Byron Bay has had a fascinating journey over the decades. From former whaling town to hippie haven and now playground of the rich and famous, it’s a destination that really does offer something for everyone. And many of its best aspects fly under the radar.
As a long-time resident of this beautiful region, I’m yet to grow tired of it.
While it’s true much has changed in the last few decades, plenty has remained constant too: the natural beauty, relaxed pace, and its multicultural makeup and style, to name a few.
Whether you want to check into the hottest hotels or feast from dawn till long after dusk, join the throngs for a walk to the lighthouse, enjoy live music, or perhaps try your hand at making your own bottle of bespoke gin, there’s so much to see, do, touch and taste.
With that in mind, this is where to eat, stay and play – in style.
Where to eat
Perfect bites in the heart of town
While it can feel like Byron’s restaurant scene changes with the tides, there are plenty of venues that have stood the test of time: Twisted Sista cafe, the up-market Fishheads seafood restaurant alongside Main Beach, and the classic Byron Fresh Cafe all come to mind.
Other notable standouts are Balcony Bar & Oyster Co – offering a seafood-rich menu, inventive cocktails and a perfect people watching vantage from its namesake balcony – and Miss Margarita Mexican cantina, where there’s rarely a spare table.
There’s also Bang Bang, a dimly lit hangout plucked from the balmy streets of Bangkok, with its highly-shareable Asian fusion menu featuring crowd favourites such as whole fried snapper, crispy master stock duck, and a dry red barramundi curry.
Just a short stroll away is Trattoria Basilico, spinning what are arguably the best wood-fired pizzas in Byron Bay. The pastas are exceptional too, in particular the ragu linguine.
Above all though, it’s the personality-filled service which elevates it.
If you’re on the lookout for vegan or vegetarian fare, No Bones is the one for you. Don’t be fooled by its menu names – it may mention chicken or calamari in the title, but the cuisine that comes out is all plant based.
Destination restaurants worth driving for
Just a few minutes out of town will bring you to The Farm, an 80-acre working property which has captivated public attention since its 2015 opening thanks to its resident animals, relaxed pace and popular dining venues: Bread Social Bakery and Three Blue Ducks.
Open for all-day dining, the Ducks’ ethos is about good fun with honest food, with many ingredients sustainably sourced from local farmers. Surrounded by gardens, the terrace and deck dining areas are as divine as the well-rounded menus.
If you fancy venturing further afield, Frida’s Field in Nashua is a must – Friday, Saturday and Sunday long lunches among its 120-acre farm guaranteed to satisfy the most ardent of foodies.
Where to stay
There’s no shortage of Byron Bay luxury accommodation. Rather than choose a generic holiday rental, there’s a heady mix of hotels, apartments and resorts which deliver a premium experience worth splashing out on.
Crystalbrook Byron is one of the best – it put the town on the map when it first opened as Byron at Byron.
That legacy lives on with revitalised rooms, an infinity edge pool and restorative day spa, but it now comes with a dose of ‘responsible luxury’ to boot, thanks to the ethos of its parent group Crystalbrook Collection.
Under the beam of the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Raes on Wategos offers sandy feet indulgence in a location that’s second to none.
Stepping inside is almost like taking an international holiday, with the curvaceous Moroccan-inspired arch doorways and Mediterranean-influenced menu at Raes Dining creating the feeling of an overseas jaunt, no passport required.
Just a few minutes drive out of town is the sprawling yet surprisingly intimate Elements of Byron, which backs directly onto Belongil Beach. Each of its villas features a warm and vibrant colour palette, which echoes its location near the dunes, heathland or lagoon.
If self-contained apartment living is more your style, Beach Suites Apartments – opposite the Byron Bay Surf Club – is a fantastic option, as are the Balinese-inspired Villas of Byron, each a walled oasis with lush subtropical gardens and private lap pools.
Where to play
Embrace the natural beauty
A daily ritual for many locals is the Byron lighthouse walk, a gorgeous loop which weaves along the sands of Clarkes Beach, skirts the surf break at The Pass, crosses the headland at Wategos and eventually leads up to the lighthouse atop Cape Byron – Australia’s most easterly point.
After you breathe in the ocean views, the path meanders down through coastal rainforest to the start of the track.
A quick coffee hit at Bayleaf Cafe later, and it’s time to explore further afield, perhaps visiting the nearby towns of Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby, or ticking off some of the local waterfalls such as Minyon and Killen Falls.
Treat your mind, body and soul
Byron and its surrounds have been a centre of natural and alternative remedies since the 1970s, when the Aquarius movement brought hippies to the area in droves. While ‘true hippies’ aren’t as ubiquitous as they used to be, their legacy of spirituality and healing lives on.
When you need some pampering or your chakra realigned, there are some excellent day spas including Comma in the Byron Arts & Industry Estate, Buddha Gardens Day Spa near the old Byron Brewery, and Kiva Spa and Mukti Beauty Rooms out in Mullumbimby.
If you want to take things up a notch, there are also fantastic day spas at Crystalbrook Byron and Elements of Byron Resort, as well as the sensational Raes on Wategos.
Taste your way through the local breweries and distilleries
The last 10 years or so have seen a huge influx of distillers and brewers take residence, both near Byron town centre and in the surrounding hills and valleys of the hinterland.
The tasting room at Stone & Wood Brewing Co in the Industrial Estate should be your first port of call, allowing you to taste some of their more unique small-batch brews made onsite, together with their classic Byron Pale Ale and Cloudcatcher.
Over in Mullumbimby, Wandana Brewing Co is an adored local hangout with a rotating roster of food trucks, great beats and better brews.
Tasting flights are the best way to sample the amber nectar, which is all produced onsite. Make sure you ask about the music played to aid the fermentation of each beer.
If spirits are more your style, swing by Lord Byron Distillery to pick up a bottle of rum, pure cane vodka or limoncello, or try a hand at making your own bespoke gin.
After that, the Cape Byron Distillery at nearby St Helena is a must-visit.
Makers of Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin – and soon to release their first single malt whisky – Cape Byron is perched on a lush hillside 10-15 minutes out of town. A tour of their distillery and regenerated rainforest is an ideal way to gain greater appreciation for the passion that goes into every bottle.
Really though, there’s no right or wrong way to see Byron. It’s about exploring, relaxing, and making it up as you go.
As the famous entrance sign to the town says: ‘Cheer up, slow down, chill out’.