The top things to do in Byron Bay that should be on your list! From stunning sunsets to clifftop walks, great eats, beach days and water-based adventure.
Byron Bay retains much of its original laid-back vibe but it sure has grown up from its beginnings as an alternate surf village in the 1960s. Its 9 stunning beaches offer some of the country’s best surf and are just as popular as they ever were, people still come for the weekend and stay for the month but there’s so much more to modern Byron.
There are some top cafes, restaurants and bars, in fact, the food is another one of the big attractions now. Then there are the festivals, national parks, walking trails, markets, health retreats and luxury escapes from the daily grind. Whatever the reason for your visit, if you haven’t been to Byron recently you may be surprised.
Table of Contents
- Things to do in Byron Bay
- 1. The Cape Byron Walking Track
- 2. Chill out on one, or all, of Byron Bays’ fabulous beaches
- 3. Watch the sunrise and sunset from the beach
- 4. Walk the Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary boardwalk
- 5. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse
- 6. Arakwal National Park and Tallows Beach
- 7. Whale watching
- 8. Spend some time out on the water
- 9. Visit The Farm
- 10. Markets and artisan produce
- When’s the best time to visit Byron Bay
- Where to stay in Byron Bay
- Where to eat in Byron Bay
- Planning your trip to Byron Bay
Things to do in Byron Bay
1. The Cape Byron Walking Track
From Clarkes Beach on the eastern end of Byron’s Main Beach follow the walking track along the beach and up the hill to the Byron Bay lighthouse and the easternmost point of mainland Australia. The loop track is 3.7 km and allows for a few stops along the way to admire the view and take photos it will take around 2 hours.
If you prefer to stay to the coastal side rather than coming back via the roadside you can just reverse your course once you have gone as far as you want to for views out over the National Park and Tallows Beach. There are quite a lot of steps and if you’re not used to hill walking your calves may complain after a while but it’s well worth taking all the little diversions down and back up along the way for the views and beaches.
Keep your eyes open as you walk along for some of the wildlife residents here – we’ve always seen rock wallabies at some point on our walk up the hill.
2. Chill out on one, or all, of Byron Bays’ fabulous beaches
Known for its hipster surfer vibe Byron Bay is all about the beach. The most iconic stretch of sand is Main Beach but there are 8 others so don’t skip out on spending some beach time soaking up the feels of what this town is all about. Want to check them all out, here they are from north to south:
The 9 best beaches in Byron Bay
Belongii – A big beach that isn’t crowded. Long enough that you can walk for miles and fine soft sand to settle into for a relaxed day at the beach. Plenty of options here.
The Wreck – Just north of the seawall this is a popular surf break and better suited to less experienced surfers than The Pass. You might also get a few dolphins sharing your wave. It’s named for the wreck of the SS Wollongbar, a passenger steamship that was wrecked here in 1921. You can see it partially protruding above the water line on most tides.
Main – Conveniently located adjacent to Byron Bay town centre, there’s lots of parking and the surf club is based here. It’s a long and wide curve of soft white sand with a mountain backdrop. While it is undoubtedly a popular spot by Australian standards, there is also plenty of space to spread out.
Clarkes – This is a popular north-facing spot, especially with families. There’s a campground situated right on the waterfront and a variety of other accommodations nearby. The cluster of rocks as you approach the pass means it’s not great for surfers but snorkelling is an option.
The Pass – This is a renowned right-hand point break and extremely popular with both surfers and dolphins who equally enjoy riding the surf here. Like most of the beaches along the Byron Bay stretch, it is well equipped with facilities and is a popular picnic spot. If you’re heading out for a dive on Julian Rocks this is where the boats leave from.
Wategos – A stunning cove of white sand and turquoise waters with a backdrop of pandanus trees. Get in early if you want to park your car and as with the rest of Byron, it’s all metered. Wategos is a lovely spot well equipped with the usual facilities (toilets, showers, BBQ and tables). It’s also a good starting point for the clifftop walk up to the lighthouse and beyond.
Little Wategos – Accessed either around the coast from Wategos or down the steps from the coastal walkway this beach has some interest with a bush backdrop, large pebbles and gorgeous soft sand. You’re going to have to carry your beach gear in and there are no facilities that can make it less attractive for families but on a good day, you can stake out your spot under the shade of a pandanus tree and have the whole beach to yourself. That’s well worth a longer walk back to the loo in our books.
