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Byron Bay

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Byron Bay is a coastal town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, located just off the Pacific Highway, approximately 800 km north of Sydney and 175 km south of Brisbane. Cape Byron is the easternmost point on the Australian mainland.

Understand

Byron Bay is famed worldwide for its surfing beaches, scuba diving, whale watching, rural beauty and laid-back lifestyle. It is a major tourist centre, the area having experienced a dramatic increase to 1.7 million+ visitors per year. The town and surrounding area have a population of about 30,000.

The community of Suffolk Park lies a five minute drive south, along Tallow Beach. It's a quieter alternative to the heart of Byron, but for most services you will need to make the trip into Byron. The towns of Bangalow and Nimbin lie inland, less than an hour's drive away. Lennox Head and Ballina are to the south.

There are many thriving home-based businesses focused on alternative, holistic, cultural and knowledge industries, with a growing population of artists, writers and filmmakers. Byron Bay is renowned for capturing the hearts of the people that visit and many end up staying. The community spirit in the town and the surrounding area is strong.

Get in

By plane

Ballina/Byron Airport (BNK IATA) is the nearest airport, around 30 minutes drive away at Ballina. There are flights from Sydney and Melbourne. Airport transport options. There are regular shuttle services from the airport and most of them are door to door. Book online to save money. Xcede Airport Transfers and Steve's Tours Airport Express offer shuttle services direct to your door from $18. Blanchs bus service costs $10, but isn't door to door and travels through other towns on the way.

Gold Coast Airport (OOL IATA) is around 1 hour away at Coolangatta and has domestic flights and international flights from New Zealand, Malaysia, and Japan. It often has cheaper flights and cheaper car hire than Ballina. There are a number of transport operators from the airport to Byron Bay. For example, Byron Bay - Surfers Express do pick-up and drop-off at the airport in their runs between Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise for $27. Xcede Airport Transfers offer shuttle services direct to the door.

By bus

Regular coach services travel between Sydney and Brisbane via Byron Bay.

By car

Byron is around 9 hours drive from Sydney, a good day's drive, with many possibilities to stop and rest. Traffic on the Pacific Highway gets busy during school holiday periods. During summer the Ewingsdale Road route in and out of town from the Pacific Highway can get crowded and slow. When coming from the south on the highway in holiday periods, avoid traffic delays on Ewingsdale Road by taking the Lennox Head exit from the highway at Ross Lane and enter Byron from the south.

Byron is only just over an hour from the Gold Coast, and just over two hours from Brisbane.

By tour

Many surfing or backpacker tours along the east coast.

By train

Trains no longer stop next to the Railway Hotel as the rail line is closed except for a 2km shuttle service to Sunrise Beach. You can transfer to a coach from the train at Casino. You can buy a through ticket. Casino is located quite a distance from Byron Bay and it might often be best to get a bus directly to Byron, saving a lot of trouble. Or, if you are lucky enough most of the domestic airlines have sales on pretty consistently from most major cities to the Gold CoastBrisbane and less frequently Ballina. All of these are closer than Casino and may be cheaper if you find the right sale.

Get around

There is limited regular public transport within Byron Bay, operated by Blanch's Bus Company - however most destinations within the bay are walkable, including The Lighthouse Walk. The Byron Shire Council has installed parking ticket machines, with the fee being $2 per hour.

See

  • 1 Cape Byron. European history began in 1770 when Captain James Cook found a safe anchorage and named the cape after John Byron, grandfather of the poet Lord Byron. It is mainland Australia's easternmost point. There is a lighthouse on the cliffs above the ocean (not on the tip of the cape). The walk from town along the walking track up to the lighthouse is amazing. It is about 20 min from the parking at the start of the walk along the beach. Parking at the top is $7, and worth it on a hot day. There's a cafe near the lighthouse. The entire walking track makes a 3.7 km loop around the cape, including the tip.

Do

Surfing

Byron Bay has good surf with a variety of beaches within the town limits. It has occupied the imagination of Australians for many years for its climate, lifestyle and warm water.

