A spiritual and unique place to visit, Byron Bay, Australia has always been a destination for curious travellers.
Since my first holiday to Byron in early 1996, I have returned countless times, with friends and family. I also lived in Byron Bay, northern NSW as an escape from Melbourne for 2 months in the late 90’s, alternating between serving coffee in a local café, surfing and generally re-evaluating life.
The quieter beaches seem like paradise every time on arrival, and the diversity of intermingled cultures provide ultimate people watching opportunities. Snapshots and snippets of different cultures and backgrounds in the busier streets of Byron never fail to surprise.
Situated 770 Kms north of Sydney and 165 south of Brisbane, the trek up from Melbourne has usually been by plane via the Gold Coast in southern QLD, or by train or bus during younger, braver trips with friends.
There are endless memories, from over the years, including attending the Bluesfest festival, camping trips, surfing, romance, relaxing and lots of incredible and fun times.
To inspire others visiting this magical part of Northern NSW, I have compiled a list of 8 Best Reasons to Visit Byron Bay, Australia (in 2020), for all ages and groups.
8 The Hinterland
The Hinterland areas surrounding the Byron Bay beach region are sub tropical, serene, green valleys and hills 111which are some of the most spectacular in the country, providing a rich experience for anyone who ventures into these areas.
A calm escape from the busier beach hotspots, visits to the inland markets, small villages and waterfalls are well worth the short drives.
Waterfalls such as Minyon Falls, near the village of Federal, is accessible by an unsealed but easily driveable road.
Surrounding the falls are many bush tracks to view layers of lush rainforest, farmland, lakes and creeks to take in as you discover this individual area.
7 The Climate
Byron Bay is known for its moderate to warm, sub- tropical temperatures, making it the perfect climate for visiting most times of the year.
Here is a breakdown below, season by season:
Hot days ranging from high 20s to mid 30s (degrees celcius), with cooler evenings sometimes bringing showers. Summer has the perfect holiday weather, resulting in a super busy time in Byron Bay.
Still warm and humid, with some rain periods, temperatures in Autumn are in the mid 20’s. The water is warm after summer, mostly in the mornings, and the crowds are dropping off which means a more chilled and relaxing time closer to town.
Obviously winter is the coldest season, but in Byron it is a lot milder compared to the southern states of Australia. The sun is warm when it’s out and the streets are quieter. Temperatures are under 20 degrees in the daytime, and under 12 degrees at night.
Some say Spring is the ultimate time to visit Byron, due to the smaller crowds and increasingly longer days. Low rainfall, and with the water warming up, results in ultimate surf conditions.
Although the seasons are a general guide to Byron and Northern NSW weather, being the most easterly point of Australia means this area draws a mixtures of rain, sun and varying climates all year. Bear this in mind when you visit Byron Bay, Australia, and check the weather conditions ahead of time, where possible.
6 Hippie culture
Before Byron Bay was as popular in the mainstream, as it is today, the town in the 1970’s was a lot quieter and less known.
Longboard surfers came to the surf town from the 1960’s and from the 1970’s following the 1973 Aquarius festival, held in the nearby small town of Nimbin, Byron Bay also became one of the most popular hippie centric towns in Australia.
Nimbin is 70km west of Byron Bay, and well known for its progressive sustainability, self- sufficiency. In the media, Nimbin is mostly known for its ‘drug culture’ and escapist sub-culture’. These mixture of hippy style values have influenced todays modern day Australian culture, and along with the escapist nature of some of its residents makes for an interesting and mixed town.
The hippy element and lifestyle has spilled to Byron Bay from the 70’s onwards and combined with Byron’s laidback surf culture, this town is still the perfect place to see individuals and groups challenging conservative ways of living. You will see hippy types down the main street equally as you will see surfers, backpackers and ‘mainstream’ families on holiday at the more luxurious Byron Bay accommodation.
Modern day Byron Bay for these reasons has plenty of health food shops, a Rudolf Steiner school, creative yoga classes, retreats, meditation, fitness, and is still known as THE place to visit to relax, unwind and reassess.
5 Food and Nightlife
An alternative to the hippie- laidback element of Bryon Bay, is the introduction in the main streets of varied food, drink and nightlife.
Increasingly over recent years, the Byron Bay area has become widely known as a hotspot destination, from “schoolies”, backpackers and families travelling north in winter from the cold winters of southern Australia.
For those travellers searching for beach by day, action at night there are bar a restaurant options for all. From laid back pizza and kebabs, to high end Japanese and Mexican. There are also a number of cocktail bars, clubs and 3 main pubs housing live bands and acoustic acts most nights in peak seasons.
Pubs and Nightlife:
The pub on the corner, in the centre of town, which attracts regulars to the front bar, round the clock. The band room houses touring bands, the restaurant and small bar connected is a new addition. Open windows give a view out to the ever interesting main street.