Cosy Corner – Tucking in just under the southern side of Cape Byron is Cosy Corner, presumably named because it’s the perfect spot to shelter when the northerly winds blow up and still enjoy a fabulous day at the beach. You’re a bit more removed from things like shops and cafes down here but there are toilets and parking. How popular it is on this side is extremely variable, if the weather is good for the other beaches it can be very quiet.
Tallow – Situated to the south of Cape Byron and behind the Arakwal National Park is Tallow beach. You’re a little further out of town here so you’ll almost certainly drive out. There’s a car park and toilets but bring your own drinks and picnic as there aren’t any shops and cafes nearby. It’s a long and beautiful stretch of beach set against the backdrop of the national park. It’s ideal for long beach walks and watching the whales passing by in season it’s also popular with bird watchers and beach fishermen.
Everyone you ask will have their favourite but we love Wategos and even better, Little Wategos, as on a good day, if you’re lucky, you can claim it all to yourself.
3. Watch the sunrise and sunset from the beach
As the easternmost point of mainland Australia and technically the first point to see the sun you really do want to be up to greet those pastel shades lighting up the sky at least once during your stay.
What did surprise me on the east coast were the fabulous sunsets out across the water at The Wreck to the distinctive silhouette of Mount Warning, the tallest mountain in New South Wales in the distance. It’s a really festive atmosphere down here each evening with so many locals and visitors turning out to watch it before going about their evening plans.
4. Walk the Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary boardwalk
Before it was the arty strip of quality cafes, restaurants and accommodations that we know and love today, Byron Bay was a swamp. A small portion of this has been preserved within the Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary and it’s well worth a stroll along the boardwalk through here. It’s not a long walk but as with all wetland areas, an insect repellent is a good idea to keep the mosquitos at bay.
Cumbebin does have its own organic mosquito control solution in place too. It’s a natural habitat for the Eastern long-eared bat, a microbat that is just 5cm long but can eat hundreds of mosquitos every night! It’s sadly threatened at the moment but I know a few areas that we walk regularly where they’d be very welcome to make themselves at home and feast on their favourite food.
To find the start of the walk head to the back of the area where the Byron Bay markets are held, you can park in Somerset Street and walk just around the corner into Wordsworth Street. The Wetland reserve area is around 92 hectares but this was the only public access and walking track we found. (You can find the starting point marked on the map below).
5. Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse
We love the coastal walkway up to the Cape Byron lighthouse but you can also drive to the top. Parking at the top of the hill is quite limited especially if you’re visiting on a holiday or weekend. Byron Bay has pay to park pretty much everywhere now including up here but it hasn’t made it any less in demand.
The lighthouse was built in 1901 and is probably best known as the easternmost point of mainland Australia but it also has the most powerful light in Australia. Most importantly we think it’s one of Australia’s most beautiful lighthouses, especially against that spectacular blue sky. We’ve been lucky enough to always see it like that whatever time of year we visit.
6. Arakwal National Park and Tallows Beach
There are a variety of entrances to the National Park, we arrived via Ironbark Avenue and there’s plenty of parking down here. This is the stretch of sand and forest you’re looking down on when you face south from Cape Byron. The national park is co-managed by the NSW State Government and Arakwal Aboriginal community to preserve its importance to the indigenous community, native wildlife and migratory seabirds. It’s equally beautiful from down on the sand of Tallows beach which stretches 3 kilometres south. The National park comprises the beach, sand dunes, heath and forest backdrop. The only walking track we found in the park (other than the coastal walkway from the top) is along the beach but I would love to hear if anyone knows of others.
7. Whale watching
As the easternmost point in Australia, the humpback whales pass by close to shore as they undertake their annual migration to their northern breeding grounds on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland and home again to Antarctica.
Whale watching cruises are available from here in the season to see them up close but it’s also a great place to watch them breaching and spouting from the land. Your best viewing points are along the coastal walkway and on top of the cape near the lighthouse.
8. Spend some time out on the water
Whether your preference is surfing, kayaking, fishing or snorkelling you can do it here in Byron Bay. The sea kayaking tours are a great way for non-surfers to get out on the water for a chance to spot the resident dolphins.
Snorkelling right off the beach is possible around the rocks at Clarkes beach or grab your board and take on the internationally renowned surf breaks. If you’re new to the sport you can also take surf classes from the beach.
9. Visit The Farm
As you turn off the Pacific Highway towards Byron Bay you’ll find the Farm on your left. Fundamentally it’s an 80-acre working farm, it’s a modern take on a working co-operative where the individual businesses are united in their aims to grow, feed and educate.