  • Byron Main. The best-known beach in Byron usually has smaller waves that break close to shore. At the southern end of the beach lies the Pass, which can get very crowded, along with Byron Main, on summer days but is perfect for long boarding with wide rollers that go forever.
  • Wategos Beach. Just around the corner from the Pass and Byron Main. It is somewhat hidden from view, lying on the north side of the Byron point. Wategos has a cult longboarder crowd because its waves generally don't have as much push as other breaks. It generally has smaller surf than the Pass. The surf runs west towards Byron Main and takes a bit more skill to paddle out to than the Pass or the main beach. The Pass is always crowded when the winds or swell are right, and because of the easy paddle it has a lot of beginners which can make it very dangerous with wayward boards.
  • Tallow Beach. The least known and least used Byron beach by those who don't surf. Tallow Beach is on the south side of the Byron headland, is very long and has a variety of breaks along its length. The surf is generally larger as most swells go straight into it. It is uncommon to see tourists along this beach because the only place from which it can be seen in Byron is the top of the Byron headland.

It is not uncommon to surf among pods of common dolphins as the evening winds down in Byron, especially if you are surfing Wategos or the Pass.

If you visit Byron Bay without a surfboard, you can hire one online in the Bay for US$20 a day and US$120 a week at www.rentasurfboard.com

Beachgoing

  • Swimming. Byron Main Beach is patrolled all summer, with other beaches patrolled during the Chistmas School Holidays, including Wategoes. Clarkes beach is to the east of the main beach but before the Pass and its sheltered location means it is almost always good for kids. In winter, it can be a bit chilly to consider swimming at Byron with daytime temperatures on average only reaching around 20C.
  • Sunbake. Topless sunbathing is common and accepted in Byron.

A clothing optional beach called Belongil is situated north of the Byron Beach Club at Tyagarah. Access via Grays Lane and a walking track from the Pacific Highway.

Marine activities

  • Byron Bay Whale Watching. September and October are the best whale watching months.

Byron Bay has some of New South Wales's best scuba diving. Most diving is at Julian Rocks, only five minutes off shore. The depths around Julian Rocks are 5–25 meters, and it's suitable for snorkeling. You can dive with the following:

  • 1 Byron Bay Dive Centre, 9 Marvell St, ☏ +61 2-6685-8333, toll-free: 1800 243 483, fax: +61 2-6685-5750, ✉ info@byronbaydivecentre.com.au. Runs diving and snorkeling trips to Julian Rocks. Certification is available.

Walking and cycling

  • Byron Bay Cycleway. There is a cycleway along the beach at Byron. Bicycle hire is available.
  • Circus arts, 17 Centennial Circuit. Always want to learn to do the flying trapeeze? Wish your kids would make good on their promise? Beautiful facilities.

Events

  • East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival. Held each Easter.
  • Splendour in the Grass Music Festival. Alternative to mainstream festival over 2 days each July.
  • Schoolies. In late November/early December celebrating school leavers from across Australia. (This may be a time to avoid, if it is not your scene.)

Find out about upcoming events in The Bagg, a local publication out on Mondays.

Health

  • Ripple Massage Day Spa And Beauty Jonson St, Byron Bay, 0438 567 906 has massage and beauty therapists for day spa treatments.

Buy

  • 1 Wicked Weasel, 156 Jonson St, ☏ +61 2 6685 8833. Famous Australian manufacturer of "risque" swimwear and lingerie for women.

Eat

Budget

Many of the pubs and bars serve food also – check the Drink section following.

  • Bayleaf Cafe, 2A Marvel St, ☏ +61 2 6685 8900. Daily 7am–2pm. A cafe with good coffee to jump start your day.
  • Beloporto Burger Bar, 3/75-76 Jonson St. $8-$13 burgers.
  • Treehouse on Belongil, 25 Childe St, Belongil. Daily 7.30am-11pm. Out of main Byron, near Belongil Beach. Very relaxed with outdoor tables. Pizzas and most mains are $22–27; 400g steak $36.
  • Woolworths, 98 Jonson St. Buy food and other products at this, the main grocery store.

