Lazy Days in Byron Bay

28 July 2010

Discover the village vibe and stunning beaches of the North Coast of NSW.

A woman strums her acoustic guitar on the beach while grown men form elaborate sandcastles. International and Aussie tourists swarm around as palm trees and sarongs dance in the breeze. People dine under fairy lights enjoying the warm weather. It’s a typical Byron Bay day. Even in autumn it feels like the peak of summer.


Byron has a population of about 9,000 but swells with visitors during the warmer months. Hippies, backpackers, surfers, celebrities, millionaires and RVers share in the balmy weather and long beaches. Mansions are tucked away amongst lush hinterland, while beach shacks fetch a fancy penny. Holiday accommodation ranges from holiday parks, five-star resorts and backpacker hostels. Clarkes Beach Holiday Park boasts direct access to the beach and is nestled between Cape Byron Lighthouse and the town centre, surrounded by bushland and framed by lush palms.


Before transforming into an upmarket holiday destination, Byron was once considered a poor working town and whaling station. A meatworks and the slaughter of whales didn’t do much for the ambience of the area. Once the industries closed, surfers flocked for the surf breaks and Bryon gained a reputation as an ‘alternative’ town. Visitors now peer from the coast or board charter boats to whale-watch during migration season.


Some may prefer Byron Bay before it became a thriving tourist hotspot, but for others the mix of sophistication and bohemian spells a buzzing holiday experience, and no-one can deny this place pulsates with energy.


The wide streets never appear empty, as folk dart in and out of stores smelling of incense, or browse the galleries selling Aboriginal art. Surfboards are carried snug under arms and locals zip around on bikes. The town is full of German, English and American accents. Some sip chai tea lattés while watching the passing parade from a trendy café, while others make a beeline straight for Byron’s famous beaches.


Campervans and motorhomes line the beach car park of Main Beach, the busier beach of the pack, as bronzed and sunburnt tourists sun themselves on the soft sand. The other pretty beaches are Belongil, Clarkes Beach, Wategos and Tallow Beach. Belongil Beach continues on from Main Beach and is home to the shipwreck Wollongar, which sank when caught in a cyclone. You should be able to spot it poking out of the water.


This stretch of the coast is dog friendly up to Manfred Street. Walk further north, and you may get a rude surprise as naked people flap around in the waves in this unofficial nudist section. Clarkes Beach continues on from Main Beach from the east and leads onto The Pass, popular with surfers.


A staircase leads up to Fishermans Lookout (otherwise known as Surfers Lookout) offering expansive views over the water. A tourist at the lookout spots a black pointy shape and yells “shark!” while frantically waving to the paddling surfer below. As an anxious group watch on, the menacing form is identified as a pair of manta rays gliding in the water.


An overly excited gathering of seagulls diverts attention back to the shore. Brilliant blue and purple fish begin beaching themselves in the sand. The eager seagulls swoop overhead as tourists wave the gulls away and toss the fish back into the water. Despite the enthusiastic helpers, not all make it back out and a few seagulls score an easy meal after all.


If you prefer your fish cooked up in a frypan, then my recommendation for truly tasty fish ’n’ chips is Fish Mongers in Bay Lane, up near Main Beach. Fishmonger’s sophisticated décor is a far cry from your local greasy fish and chip joint. Their fresh gourmet seafood has been mentioned and praised in many good food guides over the years. Their hand-cut chips even scored a mention in the London Times! Served in a plain cardboard box with plastic cutlery, the fish ’n’ chips can be enjoyed in Mongers or taken to the beach to be eyed-off by the seagulls.


There’s a string of trendy restaurants in Byron with cuisine from all over, many receiving mentions in good food guides. Whatever your budget, you can pick up a delicious feed, though you won’t see the golden arches here – this is strictly a McDonald’s free zone.


Enjoy the natural beauty of the region along Cape Byron Headland Reserve and don’t miss Cape Byron Lighthouse, the most easterly lighthouse in Australia. Towing of caravans up to the lighthouse is not permitted. You can leave your tow car and walk up the hill to the lighthouse and around the headland, or pay the $7 fee to park your car at the top. The white and blue lighthouse was completed in 1901. Lighthouse tours are conducted Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Saturdays and Sundays during school holidays.


At the crack of dawn, many joggers puff up Lighthouse Road to be rewarded with a stunning sunrise over the water and a bird’s eye view of Cosy Corner Beach. You may spot hang-gliders soaring overhead as they run off the launch pad nearby.


Cape Byron is a great vantage spot to view humpback whales as they migrate past from May to October. The cliff-top walk from the lighthouse to the most easterly point and along Cape Byron Headland is extremely picturesque. Tourists pose by the sign proclaiming the most easterly point on the mainland, while down on the rocks fisherman sit patiently trying their luck as waves crash below.

From the lighthouse you can walk down to the tiny beach, Little Wategos.


Get wrapped up in the Byron culture and try surfing, indulge at a day spa, buy some hemp clothing, have your palm read or hit the markets. Byron Bay craft-and-produce markets are held on the first Sunday of the month, while the Byron Farmers Markets are on every Thursday. If you miss these markets, then head to the nearby village of Bangalow.


The quaint heritage village of Bangalow, only 10 minutes from Byron, really springs to life on market day. Held on the fourth Sunday of every month, the normally quiet town soon fills up with vehicles and tourist busses. The bazaar sells everything from tie-dye and hemp clothing, steel animal-shaped mailboxes, wind chimes, pottery, jewellery, plants, handmade soaps, and wooden crafts. Every Saturday morning Bangalow hosts a Farmers Market boasting fresh produce grown in the Northern Rivers region.


Bangalow’s main street is lined with charming veranda-clad, federation-style buildings. There’s a cluster of antique stores, yoga studios, massage parlours, home ware stores and chic cafes. Rolling hills and charming houses frame the pretty township. There’s the Heritage Museum to explore and Byron Creek for the kiddies to cool off in.


For some spectacular water works, only about 30km away tourers can experience Minyon Falls via a narrow dirt road. Located in Nightcap National Park, the 100m waterfall is a stunning sight. Minyon Falls Lookout and Minyon Grassy Area make for a magical picnic spot.


Other notable towns to visit around Byron Bay include Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads, Lismore, Lennox Heads and Ballina. Discover Byron Bay, Bangalow, and all of the gems on the North Coast of NSW.




Approximately 160km from Brisbane. Take the Pacific Mwy south with a slight right onto the Tugan Bypass, then continue on the Pacific Hwy before taking Ewingsdale Rd into Byron Bay.



Clarkes Beach Holiday Park

Off Lighthouse Rd Byron Bay, NSW 2481

Ph: (02) 6685 6496




Cape Byron Lighthouse tours

Tel: (02) 6685 5955


Try the gourmet fish ’n’ chips at Fish Mongers

Bay Lane, Byron Bay

Tel: (02) 6680 8080

Prices from $9–$17


Play a round at Byron Bay Golf Club

Broken Head Rd, Byron Bay

Tel: (02) 6685 6977




Picnic at Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park Tables, BBQs and non-flush toilets are located here


Walk around Cape Byron Headland Reserve (maybe even spot whales!)




Bangalow Farmers Markets

Every Saturday 8–11am

Car park behind the Bangalow Hotel


Byron Bay Farmers Markets

Every Thursday 8–11am

Butler St Reserve, Byron Bay


Byron Bay Market

1st Sunday of each month

Butler St Reserve


Bangalow Market

Bangalow Showground

4th Sunday of the month (Market parking $2)

By Kylie Dapiran