Looking for a travel guide to Byron Bay? We have an insider’s guide (our very own Chris Edwards is a Byron native!) on this hip little coastal town in New South Wales, Australia
Bohemian roots, indie vibes and world-class surf breaks – there is something very special about the little coastal village of Byron Bay. It is one of most beautiful places on earth, and a place to peg firmly on your travel bucket list. Full disclosure: it’s also my hometown, so I am, of course, very biased. I get asked a lot where to stay, eat, and what to do, so here it is: my guide to Byron Bay. With direct flights from Singapore to the Gold Coast (and a 45-minute drive away), it’s an easy long-weekend from Singapore (or Sydney). But here’s why I think you should swing by for a week.
Byron Bay packs a punch when it comes to natural beauty. Because of Cape Byron (Australia’s most Eastern point), there are about seven different golden beaches to explore – some very protected from the Southern wind, while some protected from the North. So, there is almost, always a perfect surfbreak for every level of surfer. Tip: my personal favourite is The Pass; it has a great café, a scenic walk, gentle beginner waves, as well as shade in the summer. There is also a stunning national park on the cape (which you can access from The Pass) and a walking track up to the Byron lighthouse, which is fabulous in summer, spring and autumn, and also great for whale-watching in the winter.
Okay, this is going to be lengthy. The food is amazing. Fresh produce, creative chefs and a seriously cool vibe means this little town packs a culinary punch. Here is my hit list…
For breakfast or lunch, you need to check out Bayleaf, Topshop, The Farm and Belongil Bistro. I also love the old-fashioned fish & chips takeaway experience, which you get right on the main beach at Fishheads.
For dinner and drinks, a must is Roadhouse (or as locals call it, ‘The Roadie) which is 100% certified organic, and has a paddock-to-plate ethos with all locally sourced produce. Always packed full of gypsy-hippies with cash to burn.
Further afield there are some amazing restaurants in the neighbouring villages – definitely worth the visit. In Bangalow, you need to sample The Bangalow Hotel Dining Room, which is a beautiful addition to a historic pub; Town by Australian celebrity chef, Katrina Kanetani; and in nearby Newyrbar, Harvest, which is famous for its bakery and incredible produce.
Heading North, Fleet in Brunswick Heads is a must-try for serious foodies, and Milk and Honey in Mullumbimby re-defines artisan pizza. Before you go, just take a look at Pat Nourse’s Foodie Guide to the region, as published by Gourmet Traveller recently – a great to-do list. Don’t pack the skinny jeans!
The day trips
The surrounding Byron hinterland is almost like an English countryside – rolling green hills, zigzagged with small winding country lanes, dotted with local villages. Hire a sportscar for that ultimate driver experience.
A must-stop is the very popular town of Bangalow, well known for its historical village feel and its famous pork (found on menus across Australia). Go on a Saturday to catch the local farmers markets, and on the fourth Sunday of the month, the larger community market is on – you will find produce, along with clothes, jewellery, arts and crafts, plants and homewares.
After a short drive along Coloman Scenic from Bangalow, you will find the one-street town of Federal, which has fabulous Japanese (believe it or not!). Federal offers a very pretty setting for morning or afternoon tea (and a sushi roll) or cup of coffee. I’m also a big fan of the beautiful gardens and hippy vibes of Crystal Castle, just a few minutes further down the road.
If you are a lover of Mister Zimi, the gypsy-inspired Spell, or furniture and homeware designers Pop and Scott, you are in luck – they have all retail stores in Byron. I also always visit Ahoy Trader, owned by artist Jai Vasicek, and just around the corner is Marr-kett, where you can find amazing Moroccan rugs and other Bohemian-inspired homewares.
If you are looking for really uniquely Australian hand-crafted leather bags, you must stop by Rugged Luxury in the Byron Bay industrial area, where you can meet the craftsmen and see them in action (and do say we sent you!).
Another must-visit is Newrybar Merchants, which is a creative assembly of eight different vendors – including Sibella Courts The Society, Jason Grants’ MJG Store, Shannon Fricke, and Tigmi Trading. Bring your credit card… or three.
There are also local markets on every week, great for local produce and local crafts. Check the newspaper for the location (they rotate venues each week).
This is only important to 50% of the population, but Chris Hemsworth calls Byron home. Oh, and I know where he likes to surf, but I am not publicising that one.
Along with Chris, you might spot Aussie supermodel Elle Macpherson, Simon Baker, and legendary actor Bryan Brown, who are all frequent visitors to the area. Xavier Rudd, Jack Johnson and Pete Murray all call Byron home. And for the Grease fans, you can find Olivia Newton-John’s retreat Gaia in the hinterland of Byron Bay.
The farmhouses and beachhouses
If you are travelling with a group, you should definitely rent a house for the week. We love Byron Beach Abodes, which are walking distance to the beach and all beautifully styled. Another fave is Toraja Luxury, a three-bedroom house near Newyrbar, which has a beautiful fireplace for the winter, and pool and outdoor deck looking over the rolling hills for summer. You can also find some great options on stayz.
For those travelling without a tribe, you can choose something high-end like Rae’s at Wategos (book ahead), or The Byron at Byron which is a five-star resort set on 45 acres of rainforest. Another fave is The Atlantic Byron Bay, a group of guest rooms and cottages in the middle of town (and a favourite of Mr. Jason Grants).
Further afield, interiors addicts will need to stay a night or two at the boutique hotel Halcyon House, Cabarita Beach, designed by Anna Spiro (of Black and Spiro). Or even just lunch at the restaurant, Paper Daisy; the setting alone is reason enough to visit.
This guide is making me homesick… lucky I’m back there in a couple of weeks. Enjoy, and you’re welcome.