Photography: Dominic Loneragan // Words: Meghan Loneragan
Byron is a beautifully curious mix. On one side it’s the chilled-out home to bongo-playing Flower Children, on the other, a foodie and fashion hub that gives big-city sophisticates a serious run for their money.
In between you’ve got wide open farmland that thrives thanks to the nutrient-rich volcanic soil and to top it off, there are long stretches of soft sand with whales regularly playing just off shore.
In another word, it’s paradise.
But whether it’s your first time or your 50th, there are few things that must be done to top off the perfect Byron break. Here are a few of our favourites…
1. Light It Up
Cape Byron is officially Australia’s most easterly point and the iconic lighthouse that adorns the 94 metre high cliffs acts as the town’s unofficial mascot (and has been doing so since 1901). Rain or shine, a trip to Byron isn’t complete without watching at least 1 sunrise from the foot of this stark white monolith. Start the walk on Lawson Street towards the lighthouse, this becomes Lighthouse Road. Once you reach Captain Cook car park you’ll spy Lee Lane. Take that and you’ll enter a bushy walking track. From here the path is clearly marked, taking you past some of the most breathtaking ocean views.
Don’t forget a bottle of water and sunscreen, there are sections that some people might find challenging but once you reach the top it’s all worth it. Also bring your smartphone because, let’s be honest, it didn’t really happen unless you’ve shared it on Instagram.
2. Rainforest Walk
Feeling ambitious? The skyscraper Strangler Figs and giant prehistoric-looking palms of the Minyon Falls nature walk are just a 43 minute drive from the main part of town. Set aside 5 hours and relish in the cooler temps beneath the green canopies.
Keen for a more low-key look at the local flora and fauna? Visit the Byron At Byron Resort in Suffolk Park, just a 5 minute drive from Main Beach. Not only is this a stunning place to stop for lunch or an early dinner as the sun sets, the resort has an impeccably managed full rainforest, complete with boardwalk. There are countless species of birds, amphibians and marsupials that call this 45 acre oasis home, all you need to do is keep an eye out.
3. Love Local
Byron residents take great pride in their local heroes and the food scene is no exception. Lately the emphasis has been firmly on ultra-ultra-fresh fare, sourcing ingredients only directly from regional farms. The Farm and Three Blue Ducks is one the most ambitious venues, actively growing their meat and vegetables on a giant property (totally free for guests to explore). Harvest Cafe in Newrybar is another enterprise that celebrates the wonder of permaculture, adding bakery to the offering as well.
For dessert? In The Pink gelati on busy Jonson Street is a much-beloved favourite for sweet-toothed residents. All made on location and sans any powder mixes, this place is the real deal. Expect a little bit of a line up (we think anticipation makes it taste even better).
4. Dive In
Main Beach is an old faithful and absolutely one patch of surf to dive into while in town. However, if you really want to get that ‘locals only’ feeling then make sure you take a trip further down to The Pass, which is a favourite for learner surfers and families thanks to its lagoon-type feel. The Pass Cafe, elevated just up the hill a little makes for an excellent place to start the day with a hearty breakfast, or even finish a surfing sesh with a beer on the balcony.
But you know you’re a true blue Byron local when you choose to only swim at Tallow Beach. Surfers love it for it’s more adventurous waves, often jostling for space between the friendly dolphins that regularly come near shore to play and fish.
If you feel like getting a proper guided tour (and the chance to get up close and personal with the dolphins) then book a guided tour with Go Sea Kayak. Get a little work out as well as a little education on the birds and marine life that call this beautiful part of the world home.
5. Hide in the Hinterland
The beauty of Byron doesn’t just start and finish at the beach, there’s actually a number of charming rural towns within the shire that offer a rustic escape once you tire of the sea salt (if that’s possible).
Bangalow (only 20 minutes from Main Beach) is one of the most popular, boasting a number of highly regarded restaurants and cafes, as well as quirky designer boutiques and homewares stores.The Italian Diner, with it’s grand poster of Sophia Loren at her most seductive and mouthwatering authentic pasta is an absolute must do. Across the road you’ll find Our Corner Store, the best place to pick up all the essentials to have you looking like a hip local (hats, luxury leather goods with that elegantly worn feel, even designer furnishings).
About 25 minutes from Main Beach you’ll find Federal. A sleepy hamlet and unsung hero of the hinterland towns but we think that the small town secrecy might be what makes it so special. Here, next to a very ramshackle pub you’ll find Doma Cafe, without a doubt one of the most curious sushi restaurants in the shire. It’s also the only restaurant in town but people travel from far and wide for Takayuki and Takashi’s crunchy tempura crumbs.
Also Newrybar is another miniature village that’s gaining traction lately. Harvest is obviously a major draw but the addition of Newrybar Merchants (selling a collection creative artisan products from talented locals) across the road adds yet another reason to come a little early for your lunch or dinner.