A Guide To Byron Bay

Byron Bay is renowned in Australia for being a hippie/liberal community that loves alternative culture and celebrates uniqueness and individuality. This town is a mix of young backpackers seeking a relaxed open environment and an older generation that espouse the 70’s hippie culture. This eclectic mix of old & young, alternative & normal and artistic & commercial creates a one of a kind community that has made this town a magnet for both local and international tourists.

This is a great place to visit, relax and recharge your batteries. You can laze on one of Byron’s incredible beaches, scuba dive or snorkel at Julian Rocks (one of the premiere dive sites in Australia), hike up to the iconic Byron Bay lighthouse, catch a live band at one of the pubs in town or explore your spiritual side. If you’re looking to escape the world, then Bryon’s the place for you.

But be careful, one weekend could easily turn into a week and then month. Before you know it, you’ll be walking around with no shoes and dreadlocks. Which might not be a bad thing.

 

How To Get There

By Plane: You can reach Byron Bay through a couple of regional airports. The biggest being The Gold Coast Airport which is 45 minute drive of Byron or through Ballina Airport 30 minute drive South of Byron or Lismore 50 minutes West of Byron.

By Road: Byron is a 9 hour drive North of Sydney and 2 hour drive South of Brisbane. It’s on the popular east coast tour of Queensland most backpackers follow. You can choose to drive this route with a car or camper. There’s also a hop-on / hop-off greyhound option that operates between major cities like Sydney and Brisbane to Cairns with stops at many popular destinations like Noosa, Byron Bay and others. Those tickets are valid for three months from purchase.

To view the map of the greyhound route click here. For more details on purchasing a greyhound ticket click here.

 

Best Time To Visit

Byron Bay is blessed with sunny days and warm temperatures for most of the year.

Spring (September-November): During spring,  the weather is still warming up so you’ll still need a wetsuit and its the pre-summer break period so the crowds are smaller.

Summer (December-Feburary): This is the peak tourist season and Byron has its warmest days (average around 27 ºC). The ocean is nice and warm. Perfect for days on the beach.

Autumn in Byron Bay (March-May): The temperature and the ocean are still pleasantly warm (temperatures are usually in the mid 20’s). The crowds will start to thin as the schools start back up again.

Winter (June-August): The coldest month in Byron Bay is July where the average daily maximum is 19.4 ºC and the minimum 11.7 ºC. Surfers will need a wetsuit.

 

Where To Stay

There are number of hostels in Byron.

  • Aquarius: Aquarius has a reputation for being a bit of a party hostel. Its centrally located and close to everything. If you value quiet and relaxed environment then this isn’t the place for you.
  • Cape Byron YHA: This is a quieter hostel that’s only a 2 minute walk to the beach.

Byron also has a wide selection of hotels, motels, serviced apartments and airbnb listings to choose from (depending on your budget). This is a small town and even if you pick a place in the fringes of town, you should be able to get around on a bike or walking easily enough. The place I stayed at was a 25 minute walk to the center of town and I didn’t mind it




Top Attractions

The Lighthouse Walk: If there is one must-do item in Byron it’s the lighthouse walk. This is a gorgeous 3.7 km walk that takes you by cliffs, littoral rainforest, breathtaking views of beaches that finally lead to its climax.; seeing the iconic lighthouse perched on the cliff. When you arrive make sure you take your time enjoying the amazing cliff side views. If you’re lucky you may see whales breaching the surface (May to November) or dolphins and turtles swimming on the surf.

Things to know before you visit:

  • If you drive, there is parking fee of 7AUD for car and 4 AUD for motorbike.
  • Depending on the season, the sun can be strong and it can get uncomfortably hot. You should always pack sunscreen, water and a hat.
  • If you decide to hike the trail then plan for two hour walk. Also, parts of the path get steep, so it requires a basic level of fitness to complete.
Byron's Lighthouse is a must see attraction. The walk up to the lighthouse is extremely beautiful and scenic.
Byron’s Lighthouse is a must see attraction. The walk up to the lighthouse is extremely beautiful and scenic.

