The Top Things to See and Do in Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay is one of Australia’s top holiday destinations
Byron Bay is one of Australia’s top holiday destinations | © Tom Hanslien Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer27 August 2020

Byron Bay is not only home to Chris Hemsworth, but it’s also one of Australia’s top holiday destinations. From marvelling at an ancient volcano in the rainforest to seeing dolphins, whales and turtles, perusing local markets and drinking the famous coffee, these are just a few of the best things to see and do in Byron Bay.

Visit Cape Byron Lighthouse

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Cape Byron Lighthouse on Pacific coast at eastern most point of Australia
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Marking the easternmost point on the Australian mainland, Cape Byron is also famous for being home to one of Australia’s most beautiful lighthouses. Perched atop the headland, the Victorian-style Cape Byron Lighthouse is one of Byron Bay’s most visited landmarks. From the lighthouse, you can follow the track down to the Point. Cape Byron is also an important place for the Bundjalung people, the traditional custodians of Byron Bay. Known for thousands of years as Cavanba, the headland was renowned for its physical and spiritual gifts, as well as being a place for cultural, social and religious gatherings.

Go for a hike

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Byron Bay is a great spot to get outdoors and be at one with nature, and there is arguably no better way to do that than to go for a hike. One of the best hikes in Byron Bay is the 4km (2.5mi) loop out to the headland and the lighthouse, past Clarkes Beach, the Pass, Wategos Beach, and Little Wategos Beach. In town, Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve is also a beautiful hiking spot, or head to Arakwal National Park and Tallow Beach on the other side of the Cape Byron headland. If you’re prepared to venture a little further afield, Killen Falls, about 20 minutes from town, is a natural swimming hole with a waterfall and cave.

Go surfing

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Clarke's Beach surf school
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Famous for putting Byron Bay on the map in the ’60s, the surf here is not to be missed. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, Byron Bay’s beaches have something for everyone, including plenty of great surf schools that will help even the most rookie surfer fall in love with the rush of riding. Main Beach and Clarkes Beach are probably best for beginners, whereas more advanced surfers can take their pick of beaches around, from the Wreck and the Pass to Cosy Corner, Tallow Beach and more.

Hit the beach

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Even if surfing isn’t your thing, Byron Bay’s beaches are still magical, with sweeping expanses of golden sand and aqua waters, fringed by pandanus, rugged rocks and lush forests. While Main Beach and Clarkes are the sorts of beaches that come to mind when you think of Byron Bay, with sunrise yoga, beach football, cricket and surfing – perfect for grabbing a coffee and people-watching – there are plenty of other beaches to choose from, too. One of the most picture-perfect, Wategos, is great for escaping the crowds and soaking up some sun. Alternatively, head a little further afield and go exploring. Kings Beach and Whites Beach in Broken Head Nature Reserve are typically quite secluded. North of Byron Bay, Tyagarah is also a popular whale-watching spot during the season.

Visit local markets

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The Byron Bay area is famous for its fantastic produce and arty, crafty, bohemian vibes. Not to be missed, the Byron Bay farmers market every Thursday is the place to go for fresh food, but the Sunday markets are where local creativity truly shines. Rotating weekly between Byron Bay, Channon, Mullumbimby and Bangalow, this is a perfect excuse to explore nearby towns, while stocking up on gifts or treating yourself.

Go shopping at local boutiques

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If you miss out on the markets, fear not, Byron Bay is famed for its amazing shopping opportunities – especially for alternative, boho-chic fashion, homeware, arty jewellery and eco-friendly, sustainable alternatives. A little way out of town, the Arts & Industry Estate is also worth a visit, with plenty of pop-up shops and workshops. A 20-minute drive inland from Byron, Bangalow is also known for its independent boutiques and local designers. Or stay in Byron and try out Spell and the Gypsy Collective.

Visit a café – or many

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Along with surfing and shopping – and, of course, the laid-back lifestyle – Byron Bay’s café culture is world-renowned. Whether you’re after breakfast, brunch or lunch, or just fancy a caffeinated pick-me-up, Byron Bay’s café scene is on point. From the decor – predominantly white with earthy accents, timber and repurposed pallet furniture, bar stools and occasional pops of colour – to the artisan coffee and the perfectly presented food, Byron’s cafés are the perfect blend of simplicity and luxury. One of the best you can try is Bayleaf, just a stone’s throw from the beach itself.

Visit nearby towns

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Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia.
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Whilst everyone (including us here at Culture Trip) adores Byron Bay – it’s hard not to – there are also some wonderful places a little further afield that are worth visiting when you’re in town. There’s Bangalow, of course, along with Newrybar, Lennox Head and Lake Ainsworth, or Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby. Just over an hour’s drive away, Nimbin is also a popular getaway from Byron Bay. One of Australia’s most unique towns, Nimbin is best known for its alternative culture, community spirit and environmental initiatives.

Visit the Farm – Grow, Feed, Educate

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A couple of kilometres out of town, ‘The Farm’ is an 80-acre (32ha) operational farm with animals, gardens and on-site workshops, as well as a great café-restaurant and produce store. Home to a devoted community of growers, educators and producers, including a local brewery, the Farm has become a symbol of the town’s passion for sustainable, eco-friendly initiatives. It is well worth a visit when you’re in Byron Bay.

Check out the Cape Byron Marine Park

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Stretching from the Brunswick River to Lennox Head, the Cape Byron Marine Park has plenty of unique marine habitats, including sandy bays, rocky reefs, submerged pinnacles, rugged rocky islands, estuaries, coastal creeks and lakes, mangroves, and salt marshes. The Cape Byron Marine Park’s underwater world is pretty incredible, with over 400 species of tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays and wobbegong sharks. You can also explore the waterways and ocean habitats by kayak or paddleboard and go fishing, hiking and birdwatching from the mainland.

Go whale-watching

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Young Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaching, leaping in Byron Bay, New South Whales, Australia
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During the whale migration season, from May to October, Byron Bay is a prime spot to watch humpback whales as they make their way north for winter. Although you can sometimes catch a glimpse of them from the mainland with a good pair of binoculars, the best way to see these incredible creatures is by joining a whale-watching tour.

Take a day trip to the hinterland

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Landscape in Australian hinterland in the summer
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Rising above Byron Bay’s hilly hinterland, Wollumbin – also known as Mount Warning – is an extinct volcano rising out of the rainforest. An exceptionally sacred place to the Bundjalung people, it’s best not to climb the mountain, but to find other cool lookout spots to enjoy it in all of its glory. The Pinnacle walk and lookout in the Border Ranges National Park is pretty spectacular, with a short trail leading to an epic spot overlooking Wollumbin, the crater escarpment, the rainforest and Tweed Valley. A little closer to Byron Bay, Nightcap National Park is also spectacular, with rainforest, waterfalls, glow worm caves and, of course, awe-inspiring views.

Additional reporting by Cassie Wilkins.

These recommendations were updated on August 27, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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