We had our best weekend so far in Byron Bay. It was going to take a lot to top the mangrove-kayaking, but Byron Bay was spectacular. October is pretty much the perfect time of year for all sorts of active, fun things as well. It’s no longer winter, so the water is warm enough for kayaking and playing. The dolphins and especially the whales are migrating through until November or so. And while it’s getting to be fairy hot during midday, it’s not yet suffocating. We’re already 100% sure that we’ll return to Byron Bay, and I’m not sure that super hot weather will stop us in the December/January time frame.
A Fun Vibe
We didn’t do a great job of planning – Byron is known for it’s surfing and surf schools, but we didn’t book any lessons or rentals. They’re also famous for kayaking with dolphins, stand up paddleboarding, whale watching rides, and other active ocean attractions – another list of things that we could have researched and/or reserved in advance. (Not that advance bookings are required for all of them.) They’re known for being a progressive, sort of hippie town; not only are there a huge number of high quality beaches, a sizable minority of them are clothing-optional. If you’re not into that, I suggest you google the beach you’re interested in especially – the first description we read of Kings Beach sounded good to us. Then we found it on a clothing-optional list and made a quick u-turn. Another activity I regret not researching further are the vast number of yoga studios. I brought yoga clothes and a mat with me to Byron Bay, and I’ll be excited to return and try out a studio or workshop or two.
As mentioned in the Orientation: Byron Bay post, the city center (or CBD) is pretty much the perfect size, mabye about four blocks squared. One of those lengths is along the beach, providing cafes and restaurants with a view for plenty of different budgets. There’s also a line of lodging options along the beach, again in a variety of price categories. Within those blocks are shops upon shops upon shops. All the major surf brands are there – Quiksilver, Roxy, Billabong, and the others. (Sorry – I’m not extra knowledgable on surf shops.) Mostly, though, it seemed to be clothing shops upon thrift shops upon boutique home shops upon other cute clothing shops. Where Noosa’s boutiques were high end with prices geared toward retirees with second homes, the demographic for Byron Bay’s shops seemed to be late twenties young professionals with disposable income. By which I mean, I was super tempted and wanted to visit them all. (I resisted, much to John’s appreciation.)
A handful of storefronts are dedicated to surf schools, surfboard rentals, and tours to nearby attractions. And the remainder were restaurants. So many great food options in such a tiny place! In particular, Bay Lane held a collection of maybe eight or so restaurants with nice prices and excellent looking food. It also had this Love Sign (sorry for the yucky lighting!). And there was a pretty stellar gelato place just around the corner!
Super Fun Nightlife Options
John and I aren’t very good at loud, crazy, insane bars. We visited the Railway Friendly Bar early Friday evening, and the place was slammed. (It only got more slammed as the weekend progressed.) Back in the day, rail stations used to be the place to be in smaller towns of Australia. Well, I guess in super small towns, it was literally the only place that existed; it served as pub, lodging, post office, and rail station. And so Railway Friendly Bar seemed to be the central place in the nightlife of Byron Bay; Saturday during the day, it hosted an artists market.
Since we couldn’t quite handle the noise and the crowd (and since it was cash only), we headed to Roadhouse, a restaurant outside of the main part of town. Unknown to us, it’s actually a restaurant; they couldn’t serve us alcohol unless we also purchased food. (The cheapest thing on the menu was $5 popcorn!) Nevertheless, it had an atmosphere more our style – medium-sized groups having fun laughing, but mostly a chill sort of crowd.
The best place we visited was the Byron Bay Brewery, which was hosting their Vibe Jam Fest. The music was great, the beer was cheap, and the patio was awesome. Some people were covered in glitter; we stayed far away from them. I imagine this place gets loud and crazy as the night wears on, but it was the best pre-dinner drinks place we found. It’s just outside of downtown, a long walk or a short drive.
Byron is known for its beaches. And while I intend to try surfing at some point, I’m not able to write much about which beaches are stellar for what reasons. We visited Seven Mile Beach, very near Lennox Heads. And we saw whales. If kayaking through a mangrove forest was magical, I’m not quite sure what word fits my experience of seeing whales from the beach. I thought we’d have to pay for one of those boat tours to see whales. One of those boat tours that makes me think about ethical things. Instead, we were just hanging out, doing yoga in the sand, and a nice Australian man comes over to tell us about whales, visibly breaching super far out on the horizon. It was extra magical.
Seven Mile Beach was fairly empty; John and I had no close neighbors near where we put our towels down. Main Beach is the beach that’s right next to the CBD; it was much more crowded, but not overly so. It would probably be the perfect place for people watching this time of year. I imagine it gets more and more crowded as summer approaches.
Walks in the City and Around
We woke up for sunrise on Sunday morning at the Byron Bay lighthouse; the most easterly point of Australia is a stellar place for a country of beautiful sunrises. There’s a track around the cape; we only walked about half of it since it was, you know, 6:00 in the morning. It’s highly recommended – the views are stunning and the wildlife active. We saw a couple wallabies! From up near the lighthouse, we also saw dolphins turning the corner of the cape, not far from some surfers who were up early to catch the good waves. Hot air balloons must also be available for hire in the area; two were flying above the sky for sunrise. (Eh, there were two drones too, but they were just annoying.)
Inland of the coast is referred to as hinterland. Byron Bay’s hinterland is beautiful; it’s roads are windy, scary, narrow, and hilly. We visited the nearby town of Bangalow, a miniature, more family-oriented version of Byron Bay with cute boutiques and quirky cafes. We stopped by on the way to Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park. Since it’s early spring, the waterfall itself wasn’t particularly majestic; it more resembled a trickle. Also nearby is Mt. Warning, which came highly recommended. Where Minyon Falls was just 45 minutes or so outside of Byron, Mt. Warning is a solid hour or more away. On windy, scary, narrow, and hilly roads. Another nearby hike we considered was Pinnacle Lookout at Border Ranges National Park.
Once again, Byron Bay was just “us.” It doesn’t happen exceptionally often, that you arrive in a location with mild excitement only to get more excited with each and every new road, beach, vista, site. Have you ever visited a place that immediately made you think, “This is me.”?