 

The Beaches: Another top draw in Byron are its beaches. Byron has nice selection of beaches that cater to everyone from families to regular beachgoers to surfers searching for waves to ride. Below is a summary of the beaches in Byron:

  • Clarks to Main Beach: This beach runs from “The Pass” down to the carpark at the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club. These are patrolled beaches. The main beach (as the name suggests) is where the majority of people go to swim. The waves on this beach can get high for a swimming beach, but it was fun taking a dip here and swimming against the waves. The beach area is nice and long with soft sands, so finding a spot to lay down and relax is never an issue.
  • Watego Beach: This is a popular beach with longboarders and families (although it’s not a patrolled beach).
  • The Pass: The most famous waves in the Bay. You’ll get all extremes in on wave. From the point, which is hollow and fast breaking all the way past the rocks. You need to be experienced to ride those waves. Past the rocks, the waves are more spilling and better suited for beginners.
  • The Wreck to Belongil: The wreck (on the west side of the main beach) is a ship “The Wollongbar” that washed up on the jetty during the 1920s. You can still see the rudder and the boilers sticking out of the sand. This is good spot for both beginner and experienced surfers.
  • Tallow Beach: This is a long beach on the south side of the lighthouse. The waves here are strong and it’s not meant for swimming and should only be surfed by experienced surfers. To get to this beach requires a hike through Arakwal National Park or you can drive here by car. I personally liked this beach. It’s a great place to go for some solitude, sit on the beach and to empty your mind.
Panoramic view of Tallow Beach.
Panoramic view of Tallow Beach.

 

Surfing: You can’t come to a surfing town and not surf, it’d be sacrilegious. There are plenty of surfing schools to choose from. It’s a lot of fun and at the same time very challenging. I’d recommend you take a package deal (of several classes) as most people don’t stand in their first class.   Need more motivation to learn surfing, read my article on my experience here.

Surfers on Watego Beach.
Surfers on Watego Beach.

 

Dolphin Kayaking: Another popular water activity is kayaking with dolphins. The area around Byron Bay is filled with dolphins and turtles. During May till November whales join in on the party. Doing open sea Kayaking is great adventure and getting to to see these incredible marine animals make it a unique experience. Be warned though, kayaking in the open sea (depending on the waves) can be very hard and requires good upper body strength.

Went Dolphin Kayaking. Took some time but near the end of our session a pod of dolphins showed up near us. Pretty Cool.
Dolphin Kayaking. Took some time, but at the end of our session some dolphins showed up near us. Pretty Cool.

 

Snorkeling / Scuba Diving: Julian rocks has over 1000 recorded species of tropical, temperate and pelagic fish. It offers an excellent diving experience and it’s only a 2.8 km  boat ride from shore. In fact Julian Rocks was named as one of Australia’s top snorkeling destinations by Australian Geographic. In the summer months manta rays and leopard sharks frequent the site while in winter you can spot the endangered grey nurse shark.

This turtle happily posed for my pictures. I think they've gotten used to divers.
This turtle happily posed for my pictures. I think they’ve gotten used to divers.

 

Open Markets: Byron has lots of open farmers markets that run on a weekly and month basis. Make sure to check out the local papers for days and times of the markets. While in Byron I visited a couple, they are usually small but fun affairs. You’ll find stands selling fresh produce, delicious food and of course street performers playing.

Byron has frequent day and night markets. Check local papers for location and timings.
Byron has frequent day and night markets. Check local papers for location and timings.

 

Live bands and street performers at night: When the sun goes down another side of Byron comes out. This town is known for its music scene and many famous bands pass through. But for me, walking down Byron’s street at night is made special by catching local performers. You’ll see them playing at street corners, outside popular restaurants or even on the beach.

One of my favorite memories in Byron was sitting on patch of grass across from the main beach, listening to group of (hippie) drummers playing as I ate some excellent fish and chips from Fishheads. I was in heaven.

Tip: Make sure to check the local rag called “Gig Guide” for a listing of what bands are playing where. Other papers to check for local events include: “The Echo”, “Scenestr” and “Byron Bazaar”.




Popular Day Trips

There isn’t a lot of day trip options from Byron.

Nimbin: This is the most popular daytrip option offered in Byron Bay. To be honest, after the feedback I got from people I met in town, I decided to skip it. They said that Nimbin used to be a nice small hippie town, but now it’s overrun with addicts selling drugs. Also comments on the bus tours were less than positive.

Crystal Castle & Shambhala Gardens: This is nice relaxing place to pass a couple of hours. Located 20 minutes from Byron (in the hinterlands) offers tranquil meditative walks through beautiful gardens laced with crystals. But this is not a cheap excursion, tickets per person is 22 AUD.

 

Related Videos

This is a video of my time spent in Byron Bay. It’s really an incredible place where people are free and open. No judgement about anything.

WARNING: This video contains footage from the annual naked bike ride. There is nudity in this video and its NSFW (Not Suitable For Work / Or Kids).