There’s certainly something special about Byron Bay, with its mellow mix of alternative ideals and seaside chic. Cindy Bingley-Pullin checks in with suggestions for ten top things to do in this iconic coastal retreat...
Laid-back Byron Bay on the north coast of New South Wales has long been a popular stop on the backpacker and hippy trail down Australia’s eastern seaboard.
But today the region’s ‘surf and spirit’ hybrid culture and scenic surroundings have much broader appeal, and Byron is a popular holiday destination with just about everyone. Tie-dye wearing hipsters reside comfortably next to fashionable foodies, and whether you’re after sightseeing or solitude, spa treatments or alternative remedies, or simply a slice of sunshine, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are ten top things to do in Byron Bay.
1. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse
The Cape Byron Lighthouse marks the easternmost point of mainland Australia and is one of Byron Bay’s iconic landmarks. Constructed in the late 1890s, the lighthouse is still in operation and commands breathtaking 360 degree views. Visit the Maritime Museum (open 10am to 4pm daily) and discover what life was like for the lighthouse keeper of yesteryear.
Leave enough time to hike the headland walk, where you may spot pods of dolphins — and depending on the season — humpback whales.
2. Buy fresh at a local farmers market
Fertile soil and an obliging climate provide a fabulous array of locally-grown fresh fruit and veggies, and the region punches well above its weight in terms of the quantity and quality of local farmers markets.
The biggest market is held on Fridays in the township of Mullumbimby. Enjoy live entertainment, cooking demonstrations and face painting, and browse stalls selling everything from organic coffee and eggs, to pasture-fed meats and freshly grown produce. It’s the perfect place to shop if you have self-catering accommodation.
The Brunswick River has spectacular scenery and prolific wildlife; hire a tinny and meander along its tranquil waterways. See eagles soaring overhead, flocks of pelicans and cormorants, and if you’re lucky, rays and goannas swimming.
Fancy a high-flying experience in Byron? Jump out of a (perfectly good!) plane with Skydive Byron Bay. The high altitude plunge guarantees an adrenalin hit — along with some sensational views!
5. Try a new age treatment
Craniosacral balancing, kinesiology, feng shui; if an alternative therapy exists, you will find it in Byron. The Byron body and soul guide (available at cafes and shops) has a directory of practitioners specialising in various treatments purported to enhance your physiological and psychological wellbeing.
For an eco-luxe experience, check out Gaia Retreat & Spa (Olivia Newton-John is one of the founders). From the standard (massages, body wraps and facials) to the left of centre (sound-tuning, cupping and tarot reading), the retreat offers pretty much everything on the wellbeing spectrum.
6. Get spiritual at Crystal Castle
Up in the lush Mullumbimby hinterland, Crystal Castle is a unique property on five hectares, featuring rainforest walks, botanical gardens, gigantic crystals, hand-carved mystic statues and even a world peace stupa that was blessed by the Dalai Lama.
Stroll through the serene grounds and spin the hypnotic prayer wheels, make a wish at the wishing tree, or simply sit still and absorb the incredible sight of towering crystal formations, some dating back 500-million years.
7. Believe the hype about The Farm
If you do nothing else in Byron, make sure you don’t miss this. The Farm is an amazing concept, comprising a working farm, bakery, florist and the famed Three Blue Ducks restaurant/produce store. Roosters roam freely, and you can amble around the paddocks to visit other farm animals. Kids will love the treehouse-style playground and adorable piglets; grown-ups will love the food and extensive selection of local beers on tap.
Shop for cheeses and charcuterie in-store, picnic on the grounds, or go on a guided tour to meet the farmers and learn about their ethical and sustainable practices.
8. Eat out… a lot!
There is no shortage of great food venues in and around Byron Bay. The Farm (see #7 above) is family friendly and perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch.
Newly hatted Paper Daisy at boutique hotel Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach has unfussy yet inventive dishes. The pipis and semolina pasta seasoned with lemon myrtle and native pepper is a highlight.
Fleet is a foodie destination in itself (book ahead) — an intimate 14-seat bar/restaurant with an innovative menu focused on sustainable local produce.
Also compact is the 100 Mile Table. Its bland industrial estate location belies the eclectic and wholesomely satisfying fare it serves: avo on toast, congee and decent coffee for brekkie, smoked lamb rolls and fish curry for lunch.
9. Shop up a storm
For a dose of retail therapy, the home-grown Byron Bay Cookie Company is unbeatable for delectable gifts – all baked and packed locally.
Rummage the racks at Miss Brown Vintage for unique fashion finds, or try Island Luxe for chic fashion and interior design. A Curious Collective offers a cleverly curated range of recycled and vintage items — from fashion to jewelry, tea sets and even circus memorabilia.
10. Hit the road and explore
Wide highways mean quick access to neighbouring towns — each with their own unique personality and charm.
Brunswick Heads is a sleepier version of Byron, where ‘simple pleasures’ — fittingly — is its catchphrase, and languid days pottering seaside are among its many highlights.
Bangalow is historic and pretty; its main street is lined with meticulously preserved historic shopfronts. Mullumbimby is hippy, trippy and worth a wander.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten top things to do in Byron Bay? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Cindy Bingley-Pullin considers herself a writer, wanderluster, corporate bee and happy homemaker. In between analysing spreadsheets in the office, she pursues her combined passions of travel and freelance writing. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia’s Voyeur, International Traveller, Fitness First magazine and the Sydney Morning Herald.