Byron Bay is a town on Australia’s east coast near the northern border of New South Wales. The beach town is a popular tourist destination, especially for backpackers and surfers. Byron Bay is also a hotspot for whale watching (from June to November), snorkeling and scuba diving.
Main Beach is the largest beach near Byron Bay and the most popular. The long stretch of sand can get crowded during busier times of the year. It is a lovely beach with powdery white sand and a great view of the lush Cape Byron. The beach is family-friendly and a safe spot for swimming and surfing.
Belongil Beach is located on the western side of Byron Bay. It is a dog-friendly beach, and the area north of Belongil Creek is clothing optional. The beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand, but it doesn’t have many areas with shade. Belongil is much less crowded than Main Beach.
Wategos Beach and Little Wategos Beach are on the eastern side of Byron Bay by Cape Byron. Wategos Beach is a sheltered spot that is ideal for families and children. It’s also a popular spot for surfers, especially longboarders. Free barbecues and toilets are available at the beach. Little Wategos Beach can only be accessed by foot. It is a quiet little spot, but the current can be quite strong outside of the protection of the shore. Use caution when swimming here.
The Julian Rocks are two small islands off of the coast of Byron Bay. The rocks are a popular diving spot. More than 1,000 marine species live in the area, including sharks, turtles and rays. There are several dive sites near the rocks. Byron Bay has several dive shops that visit Julian Rocks.
Cape Byron, a headland a few kilometers northeast of Byron Bay, is home to a state conservation area. The cape is the easternmost point of mainland Australia. Cape Byron has several walking tracks that offer incredible views of the dramatic cliffs along the coastline. The trails pass through beach, rainforest, grassland and along clifftops.
Another popular spot at the cape is Cape Byron Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1901 and is still operating. There is a cozy cafe at the lighthouse, which serves teas, coffees and a few baked goods and snacks. The lighthouse is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to visit.
It’s possible to drive, bike or walk to the lighthouse. The Cape Byron Walking Track goes from the east side of Main Beach near Captain Cook Lookout up to the lighthouse. The 2.2 kilometer (one-way) walk has some steep points and stunning coastal views along the track. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection, and wear good shoes. Fisherman’s Lookout is along the way, offering a beautiful view of Byron Bay and the rocky coast. Further along the track, past Wategos Beach, is Little Wategos Track, which leads to the easternmost point on mainland Australia at Cape Byron.
To drive or bike to the lighthouse, travel east along Lawson Street and take the fork to the left where it becomes Lighthouse Road. Follow the road all the way up to the lighthouse. There is a parking lot near the base of the lighthouse, but there is a small fee for parking in that area. A bit further down the hill is a small parking area with a few parking spots. The lot fills up quickly, but if you’re lucky, you can park there for free. It’s then a short, but fairly steep, walk up the hill to the lighthouse.
Byron Bay has a plethora of shops, restaurants and cafés. There is a good mix of cheap spots and high-end joints. The beach town has several souvenir shops and many of the clothing stores have beach attire. Art galleries also abound in Byron Bay, featuring a variety of mediums such as glass sculptures, ceramic works and paintings. The town is home to an international mix of cuisine: Italian, Japanese, pub fare and more.
There are several hostel, resort and beach house accommodation options in town and near the beach. My father and I stayed at Byron Cove Beach House. The small place has comfortable rooms with air conditioning, private bath and shower, and free Wifi. A lovely buffet breakfast is included. The beach house also has a nice swimming pool with sun loungers. Free parking is available on site, and the house is a short walk from the centre of Byron Bay and even closer to Belongil Beach. Be sure to book accommodation at Byron Bay ahead of time during popular times of the year such as holidays like Christmas, Australia Day on January 26 and Easter.
Byron Bay is about 800 kilometers north of Sydney and 170 kilometers south of Brisbane. The closest airport that is easily accessible is located in Gold Coast, which is about 90 kilometers north of Byron Bay. Cheap flights are available through Tigerair and Jetstar. There are also plenty of rental car companies throughout Australia to hire a car. Alternatively, there are several bus companies that provide transportation to Byron Bay.