Take a wander through to meet the farm animals either on your own or on the guided tour, stop for a meal or snack, pick up some produce and contemplate what you will do differently next week for a healthier lifestyle, to help the environment or to support the community.
We enjoyed a fabulous brunch here which heavily featured the fresh organic vegetables grown on-site, eggs from their free-range hens and the divine Byron Bay smoked bacon. We followed that up with a wander around and a very relaxing sit out in the macadamia and pecan tree orchard with our coffee until this little bandit, a miniature cow I believe, broke through the fence with the aid of a goat and went exploring on their own.
10. Markets and artisan produce
At the weekend you might head to a local market, there’s a different one each week of the month alternating between the local parks.
- Byron Bay is on the 1st Sunday of the month at Butler Street reserve (also the 3rd Sunday in December and January)
- Channon Market on the 2nd Sunday of the month at The Channon
- Mullumbimby Market on the 3rd Sunday of the month at Summers Park
- Bungalow Markets on the 4th Sunday of the month in the Showgrounds
You can find the full market list here.
When’s the best time to visit Byron Bay
Byron Bay enjoys a mild temperate climate. Our pick for the ideal time to visit would be the shoulder seasons of Spring, from September to November and Autumn from March until May. During these times of the year, you’ll usually enjoy comfortable temperatures and low rainfall but all seasons have their own appeal.
Our last trip down was a winter visit in late June and we had perfect weather, plenty warm enough for surfing or a dip in the sea, clear blue skies and being slightly less crowded is another benefit of the winter season.
Where to stay in Byron Bay
Byron offers a range of accommodation options for all tastes and budgets.
To spoil yourself a little it would be hard to beat Crystalbrook Byron, this property is stunning and gets excellent reviews. It’s set within 45 acres of sub-tropical rainforest with a pool and pool bar, restaurant and health spa on site
Another interesting option is Azabu boutique accommodation. It’s set up on the hill amongst the rainforest and tropical gardens. The property is stunning and always rates excellent reviews. It encompasses all that’s great about Byron with the serenity of its apparently isolated location yet only a 5-minute drive from the heart of town and main beach.
If you’re looking for a more affordable or family-focused option but still very clean, modern and with plenty of space to relax we’ve recently stayed in the overwater cabins at the Discovery Park Byron Bay.
The cabins are fitted out really well for privacy with a patio overlooking the lake. They have all you need to self-cater your stay or just provide that extra space for relaxation.
The park also offers a range of standard cabins, glamping tents, caravan and tent sites. For family travel, it has all the options you could want from swimming pools and a games room to a huge bouncing mat and water play park for the kids. There’s also an excellent cafe right outside the gate.
Where to eat in Byron Bay
Byron Bay is proudly casual, it’s not the place to find rows of high-end restaurants. That said, we did find some great cafes and restaurants many serving delicious organic and local produce.
- Up at The Farm just after the turnoff from the highway, you’ll find Three Blue Ducks, it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and our meal was delicious. The produce couldn’t be fresher, the eggs, herbs and salad were all carried in straight from the farm and they make top-notch coffee and chai.
- In the middle of town just off Main Beach, we found Miss Margarita, a Mexican extravaganza, the decor is absolutely over-the-top fun, the atmosphere has a ton of energy and the food is delicious. We got underway with the appetizer taster plate and loved everything on it, especially those jalapeno poppers. The rest of the menu is made up of everything you’d expect and a good selection of unique mex-fusion creations with a good spice and heat balance.
- In keeping with the 60’s vibe of the town, we also had to try out the Main Street Burger bar. Their selection of REAL burgers, boutique local brews and milkshakes make this spot in the midst of town super popular. Again they differentiate themselves with the use of quality local ingredients and by supporting some excellent local brewers.
- After your walk along Main Beach, a stop at the Beach Byron Bay cafe is a must. This is a long-time favourite of ours and one we’ll continue to return to. The food is good but the position and view from out on the deck just can’t be beaten.
- Folk Byron Bay resonates with the fringe vibe of being organic, ethical and vegan but it’s also just a great, friendly, quality cafe. The spicy chilli hot chocolate is a great winter warmer and their version of Buddha Bowls is a work of art in addition to being fresh and creative taste combos.
Planning your trip to Byron Bay
One of the great things about Byron is that being a headland you are almost surrounded by the sea all the way around and everything is quite compact and convenient. I’ve included the locations mentioned above on this Google Map for convenience. You should be able to save it down to your phone and use it offline if you prefer.
If you have any questions or you can suggest any of your fave spots that we’ve missed for other readers, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.