Looking for great things to do in Byron Bay? For better or worse, this a coastal town in northern New South Wales has entirely completed its transformation from hippy town to boho-luxe getaway destination. But while Byron Bay’s town centre has succumbed to a backpackers-meet-the-one-per-cent influx, the lifetime fire twirlers and queer communes haven’t been completely expunged from the Byron Bay region. Casual dining standards in the region have also hit the stratosphere, spearheaded mostly by established players in the Sydney hospitality scene heading north for sea and tree changes. For their efforts alone, the region is worth a visit. And while the infrastructure has changed, the natural environment remains pristine.
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Best things to do in Byron Bay
What is it? A walking track with spectacular views, which loops around the headland towards the Cape Byron Lighthouse (which happens to be Australia’s most easterly point).
Why go? Because have you really been to Byron if you haven’t snapped a photo of yourself at the old-fashioned lighthouse, with sparkling blue ocean in the background? On the walk up to the lighthouse, you might spot wallabies, dolphins and even whales.
What is it? A brightly lit, incense-scented boutique that will help you live out your small town bohemian or festival dreams.
Why go? The brand has a cult following globally (seen a model at a music festival, pretending it’s 1969? She’s probably wearing Spell), and the store doesn’t disappoint. Expect books on being ‘a wanderer’, Spell’s boho dresses and crocheted beach blankets. Service is knowledgeable and attentive, and while many of Spell’s pieces require model-proportions to pull off, for those of us who aren’t doe-eyed wood nymphs, their signature selection of kimonos works on any body.
What is it? A freshwater lake that has been stained by tea-tree oils. You can smell the plants that surround the lake as you swim in it.
Why go? Right by the ocean at Lennox Head, you can still hear the waves crashing as you swim, stand up paddleboard, or canoe around, free from the anxieties of heavy surf and Great Whites.
What is it? A colourful market held on the fourth Sunday of the month.
Why go? For a taste of the real alternative scene of Byron. You’ll find everything from food and crafts to therapists and artisan bric-à-brac. There are usually artists performing throughout the day, and ATMs are on site.
What is it? A 15-minute cycle from the heart of Byron is a hotel with 92 rooms spaced out across 45 acres of rainforest. It exceeds expectations every time, thanks to the hands-on service and passion for hospitality from hoteliers John and Lyn Parche.
Why go? You could splash out on world-class accommodation here, but if the budget’s a little tight, then you can still book into the day spa even if you’re not a guest. Bliss out with a facial, massage or even a clay wrap or mud cocoon.
What is it? Held every Thursday from 8-11am, the Byron Farmers’ Market is the place to go for fresh produce and locally made treats.
Why go? Stallholders are only allowed to sell what they produce themselves at the Byron Farmers' Market – no re-selling of products is permitted. Products that can be enjoyed year round include sugar cane juice freshly juiced on site, macadamia and pecan nuts and products, prawns and fish, prime cuts of beef and pork raised in the hills behind Byron, eggs, coffee, bread, olives, honey, miso, tempe, sprouted seeds, dips, chutneys, jams, and flowers.
What is it? The chance to escape the crowds by hitting the surf and going kayaking with dolphins.
Why go? The dolphin-spotting adventure is one of several tours on offer from the excellent Cape Byron Kayaks, alongside whale watching from May to November. They can also rent you some snorkelling gear so you can swim with turtles.
What is it? An top-notch café-bar-restaurant by former Sydney bar manager turned whisky ambassador and venue owner Dan Woolley.
Why go? Woolley is a man with a passion for whisky, and at the Roadhouse, he has amassed a collection of over 500 bottles available to be sipped on straight or in one of the bar’s signature creations and dark-spirited classics. Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus feature local produce and a Southern American spin (think jerk chicken wings, Caribbean charred corn and salted caramel and dark chocolate mousse), while the drinks excel, particularly the barrel-aged Classic American Cocktail with Buffalo Trace and the Roasted Pineapple Julep. Woolley’s original recipe Mint Julep is also a standout.
What is it? This 34-hectare property houses an outpost of Sydney’s famous eatery Three Blue Ducks, a providore with an impressive cheese room and salumeria, a bakery (the Bread Social), a classroom (Milkwood), a farm and a nursery where you can pick up farm-grown sunflowers or a glossy-leafed young fiddle leaf fig.
Why go? The food lives up to the impressive setting. The hay-smoked salmon is firm and subtly fragranced. Roast vegetables (many of them grown on site) and house-made ferments make a spectacular case for eating one’s veggies – vari-textured, balanced, and pleasingly nutty, sweet and sour in turns. The bakery, too, is excellent. It’s hard to go past the Portuguese custard tart, which is eggy, sweet and dusted in cinnamon, its flaky pastry only-just holding its runny centre in check.
What is it? A café near Byron Bay’s town centre serving up vitamin-packed smoothies that meet every dietary hashtag you could possibly imagine, while somehow managing to remain delicious.
Why go? Craving bliss balls, raw cacao caramel slices, cold pressed juices and vegan tacos? Of course you are. Why else would you be in Byron? With its white-walled interior, painted with bright murals, affirmation covered blackboard, and bright, striped cushions, the whole thing feels suitably beach-side town.
What is it? A pub overlooking the main beach, with a big beer garden and live music.
Why go? You can either grab an outdoor table with unrivalled views of the coast, or venture inside and watch whatever is trending in the sports world with their giant screens. A new menu offers something a little different to your classic pub feed, with a pork crackling hot dog and Thai green curry both available all day.