Mid-range

  • Beach Byron Bay, 2 Massinger St, Clarkes Beach. Daily 7:30–11:30am, noon–3pm, 5:30pm onwards. Right on the beach, east of the main beach. Offering everything from an egg sandwich and coffee for brekkie to a complete brunch. Or modern Australian cuisine for dinner. Dinner mains $16–36, 750g steak $85.
  • Cardamon Pod, 8/7 Lawson St. One of several restaurants catering to vegetarians and vegans.
  • Fishheads, 1 Jonson St. Seafood. Has the usual kids menu with fried things.
  • Fishmongers, 1/9 Bay Lane. Every beach town in Australia has a fish and chips shop, but this is nothing like those. High end fish and chips await you here. Some even say best in Australia. $18–22.
  • 1 Fresh, 7 Jonson St. Upscale cafe food. $20 burgers and more. Makes a good cup of coffee.
  • Legend Pizza, 1/96 Johnson St. Traditional gourmet pizzas to eat in or take away in a relaxed vibe.
  • Miss Margarita, 2 Jonson St. Mexican cantina.
  • O-Sushi, 15/90-96 Johnson St, Woolworths Plaza. Share plates, plus sashimi and mains, in a modern venue with red walls.
  • Red Hot and Green, Lawson Arcade, 17 Lawson St (access also from Bay Lane, behind the Beach Hotel). Thai food.
  • Yellow Flower, 11 Clifford St, Suffolk Park. Indian food. Takeaway and dine in. Occasionally you can chill out to the sounds of a musician.

Splurge

  • Balcony Bar & Oyster Co., cnr Lawson and Johnson St. M–F noon–late, Sa–Su 9am–late. Lunch and dinner every day and also brunch at the weekend. Great drinks and good view. Mains $24–34+ (up to $68 for a 600g steak).
  • Rae's, 6 Marine Parade, Wategos Beach. For a nice, and expensive, meal.

Drink

Byron Bay has a very vibrant social scene for a town of its size. The Northern hosts the more important bands, and the Beach Hotel and the Railway Friendly Bar have bands most nights.

Nightclubs include Woody's Surf Shack and the backpackers' favourite, Cheeky Monkeys. This can also be a good place to go out on Mondays and Tuesdays when everywhere else is quiet.

Find out what's on around town by picking up a copy of The Bagg, a gig and entertainment guide out every Monday.

  • Beach Hotel, 1 Bay St (at the beach, cnr Jonson St). Bands play most nights. The Beach Kitchen restaurant, open from 8am, serves pub food and doesn't get the greatest reviews; plates $20–26, steak $34. The Green Room dinery is open 3pm til late serving aperitifs and pizzas.
  • Byron Bay Brewery (Buddha Bar), 1 Skinners Shoot Rd. Good micro brewery. Has a very chilled-out bar plus music venue, restaurant ($10–18) and cinema. Serves backpackers from the Piggery Backpackers.
  • Cheeky Monkey's Restaurant & Party Bar, 115 Jonson St. Popular with backpackers – dancing on tables ahoy! A great value night out. Meals $10–15, steak $20.
  • The Northern, 35–43 Jonson St. The Back Room hosts the more important touring bands to come to town. The Front Bar hosts local blues, rock and folk performers. Plates in the restaurant are $18–32.
  • Railway Friendly Bar (The Rails), 86 Jonson St. Live band venue every night. Bands start early but don't go all night. A great indoor/outdoor space (limited indoor seating) to catch up with friends - popular with backpackers and locals. Fantastic food with large portions - great value for money. It shouldn't even be compared with pub food because it's so tasty. Has the typical burger with fries and battered fish and chips but also much more, including grilled Mediterranean salad, fish burgers, pastas + daily specials like peppered kangaroo fillet (truly brilliant!) Kitchen open for lunch and later reopens for supper - the pub stays open. $10-25.
  • Sticky Wicket, 32 Jonson St. Late night sports bar with bar food.
  • Woody's Surf Shack, Woolworths Plaza, 90–96 Jonson St. M–Sa 8pm–3am. Live DJs.

