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A guide to the top 10 things to do in Byron Bay

Little Wategos Bay

The top things to do in Byron Bay that should be on your list! From the 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 1960’s.  It’s 9 stunning beaches offer some of the countrys 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.

Things to do in Byron Bay

 1.  The Cape Byron Walking Track

Byron Bay Coastal Walkway
Byron Bay Coastal Walkway

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 eastern most point of mainland Australia.  The loop track is 3.7 km and allowing 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.

Byron Bay Coastal Walkway

Keep your eyes open as you walk along for some of the wildlife residents along 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:

Little Watego Bay

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 accommodation 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 pandanas 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 which makes it less attractive to families but on a good day you can stake out your spot under the shade of a pandanas 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 a 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 carpark 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 fisherman.

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 eastern most 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 for 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 accommodation 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 it’s own organic mosquito control solution in place too.  It’s a natural habitat for the Eastern long-earred 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).

Cumbebin Swamp, Byron Bay
Cumbebin Swamp, Byron Bay

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 visitng 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 eastern most point of mainland Australia but it also has the most powerful light in Australia.  Most importantly we think it’s one of Australias most beautiful lighthouses especially against that spectacular blue sky.  We’ve been lucky enough to always see it like that what ever time of year we visit.

Byron Bay lighthouse

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 it’s 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.

Arakwal National Park

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 land, especially along the coastal walkway and up on the cape.

Tangalooma whale watching off Morton Island

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, or you can head out snorkelling with the sea turtles, rays and corals at Julian Rocks or take a Byron Bay dive course and see the colours and incredible sea life in the depths.

Snorkeling 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.

During the summer season and school holidays many of the beaches are patrolled for safe swimming between the flags.

Things to do in Byron Bay - Surfing

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 minature cow I believe, broke through the fence with the aid of a goat and went exploring on their own.

Minature cow at The Farm

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 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

Bangalow Markets

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 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 skys 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 Elements of Byron, this property is stunning and always rates excellent reviews.  There’s a health spa onsite, gorgeous lagoon swimming pool, beach frontage with a private beach lounge and that fire pit for relaxing around in the evening sells it for me.  There are also mulitple onsite dining options if you prefer not to head into town.

Byron Bay Accommodation

If you’re looking for a more affordable option but still 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 affers 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 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 a 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 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 are 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 there is 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 a can add any fave spots that we’ve missed for other readers, or our next trip, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

11 Comments

  • I just went horse riding at the Ranch at Byron Bay. It is conveniently close to town.
    We went through a really cool forest and the horses were beautiful.
    I haven’t been riding for a long time but the horses were really gentle. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Byron Bay!

    • Thanks for the tip Tai, we plan to get back to Byron Bay later this year so will look it up, it’s been a few years since I’ve ridden a horse too but would love to again in the right location.

  • Amazing as well as informative post.Love reading your blog.I have been to Byron bay last year but unable to visit many of places because of less days.But this time i would definitely visit here and explore it .Thanks for the guide and for the post.Keep sharing.

  • Great guide to the area! I’ve got a “must-do” to add…

    Byron Stand Up Paddle offers a fantastic river tour exploring a different side of the Byron region. They include an introductory lesson on land, then practise on the water, and with these tips stand up paddling is a lot easier than expected. The area they take you is so peaceful and feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere at times. They think of everything and make it a very memorable experience. There’s free pick up, free photos taken of the adventure and a delicious morning tea with homemade goodies when you get back. A must do in Byron!

  • Thanks for the great tips on Byron bay guys!
    My husband desperately wants to go but flights from Adelaide are a bit of a pain to get there! However Byron Bay is on our “to do” list for next year!

    • It really does depend what you want and like to do. Summer, especially the school holidays is extremely busy but there are a lot of festivals and events during the summer and you’ll usually be paying top prices for accommodation. Our last trip was early winter and we had gorgeous blue sky, it’s not too hot for long walks but was still warm enough for a dip in the sea. My favourite time to usually visit is spring and autumn, it’s not as busy as the peak but still great beach weather and after all Byron is all about the beach!

      • Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m planning to go on my holiday in June. Hope the weather will be not too cold then.

        Cheers,
        Toby

  • Thanks for sharing! I’m heading to Byron Bay for the first time in a few days and I can’t wait to check these places out!

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