Top 10 Things to Do in Byron Bay and Surrounds
Tucked away in the northeastern corner of New South Wales not too far from the Queensland border, Byron Bay is a popular beachside town that attracts a great amount of travelers each year. Despite its growing popularity and influx of tourists, Byron Bay has never lost its small town laid-back atmosphere.
Known as “Cavvanbah” by the local Arakwal people, Byron Bay and Cape Byron were named after Naval officer John Byron by Captain James Cook who arrived in the area in 1770. In the first half of the 20th century, Byron Bay quickly developed itself as a busy industrial port town, before it slowly turned into a holiday destination and surfing hot spot from the 1960’s.
Top 10 Attractions in and Around Byron Bay
There is so much more to Byron Bay than just beaches and cafes. With so many natural attractions and charming towns in the surrounding area, Byron Bay is the perfect place for a short holiday break. Long-stretched beaches, a great variety of cafes and restaurants, spectacular coastal trails, stunning bushwalks and pretty waterfalls in the hinterland, Byron Bay has something to do for everyone.
The following list of top things to do in Byron Bay and surrounds will keep you busy for at least one whole week!
1. Hike to the Base of Minyon Falls
Located just moments away from Byron Bay in Nightcap National Park, Minyon Falls is a stunning plunge waterfall that drops more than 100 metres into a deep gorge. A beautiful 7.5km walking track through subtropical rainforest brings you to a magical swimming hole right under the waterfall. Don’t forget to bring your swimmers on a warm day because taking a dip there is a quite a unique experience.
There are also two lookout points from where you can have a closer look at this beautiful waterfall and its surroundings. The main lookout point, right at the top of the waterfall at the Minyon Falls picnic area, offers the best views.
2. Spend a Day Beach Hopping
There is definitely no shortage of beaches in and around Byron Bay. The Main Beach, patrolled by surf lifesavers, is a safe north-facing stretch of sand with a popular surfing break and only a short stroll to cafes across the road. The Main Beach extends to the east flowing into Clarkes Beach.
Further east is Wategos Beach, a sheltered family-friendly stretch of sand with excellent BBQ and toilet facilities. Next door is Little Wategos Beach, Australia’s easternmost beach, accessible via the Lighthouse walking track.
Located south of Cape Byron in Arakwal National Park, Tallows Beach is a very long stretch of sand that connects with Broken Head further south. The northern tip of this beach, also known as the Cosy Corner, is popular with surfers with surf breaks protected from the northerly winds. Between Broken Head and Lennox Head is Seven Mile Beach, a wide and relatively quiet ocean beach.
Also worth mentioning is Belongil Beach, located just west of the Byron Bay town centre. Great for dogs and families, Belongil is a much quieter alternative to Byron Bay’s main beach.
In 1921, a 2,000 ton passenger steamship named Wollongbar stranded in the surf right in front of Belongil Beach. The wreck is still visible and is now also a popular snorkelling spot.
3. Do the Mount Warning Summit Trail
Known as Wollumbin by the people of Bundjalung, Mount Warning is a characteristic and recognisable mountain in Wollumbin National Park in the Byron Bay Hinterland. Each year, thousands of hiking enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to the top of the mountain.
The Mount Warning summit trail is a challenging 9km bushwalk that zigzags its way to the top through subtropical and temperate rainforest. The panoramic 360 degree views of the the ocean, the Gold Coast and the Byron Bay Hinterland are absolutely amazing and well worth the effort required to complete the summit trail.
4. Walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse
Perhaps the most iconic landmark in the Byron Bay Shire is that pretty lighthouse, standing tall on the tip of Cape Byron. You can drive there, but the best way to make your way up the hill and explore the natural beauty of this area is by following the Byron Bay Lighthouse walking track.
This easy 4km return coastal trail starts at the main beach and follows the coastline past Byron Bay’s beaches and clifftop lookouts offering panoramic ocean views. The track also passes the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, the perfect place to spot dolphins and whales.
Once you reach the lighthouse, you can have a peak inside and learn more about its history. The cafe next door serves great cakes and coffee. The return trip offers amazing views of Tallows Beach before heading back into Byron Bay through the rainforest.