Sleep

Byron Bay is a well established destination for backpackers, schoolies, families and couples, and there is a choice of accommodation styles catering to all of them. Most local real estate agents handle holiday house rentals, and there are many in the beach areas, and even further into suburban Byron. Some bed-and-breakfasts have been created by building additions to once suburban Byron houses.

  • Byron Bay Visitor Centre - Official non-profit tourist information, Old Stationmaster's Cottage at 80 Jonson St (in the centre of town between the main bus stop and the old railway station), ☏ +61 2-6680-8558, fax: +61 2-6685 5351, ✉ reservations@visitbyronbay.com. They offer a wide range of Byron Bay accommodation from budget backpackers to luxury apartments. You can also get a free Byron Bay map.

Camping on the beach is illegal. Council rangers will issue fines if you camp for free. Camp at Belongil fields or Byron tourist village if you need somewhere cheap to camp and it never gets full. You can set up camp at night and pay the next morning

  • byronbay.com. Byron's longest running and most comprehensive guide to the region. Locally owned & operated since 1997.

Budget

  • Aquarius Backpackers Motel, 16 Lawson St, toll-free: 1800-028-909. Backpackers.
  • Arts Factory Lodge, 1 Skinners Shoot Rd, ☏ +61 2 6685 7709, toll-free: 1800 666237, ✉ info@artsfactory.com. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. provides accommodation from teepees, camping, to dorm rooms and private rooms.
  • Nomads Byron Bay, Lawson Lane (behind the Great Northern Hotel on Jonson St), ☏ +61 2 6680 7966, toll-free: 1800 666237, ✉ bookings@nomadsbyronbay.com. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Accommodation ranging from king rooms with plasma TVs and fridges to shared backpacker dorm accommodation.
  • 1 Byron Bay YHA, 7 Carlyle St, ☏ +61 2-6685-8853, fax: +61 2-6685-6766, ✉ byronbay@yhansw.org.au. A hostel with a barbecue, swimming pool and television room. Dorm beds from $27-35, private rooms from $70 per room, add $3.50 per night if you are not a member of Hostelling International.
  • 2 Cape Byron YHA, corner of Middleton St and Byron St, ☏ +61 2-6685-8788, toll-free: 1800 652 627, fax: +61 2-6685-8814, ✉ capebyron@yhansw.org.au. A hostel with a barbecue, swimming pool and television room. Dorm beds from $26 per night, add $3.50 per night if you are not a member of Hostelling International.
  • Broken Head Holiday Park, Beach Rd, Broken Head, ☏ +61 2-6685-3245, fax: +61 2-6685-4810, ✉ info@brokenhd.com.au. Surrounded by National Park rainforest, and situated next to Broken Head beach. Suits those who prefer to stay a little further out from the township of Byron Bay. Body board and surf board hire available. Reception 7:30AM-7:30PM. Unpowered sites $25/night. Powered sites and cabins also available.

