A guide to Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay is a subtropical paradise in Northern New South Wales, Australia. It’s where the jungle meets the beautiful waves of the Pacific Ocean, where you can spend all day surfing, playing an instrument, admiring nature or soaking up the alternative vibe of the town, and nights dining and drinking at the local bars and restaurants, enjoying the nightly drum circle at the main beach or maybe even dancing the night away at one of the town’s famous beach parties…

Byron Bay has a reputation for being a hippy’s recluse, and it is true to this stereotype in the best possible way. As you walk down the main street, you’ll feel a strong sense of love and inclusiveness as people of all nationalities and cultures metaphorically embrace one another. Byron Bay is one of those places that makes you beam as soon as you arrive, and is incredibly difficult to pull yourself away from; it’s easy to see how, for a lot of people, days become weeks and weeks become months in the town, and soon they find themselves looking for a job in Byron Bay and settling down there… There’s definitely nowhere on earth quite like Byron Bay.

The Best things to do in Byron Bay
There’s loads of unique things to do in Byron Bay where you can enjoy the town for the wonderful place it is. Probably the most popular attraction is the lighthouse, which sits a four-kilometre walk from the town. Head to the lighthouse to watch spectacular afterglows as the sun sets, or witness it proudly ascending over the ocean at sunrise. The drum circle at main beach happens every night when the weather is dry and still and draws in crowds from all over Northern New South Wales. The Arts Factory Hostel hosts a weekly talent show, giving the chance to see world-class acts perform in front of a jungle backdrop. Speaking of the jungle, be sure to check out the tree sanctuary set behind Johnson Street – a wonderful area of preserved rainforest. And don’t miss the Byron markets, where you can buy delicious food and drink and admire clothes, jewellery and accessories.

Of course, you can’t visit Byron Bay without spending some time relaxing on one of the many beaches; each has its own name and distinctive feature to go with it. The Wreck has a shipwreck off shore, The Pass is the ideal spot to watch out for whales and dolphins and the nearly deserted Tallows offers white sands and clear waters. All of these beaches can be joined individually, or can be joined in a walk around the coastline. And Byron’s a great destination for surfing, snorkelling or kayaking with dolphins; you couldn’t ignore the wonderful blue waters of this amazing coastline while you’re in town, could you?

Where to eat and drink in Byron Bay
There’s a range of great restaurants and bars in Byron Bay. If you fancy Indian food, head to Bombay to Byron, for Thai check out Thai Lucy or for Chinese, how about Orient Express. With three Mexican restaurants (OzyMex, Miss Margarita and Guazman y Gomez), loads of spots to grab a pizza and a few fine dining restaurants as well, you certainly won’t be hungry in Byron Bay.

Some great spots to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset are Balcony Bar and the Beach Hotel. The later turns into a club in the evening, with a popular Reggae Night on Mondays. Other great spots for a boogie in Byron are The Railway Bar, where there’s often live music, and The Northern.

Where to stay in Byron Bay
I spent five months living in a tent at The Arts Factory Hostel and honestly loved every  minute of it. The hostel also has dorm and private rooms and is a fantastic place to stay. It is on the edge of the jungle, a 15 minute walk away from town and is a world within itself, with didgeridoo lessons, drumming workshops and yoga classes weekly. Take a bushtucker walk to learn about the local fauna and flora, or just kick back and relax around the pool. The Arts Factory has a vibe unlike anywhere else I’ve ever experienced and it was an amazing part of my Byron Bay experience.

Other popular, more centrally located hostels are Aquarius and Backpackers Inn on the Beach. Or if a hotel is more your scene, check out Waves Byron Bay or Atlantic Byron Bay, both which have great reviews.

Day Trips from Byron Bay
If you thought Byron Bay was a hippy paradise, wait until you get to Nimbin. Nimbin is a small village in the hinterland with a distinct anti-establishment vibe. There’s lots of waterfalls around the area, Minyon Falls being perhaps the most popular. Springbrook National Park is a beautiful region of South Queensland that is definitely worth a day’s exploration and the Crystal Castle is near Byron Bay and home to some of the most beautiful and largest crystals in the world.

How to get to Byron Bay
Byron Bay is located on the Pacific Highway, about 770 kilometres north of Sydney and 165 kilometres south of Brisbane. It’s an easy, albeit fairly boring, drive from them both. If you don’t have a vehicle, trains run from Sydney and Brisbane to Casino, where you can take a bus transfer to Byron Bay. Or fly from any of Australia’s major cities to the Gold Coast or Byron/ Ballina airport and take a transfer to the town itself.

Guest author: Claire Martin from the travel blog Claire’s Footsteps.
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