5. Visit the Local Shops and Markets
It’s often said that the best way to get to know a local culture is by visiting markets. Luckily, the Byron region has lots of produce and craft markets on almost every day, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the colorful and unique culture and atmosphere of Byron Bay and surrounds.
The Byron Bay Community Markets are held each Sunday at the Butler Street Reserve, offering a a great variety of handcrafted wares, locally-grown produce and different types of artworks. The Byron Bay Farmers Market, held every Thursday, is another popular local market supporting local producers that offer fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables.
6. Dine and Drink the Night Away
With its ever increasing appeal to travelers from all over the world, it’s no surprise that Byron Bay has a great variety of cafes, pubs and bars spread across town. Byron Bay has long attempted to keep the cheap fast-food chains out (there is no McDonalds to be found), but is still able to offer decent food at affordable prices.
In addition, Byron Bay is also home to some great live music spots and nightclubs. And as Byron Bay is such a small town, everything is within walking distance making it easy to just stroll around and find your favorite place for a bite and a drink.
Popular restaurants are the Beach Cafe, the Balcony, Targa and the Roadhouse which is a bit further south out of town but worth a visit. The best place for live music and great pub food is the Rails, with a relaxed and somewhat quirky atmosphere.
7. Visit Nimbin and Mullumbimby
A holiday break in Byron Bay is not complete without a visit to Nimbin and Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay Hinterland. Nimbin is a sleepy little town 60km west of Byron Bay that looks like it’s still stuck in the 1970’s. After the collapse of the dairy industry in the area in the 1960’s, Nimbin slowly turned into a haven for Australia’s counterculture movement, triggered by the famous Aquarius Festival held in Nimbin in 1973.
Since then, Nimbin has attracted writers, artists, musicians, environmentalists and permaculture enthusiasts to settle in the area. And yes, cannabis is still openly consumed in Nimbin.
An easy 20min drive north-west from Byron Bay, at the foot of Mount Chincogan, is Mullumbimby, also known as the biggest little town in Australia. The friendly locals like to refer to their hometown as Mullum. Visiting Mullumbimby is like taking a step back in time, most likely what Byron Bay used to be like before tourism took over.
Mullumbimby is full of character with a pleasantly alternative atmosphere. The best way to appreciate the biggest little town in Australia is to simply wander around and discover the many shops, galleries, cafes, eateries and other little treasures.
8. Visit Point Danger at the border with Queensland
Located at Tweed Heads and Coolangatta on the southern end of the Gold Coast, Point Danger is a headland that marks the border between New South Wales and Queensland.
Centrally located on the border line, right next to the Captain Cook Memorial, is a huge eye-catching concrete tower that is in fact a working lighthouse. The lighthouse and memorial were erected in 1970 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the east coast of Australia. Captain Cook named the area Point Danger when he first sighted it in 1770.
Named after AHS Centaur, sank by a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943, the Centaur Remembrance Walk along the coast commemorates ships lost to Japanese and German action during World War II. Memorial plaques are positioned along the walk to honour those lost at sea.
9. Go Surfing, Snorkeling or Scuba diving
With so many beaches right at your doorstep, it’s no surprise that the Byron Bay area is perfect for sea based activities such as surfing, snorkeling and also scuba diving. Popular Surfing spots can be found at the Main Beach, the Pass, Wategos Beach and the Cosy Corner at Tallows Beach.
Julian Rocks is a famous spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Several operators organise day tours to there and other popular locations.
Other sea based action you can try out in Byron Bay are stand-up paddling, kayaking, eco cruises and whale watching.
10. Visit the Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens
Discover Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens, the jewel of the Byron Bay Hinterland. It’s a well hidden, magical place with giant crystals, sacred statues, stunning gardens in rainforest settings, unique jewellery and fresh food.
The complex is also home to the Kalachakra World Peace Stupa, an 8m high sacred Buddhist shrine. Blessed by the Dalai Lama, this vibrant structure is the first Kalachakra Stupa in the Southern Hemisphere and only the seventh to be built in the world.