Byron Bay, on the east coast of Australia, has a reputation as a laid back hippie surfer town, so it’s easy to see why it has become a must-see destination for most travellers. The town itself is small enough to wander through leisurely in one afternoon, as you sample the local delicacies and browse the quirky souvenir stores. The charity shops have the trendiest hand-me-downs of any I’ve ever visited. There are miles and miles of natural, unspoiled beaches, footpaths through the forests and a coastal walk around the headland taking in Australia’s most easterly point and a lighthouse that has served its purpose for well over 100 years.
Adventure seekers will love Byron Bay, as there are plenty of companies offering hang gliding, kite surfing, horse riding, surfing, snorkelling, sea kayaking (this one’s awesome thanks to the big waves!), scuba diving, and many more exciting activities. In fact, Julian Rocks is just a couple of kilometres from the main beach in Byron Bay and it is commonly regarded as the best diving spot in New South Wales.
While I’m really glad we managed to explore the marine environment, Byron Bay is one of those places where you’d be happy just to wander and take in the atmosphere and gorgeous views….
BYRON BAY BEACH
The main beach in Byron Bay is set apart from the town, so your views aren’t spoiled in any direction by buildings. Pretty much the only man-made construction is the distant lighthouse, which just adds character.
You will see a lot of guys with dreadlocks in Byron Bay, both on the beach and busking from their hippie vans. In the evenings, you’ll have the option of listening to some incredibly talented street performers, but there’s stiff competition for your attention.
Towards the south end of the beach, at low tide, you can have a lot of fun looking through the rock pools. We saw lots of tiny iridescent fish and some colourful snails, as well as waders that were there to catch some easy prey for their dinner.
Byron Bay’s beach is so huge that you can easily find plenty of space to yourself, whether that’s to take a nap, read a book or build a sand castle.
BYRON BAY LOOKOOUT POINT
At the south of the beach, you begin the headland walk by climbing up a short set of steps to a lookout point. This is where the best waves are so you’ll be in prime position to watch some real talent.
Surfers first arrived in Byron Bay in the 1960s and, by the early 1970s, it was clearly established as the chilled out, hippie town we know today. At certain times of the day, there are hundreds of surfers competing for the best waves.
A view looking down over the headland with Julian Rocks in the distance. This is a great place to come to try to spot dolphins. There are also companies that run dolphin watching kayak trips around these waters.
Continuing along the headland, you should get used to the undulating footpath. No sooner have you descended onto one gorgeous beach, it’s time to clamber back up and over another cliff. It can be tiring in the heat, so make sure you take water with you.
There’s a platform for launching hang gliders to the side of the footpath. It’s usually barricaded off, but we were lucky to see this guy setting himself up for a leap from the cliff face.
MOST EASTERLY POINT IN AUSTRALIA
If you’re easily swayed to visit a place because it has a silly claim to fame, you really should make the effort to get to this sign marking the most easterly point in Australia. It’s nothing particularly special to look at, but it’s pretty amazing to gaze out to sea knowing that all of Australia is behind you.
Byron Bay is probably the only place on earth with more massive lizards that seem oblivious to human presence is the Galapagos…
From beaches to rocky cliffs, the entire coastline of the Byron Cape headland is beautiful to look at. History and literature buffs might be interested to learn that Cape Byron was originally named by James Cook after John Byron, who was a circumnavigator of the world, but also the grandfather of the poet Lord Byron.
BYRON BAY LIGHTHOUSE
Byron Bay has been the base for an eclectic variety of industries over the years, from cedar logging and gold mining to dairy farming and whale hunting. The lighthouse was built in 1901 to facilitate the passage of ships past the headland and into the bay. Before its construction, the headland was particularly hazardous, and many shipwrecks can be seen in the bay and surrounding areas.
SUNSET OCEAN VIEWS
Ocean views from beside the lighthouse are spectacular, even when the weather doesn’t seem to be on your side.
Tallows Beach is on the opposite side of the headland to Byron Bay’s main beach and, because it’s harder to get to, is even more ruggedly beautiful. If you can handle a longer walk, or if you have your own transport, it’s well worth making the effort to escape the crowds.
Byron Bay is one of those places that sucks you in. You had better book yourself onward transport before you arrive if you don’t want to find yourself still there a few months down the road with bronzed skin, ragged, salty hair and a big, contented smile on your face.
CONTINUE THE ADVENTURE
Byron Bay is one of the stop off points of the fantastic BEACHES AND REEFS tour run by Contiki. This two-week trip is filled with fun and adventure and includes surfing, kayaking, skydiving, bungy jumps, scuba, a dracula show, barn dance karaoke, whip cracking, sailing in the Whitsundays, plenty of parties and much, much more. It’s without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had on a tour!