Byron Bay has long been a hub for holiday makers, backpackers and celebs. This little slice of beachside paradise offers a chance to enjoy the best of Australia’s coastline in a relaxed, alternative environment. The Aboriginal name for the area, Cavvanbah, translates to ‘meeting place’ and this sense of community has been at the heart of Byron’s hippy charm ever since.
Captain James Cook arrived at the bay in 1770 and renamed it after Royal Navy officer John Byron, grandfather of poet Lord Byron. The area was initially a port and a place of industry, and was only transformed into the alternative lifestyle spot it is today in the 1960s, when keen surfers flocked to its beaches.
Byron is known not only for it’s wistful bohemian atmosphere but also, as Australia’s most easterly point, for being the perfect place to spot the migrationary journey of Humpback whales passing by from May to November. And in the height of summer, when the whales are not breaching and splashing through the waves, you’ll also see dolphins playing in the surf.
The area has a strong surf culture, but there are plenty of other options for exploring the water. Sea kayaks are available for hire, and a guided tour shows you the best places for dolphin-watching in the bay. The Cape Bay Marine Park is home to the bottlenose dolphin, as well and sea turtles, and you can spend a morning gliding on the clear ocean waters spotting these marine creatures moving about happily in their natural environment.
For incredible views of the surrounding area, including Tallow Beach and Mount Warning Rainforest, Cape Byron Lighthouse is a must-visit. Sitting on a craggy slice of cliff that plummets into the Pacific Ocean, this lighthouse offers the perfect perspective to watch the sea gushing into the shoreline. The area is usually filled with joggers and hikers, and at daybreak is a popular spot to watch Australia’s spectacular sunrise from the peninsula.
Byron is the kind of place that inspires you to be healthy, with blissful day spas, aromatherapy massage retreats and locally grown organic produce. Alongside vegan and vegetarian restaurants, venues such as local favorite Byron Juice Bar, veggie burger stalls and street-side eateries are always buzzing.
Wedged in between street-food stalls are luxe, avant-garde homewares stores such as Hendrix and Harlow and Ha’veli of Byron. For a more affordable souvenir, visit one of Byron’s famous weekend markets, which attract backpackers and locals alike. Here you can find a variety of stalls selling wares as diverse as bunches of hand-picked flowers, handmade trinkets, mismatched retro dresses, printed cotton shawls and woven hats.
One of the best ways to get around Byron is to go for a ride on one of the hire bicycles, available in shades of cute peppermint or lilac. To explore the greater region, take an eco-river cruises along the Brunswick for a view at Lennox Head of one of the most incredible spans of ocean you’ll ever see.
An hour’s drive will get you into the heart of Nimbin, a fellow alternative-lifestyle haven. Don’t worry if you missed San Francisco in the ’60s, Nimbin and Byron Bay have the hippy vibe covered.
For information on how to make the most of your Byron journey, visit The Byron Bay Visitors Centre (recognizable by the little gatherings of people and dogs outside). When the sun sets, visit one of the area’s amazing bars or take a walk on the beach to savour the relaxed, blissful atmosphere.