Sydney to Byron is only an hour and 15 minutes in the air, so you can leave at lunchtime and be sitting at the Beach Hotel on Main Beach by 4pm, sipping a locally brewed Stone & Wood Pacific Ale. But before you hit the beach, you’ll want to check in at your accommodation and slip into your flip-flops (‘thongs’ if you’re Australian). There’s a variety of places to stay, from budget to luxury, beachside to further inland; for something more luxury, Byron at Byron is a beautiful resort that’s set within an 18-hectare rainforest. When you arrive, plug into nature and take a walk on the rainforest boardwalk or nearby Tallows – a 6.5km stretch of beach between Cape Byron and Broken Head.
Hit Main Beach for a pre-sunset dip in the ocean. The water is clear and smooth, and there’s always a good chance of dolphin sightings. Afterwards, pop to the Beach Hotel for that well-deserved beer or glass of organic chardonnay.
A wave of Mexican eateries have become increasingly popular in the greater Byron area, with the latest addition being La Casita in Brunswick Heads. Only a 10-minute cab ride from town, La Casita serves authentic modern Mexican dishes (think tacos with a twist) and is a must-visit restaurant. The fried prawn sandwich (torta ahogada de camarón), wood-grilled pork (carnitas con frijoles) and three-milk cake (pastel de tres leches) are house specialities. There’s also a hip drink list that includes tequila-based cocktails and a locally brewed beer that’s made from ancho chilli, coriander seeds and pineapple juice!
If you’re not too beat, keep the Latin American theme going and head to Locura in town, one of Byron’s newest late-night bars. Tasty snacks (from the good folk at Three Blue Ducks) and a classy cocktail and wine list are on offer, as well as good tunes from its roster of DJs. For a more chilled vibe, try stalwarts of The Bay: The Balcony Bar or St Elmo.
You’ll want to kick start your day at one of the best coffee spots in town, Bayleaf. Popular with locals and visitors alike, Bayleaf serves up an inventive and ever-changing menu, like scrambled eggs with dill and chilli, quinoa coconut porridge and breakfast burritos.
Put your energy from breakfast to good use with a leisurely walk (what’s the rush?) from Main Beach up to Byron’s famous lighthouse. The Cape Byron walk is an easy 4km track that passes the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. The views from here are breathtaking and it’s the best place to spot dolphins and whales.
To really get a bird’s-eye view, take a 30-minute tandem hang gliding flight from Cape Byron. Booking is essential at Byron Airwaves Hang Gliding School who have been flying over the cliffs at Cape Byron for over 35 years. Soar like an eagle over the scenic national park, and keep an eye out for dolphins, turtles and white-bellied sea eagles. This is one experience you won’t forget.
Treat yourself to lunch at Rae’s on Wategos, one of Australia’s most iconic boutique hotels. A fresh refurb and new chef have put the hotel’s restaurant firmly back on the culinary map. An intimate getaway in a secluded corner of Byron Bay, Rae’s offers the ultimate dining experience in a relaxing beachfront location. Stand out dishes include the house-made tagliolini pasta with spanner crab and the blue-eye trevalla with zucchini and lemon myrtle. Modern Aussie tucker at its best.
Once you’ve finished at Rae’s, take a dip at Wategos Beach, literally right in front of the hotel. One of the more sheltered beaches, and perfect for dolphin watching, Wategos is generally quieter than Main Beach but it can still get busy at the weekend. If you want real seclusion, walk to Little Wategos, Australia’s most easterly beach. Only 150m long, this hidden gem is well protected and great for swimming and sunbathing.
Head back to Byron at Byron for an afternoon nap, Swedish massage or a refreshing ‘Ginger Glitz’ spritzer by the pool.
Di Vino is a rustic Italian restaurant and wine bar that’s just behind Main Beach. The menu offers delicious antipasti, pastas, desserts and an extensive wine list. If you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful, try Earth ’n’ Sea Pizza. This long-running Byron Bay institution serves the best gluten-free pizza and pasta in town.
Start your last day with the freshest of breakfasts at Three Blue Ducks. Situated at The Farm – an 80-acre working farm just 10 minutes from town – Three Blue Ducks is truly ‘farm-to-table’. Highlights on the menu include coconut bircher with Ballina honey, local free-range bacon and egg roll with cheese and bacon relish, and farmer’s bruschetta with summer veggies and cashew cream. After breakfast, grab a coffee and wander around the grounds, checking out the heritage black pigs, chickens and fields of macadamia and pecan trees. This is a quintessential Byron Bay experience.
Jump in the car (hire one from the airport or town centre) and explore the Byron Bay hinterland. With its rolling hills, fertile farmlands and historic towns, the hinterland offers a lovely contrast to Byron’s beach lifestyle. Start the day at Bangalow (20 minutes southwest of Byron) and meander around the picturesque streets, boutique shops, restaurants and cafés. If you time it right, the famous Bangalow Market is on the fourth Sunday of every month, boasting over 300 stalls selling everything from ceramics and clothing to fresh produce and coffee.
Just five minutes down the road is another charming hinterland village called Newrybar. Stop off here for lunch, booking a spot at Harvest in advance. A restaurant, deli and bakery all rolled into one, Harvest’s award-winning menu features local and organic ingredients.
With most flights to Sydney leaving around 4pm, it’s time to say bye to The Bay and head to the airport. One thing’s for sure, you’ll be going with a smile on your face; Byron Bay just does that to people.