start the track on Lighthouse Road.
Need a break from the beach? Jump in the car and head inland 10 kilometres to the picturesque country town of Bangalow. There’s a weekend farmer’s market (one of the region’s most popular) and a main street packed with top-notch cafes and restaurants. Go to Our Corner Kitchen for excellent coffee and pastries (as I did) or try Red Ginger next door for homemade dumplings and fine tea from China, Japan, Taiwan, India and Australia.
5. Bangalow’s boutique stores
A great bookstore is always a treat – especially when it sells everything from handmade stationery to hard-to-find indie magazines like Australian journal Womankind. That’s exactly what you’ll find when you drop into Poet, Bangalow’s boutique bookstore. For modern homewares, there’s Bisque Traders. For Asian-inspired homewares and groceries, there’s Red Ginger. And for all kinds of goodies for men and women, check out Our Corner Store.
IF YOU GO
- From Brisbane, you can choose to bus, train or drive to Byron Bay, which is about six kilometres off the Pacific Highway, 180km south of Brisbane.
- Alternatively, visitors can fly to Ballina (a domestic hub served by Virgin Blue, Regional Express and Jetstar) and take a 35-minute shuttle bus to Byron Bay.