Mid-range

  • Byron Beach Resort (formerly Belongil Beach House), 25 Chide St, ☏ +61 2 66857868, ✉ info@byronbeachresort.com.au. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. The "100% Real Byron" experience that doesn't break the bank with a range of accommodation options from Dorms, twins/double, studios to self contained family cottages. Set on 5600 sq2 of landscaped greenery only a frisbee throw from the beach. This great beachside location has all round inclusive facilities including free (bike) hire, large communal kitchen & common room. The higher end rooms enjoy pay TV and wi fi internet. The Tree House cafe located at the front of the property is a local institution. $30-250.
  • Tallow Beach Motel (5 minutes south of Byron Bay township right across the road from the beach). From $75 per night.
  • Garden Burees Luxury Retreat, 17 Gordon St, ☏ +61 2 6685 5390, ✉ escape@gardenburees.com.au. Balinese inspired accommodation all set in lush tropical surrounds. Buddha Gardens Day Spa located on site. Garden Burées sleeps up to two people $260, Grand Burée sleeps up to six people $650, Chalet Kitchen sleeps up to people $225, Chalet Bathroom & Studio sleeps up to two people $175, three Bedroom Chalet sleeps up to six people $400.
  • Planula, Lot 1, Melaleuca Drive, ☏ +61 2-6680-9134, ✉ relax@planula.com.au. A bed and breakfast 3km from Byron Bay's town. It focusses on scuba diving; both the hosts are divers. Twin rooms $185 during peak seasons, $135 during high season and $115 in winter. Joint diving and accommodation deals available.
  • Byron Bathers, 2 Fletcher Lane (Fletcher Lane runs off the southern end of Fletcher St 50m from Marvell St), ☏ +61 2 6680 7775. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. A quality bed & breakfast. Three king bed bedrooms each with an ensuite (suitable for adults over 21 only). $265 including breakfast, peak season $330-350.
  • 3 Byron Bay Beachfront Apartments (Beachfront Apartments), 39-41 Lawson St (200m from centre of town, on Main Beach), ☏ +61 2 6619 0301. Check-in: 1400, check-out: 1000. Located on Denning Park, on Main Beach. This is the perfect family holiday in Byron Bay, self contained 2 & 3 bedroom apartments. $200+.
  • 4 Byron Beachside Accommodation (Old Butter Factory), 140 Jonson St (main street of Byron Bay), ☏ +61 2 6619 0300. Check-in: 1400, check-out: 1000. Sleek & spacey, gorgeous light-filled & innovative warehouse apartments. Located on the fringe of Byron Bay Village, an easy stroll to the shops & restaurants. Walk to Main Beach and many of the attractions around Byron Bay, or enjoy the comforts of the Butter Factory pool, garden courtyard & BBQ area. $200+.
  • Gaia Retreat and Spa, 933 Fernleigh Rd, Brooklet, ☏ +61 2-6687-1216, fax: +61 2-6687-1310, ✉ info@gaiaretreat.com.au. 3 night packages from $995 per person for twin or double or $1195 for a single person.

Stay safe

Be careful of drink spiking - always keep your drink in view and don't accept drinks from strangers. If a stranger does shout you a drink make sure it is the drink you want and watch the drink being poured and handed over to you without it leaving your sight. Never get a stranger to buy a drink on your behalf with your money. They could buy something else and drink it themselves. If you are refused a drink by the bar there is a good reason why.

Swimming - always swim between the flags. Avoid swimming at night especially on your own. Follow all instructions from lifeguards

North Coast Medical Centre, 24 Shirley St, ☏ +61 2 6685 8666, ✉ reception@northcoastmedicalcentre.com.au. M-F 9AM-6PM. Need a doctor? You'll find both traditional and alternative ones at this medical centre.

Go next

Explore the 'Rainbow Region' - rural towns and sleepy villages, set in lush and particularly scenic countryside. The area is famed as a haven for alternative culture. NimbinMullumbimby and the Channon are the favourite towns to visit in this region. There is a popular market in the Channon once a month, well on the tourist trail.  Bangalow features a nice relaxed old-town main street.

There are many scenic wonders in the area. Byron area has many rainforests & parks. The volcanic plug of Mount Warning is a favourite tour. It can be reached by driving into Murwillumbah and following the roads to the small village of Uki. There are many waterfalls like Minyon Falls (direction Federal-Rosebank), Protester Falls (the Channon area) and Wanaganui Falls (Wilsons Creek). The drive to these falls is very scenic as it follows the creek and a narrow valley a some nice rainforest.

Brunswick Heads is a nice day trip. The pub is a good place to relax for a meal by the river and it has some quieter beaches. Between Byron Bay and Ballina there is a nice coastal drive which passes through the quiet coastal town of Lennox Head. If you stick to the coastal roads you will see many more beaches and coastal scenery than the highway.


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