The Beach Hotel
In peak season, bands overlooking the bay with the open scenic windows and beach facing outdoor beer garden at this popular Byron Bay hotel, make this the perfect location for an afternoon drink with a relaxed vibe, or later on for packed and fun crowds for live music.
Railway Bar (the RAILS)
Set in the perfect location by the train station, ‘The Rails’ is an outdoor, indoor relaxed style bar with fun live music and vibes most days and nights. Acoustic acts are a regular occurrence adding to the atmosphere of this long running bar.
The Brewery plays music and also brew their own beer. A popular one is Stone and Wood, as well as a heap of other craft beers.
Good old fashion style partying or techno dance parties, which are ticketed prior to the events or sometimes sold at the door.
4 Quiet Surrounding Beaches
As mentioned with the hinterland, in addition to the hills and surrounding green valleys, only ten mins from the centre of Bryon, the beaches stretch to quiet unaffected areas, and unpopulated beach spots.
Suffolk Park, along Tallow beach, and beyond, and north toward Belongil beach and beyond are idyllic and unpopulated, along spectacular parts of the coast lines both north and south, while still offering plenty of Byron Bay accommodation options.
Related post: Best Swimmable Beaches in Australia
One of the best reasons to visit Byron Bay, Australia, is to observe the mixture of surfers, families, locals, farmers, backpackers residing at one of the the Byron Bay caravan parks, well off celebrities, hippies, buskers, and the list goes on. A visit to one of the main supermarkets is an eye catching experience, between the sunburn and bare feet and lentils.
The diversity of Byron means all are welcome, for short on long stays. There is also something for everyone, which is perfect for families or groups, as there is plenty to try and plenty of places to relax away from the crowds.
There are also heaps of options if the weather turns, like visiting specified restaurants like THE FARM, a paddock to plate style eatery, or a film night at one of the bars, or a drive through the hinterland.
The ‘something for everyone’ vibe means Byron Bay will stay popular unless the area becomes too built up.
The locals have a big say in the area. The council have managed to support the town and not let in the Big 3 fast food chains, beginning with McDonalds in the 1990’s.
This has come up many times over the years, and while the town has changed rapidly, the push to keep the super mainstream out has been a blessing.
For more on the McDonalds conversation, see here:
Byron Bay is located in Northern NSW. The closest airport is Ballina, but with limited (and expensive) flights in and out per day.
The next closest airport is Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, less than an hour from Byron bay, this is the easiest airport to fly in from interstate, with plenty of taxi and bus transfers down to Byron.
Another option is to fly to Brisbane, drive 2 hours or take an airport transfer from Brisbane to Byron Bay.
Alternate transfers options are bus or train from interstate. Driving into Byron is also very easy. Situated on the East Coast of Australia, this unique area is very accessible and easy to come and go from, with plenty of top Byron Bay accommodation options at ranging prices.
The surf and Byron bay beach culture observed when you visit Byron Bay, Australia, is one of the biggest reasons a lot of people are drawn to this area. The mixture of easy waves for beginners to surf spots for the experienced and fit surfers only, there is a break for everyone.
Some of the main surf beaches Byron Bay are:
Situated at the very top of the main street, the rocks surrounding The Wreck have created the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset.
To the left, the waves roll in at various heights depending on the conditions of the day, across the old wreckage. A short paddle out this spot is ideal for beginners to intermediate surfers.
The Pass is located all the way along the south end of Clarkes beach, past one of the best Byron Bay caravan parks for families, ‘Clarkes Caravan Park’ (to the right of the wreck, 15 mins walk from the top of the main street). Endless waves roll in as constant lines from the point, for beginners and intermediate on most days, depending on conditions.
An easy paddle out to the long waves, draw in surf schools and kids of all ages. Long board riders on the smaller days for the longest waves of the area. Further out, experienced surfers jump in off the point and scramble for a bigger, faster and longer wave ride.
Wategoes is at times perfect for a surf, others choppy or other times calm and clear.
A beach front, with luxury Byron Bay accommodations perched on the hill above onlooking this gorgeous beach lined with pandanas palm trees and white sand, this is a very pretty beach for a surf, body board or body surf.
Cosy Corner (Tallow Beach)
Drawing experienced surfers on the right day, Cosy Corner at the East (Lighthouse) end of tallow beach sometimes has perfect big waves or other times only choppy conditions. Best to check the conditions before heading down there, and beware of rips on this wild side of Byron.
Ten mins at the south end of Tallow Beach, is Broken Head. A gorgeous beach front camp spot, this area is still unspoilt and feels further away from the built up development of Byron Bay.
If you travel anywhere in Australia, visiting Byron Bay, should definitely be added to your list. In the 2020’s the area still has the quietest and some of the best spectacular beaches of the country.
The nightspots, food, markets, high end to bargain shopping, travellers, Byron Bay beaches, and generally moderate to hot sub tropical weather are all reasons to consider Byron Bay as the perfect location for an Australian holiday.