Don’t let the Instagram influencers have you fooled. There’s so much more to Byron than fake tans, white teeth and açai bowls. Delve a little deeper and you’ll discover the stunningly beautiful Byron Bay region offers not only some of Australia’s most breathtaking coastline, but also World Heritage rainforest, tranquil waterways, sensational local produce and a truly unique creative vibe.
A much-loved family holiday town and hippy magnet for decades, the chilled-out Byron township has, in recent times, attracted its fair share of celebrities (otherwise known as the Hemsworth effect) and, admittedly, one or two wannabes.
But beneath the glitter you’ll see that the Byron area is still just as magical as it’s always been. Here are just a few ways to glean the best from Byron Bay region:
What a way to start the day
On the edge of town, the Cape Byron Conservation Area is home to Byron Bay’s most iconic feature, the Cape Byron Lighthouse. It’s also where you’ll find one of the most spectacular walking trails between Brisbane and Sydney. Sure, you can drive right up to the lighthouse, but if you’re willing and able, taking the long route on foot is surely a spectacular way to start your day.
The Cape Byron Walking Track officially starts at the Palm Valley car park on the edge of the conservation area. However, you could begin your walk from town, following the coastal path until meet the track. Once on the trail you’ll pass through the exclusive and stunningly beautiful Wategos Beach, before winding your way up around the headland to Australia’s most easterly point and the Cape Byron Lighthouse.
Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for marine life swimming down below in the turquoise water. Dolphins, stingrays and sea turtles are often easy to spot. And at the right time of year, whales are regularly seen making their annual pilgrimage.
Once you reach the top, you can reward your efforts with a coffee or ice cream from the Lighthouse Café as you look back across to town and see just how far you’ve come. And if you’re lucky and time it right, you might even be able to catch a tour of the lighthouse (by donation) and climb up to the observation deck for an even higher vantage point. If the blustery sea breeze doesn’t take your breath away the incredible views will.
Just go with the flow
Gliding along the glassy waters of the Brunswick River is an experience not to be missed. Just fifteen minutes north of Byron, the popular beachside village of Brunswick Heads lies on the banks of the Brunswick River mouth, a stunning, turquoise expanse of water that, on a blue-sky day, is almost too good to be true. From here you can catch the incoming tide and paddle up-river explore the changing river ecosystem before turning with the tide to return.
If you’d prefer a guide for your adventure, book in with one of local operators that run stand-up paddleboarding tours.
Grab a foamie and get out there
With sheltered shallow breaks and crystal-clear, lagoon-like water peppered with some of the longest rides you’ll find anywhere, Byron Bay is the ultimate learn to surf destination.
But don’t just head straight out onto main beach and expect to catch a wave. Instead, wander down to the Clarkes Beach end of the bay or skip around the rocks to The Pass for perfect spot to wet your board.
Best of all, there’s guaranteed to be plenty of other beginners out there, just like you, so there’s no need to feel self-conscious if you’re not quite ready to turn pro.
To help you hone your skills, you can book into one of the surf schools in town or for around $20 you can hire a ‘foamie’ (a soft foam surfboard for beginners) and hit the waves. You’ll be standing up in no time.
Minyon Falls is a great daytrip from Byron
A scenic 45-minute, Sunday drive from Byron will see you arrive in World Heritage Nightcap National Park, home to two spectacular waterfalls, Protesters Falls and Minyon Falls.
Protesters Falls are named after the Terania Creek protests in the late 1970s which saved this priceless, pristine rainforest from loggers. It was Australia’s first successful anti-logging protest and paved the way for future protests like the fight to save Tasmania’s Franklin River in the early 80s. The Protesters Falls walking track is an easy 1.4kms return through an ancient rainforest of bangalow palms and strangler figs to the cascading falls, returning along the same trail.
Towering Minyon Falls can be seen from the Minyon Falls Lookout or Minyon Falls Picnic Area, each providing spectacular views from opposite sides of the falls. Or, if you’d like to get closer to the action, the more challenging 13km Minyon Falls walk will take you to the base of the falls for an up-close look at the cascading 100m drop.
Just 20 minutes from Byron, Bangalow is a foodie delight
When you’re ready for a treechange, Bangalow, surrounded by rolling green hills, is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon of grazing. Just 20 minutes from Byron, this picturesque, laid-back town is a foodie delight with a string of amazing cafes and restaurants lining its main street.
And if you miss the Byron Farmer’s market on a Thursday, you can catch ‘Byron’s little sister market’, The Bangalow Farmers Market, behind the Bangalow Hotel on a Saturday morning from 7-11am. Abundant with fresh local produce including fresh-picked fruit and vegies, meat, pasta, bread and the all-important cheese, this market sums up everything that’s good in world.
Fly with the Ospreys and Sea Eagles over the cliffs and beaches of Cape Byron on a tandem hang glider flight. With an experienced hang glider pilot from Byron Airwaves Hang Gliding School at the helm, all you have to do is tuck in and enjoy the view.
Coming in for a soft landing on Tallows Beach
The enormous Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve is just a few minutes from the heart of Byron yet covers an incredible 92.6 hectares. And chances are you’ve never heard of it.
The reserve is an important part of Country to the Arakwal people and a vital home to a wide range of native animals including some threatened species.
Much of the reserve is inaccessible to the public (not to mention a little muddy) but you can get a sense of this amazing ecosystem on the Cumbebin Wetlands boardwalk at the Cumbebin Wetlands Sanctuary.
The boardwalk only runs for around 300m but as you walk through the melaleucas, Bangalow palms and birds-nest fern you’ll get a sense of what the Byron area was like long before the town was settled.
It’s also a wonderful reminder that in the midst of the glitz and glamour, the real Byron still remains.