Byron Bay is Australia’s most easterly point and famed for its pristine beaches, unspoilt hinterland and laid back lifestyle. It’s the first to see the sunrise, and with each dawn comes the promise of another day in paradise. With cloudless skies, white, sandy beaches, scenic hikes and the perfect waves, Byron Bay is a haven for the active traveller. Whether it’s horse riding along the beach or kayaking with dolphins that gets your heart pumping, these are the top things to do in Byron Bay; Australia’s favourite hippie hangout. Plus, you might just see a Hemsworth during your healthy holiday.
How to Get to Byron Bay
Byron Bay can be found in the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales, 800 kilometres north of Sydney, 170 kilometres south of Brisbane and 90 kilometres south of Gold Coast:
- If arriving by air, travellers have the option of flying into either Gold Coast Airport or the smaller regional airports just outside Byron Bay, located in Ballina and Lismore. These airports are serviced by Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Tigerair and Qantas. Brisbane airport, whilst further away, is the largest of the airports and operates a wider number of carriers, which means more options. If arriving into the smaller, regional airports, book your airport transfers in advance. It will not only save you money, but it will avoid the awkwardness of standing at a deserted “taxi stand” thinking a taxi will eventually turn up. It won’t. There are approximately two servicing the airport in Ballina.
- Australia was made for driving, and the road to Byron Bay is perfectly paved. A nine-hour jaunt from Sydney or a much more relaxed two-hour commute from Brisbane, there is plenty of time to work your way through your favourite Spotify playlist. Having a car in Byron Bay will mean you can easily travel the extra kilometres to foodie hotspots such as The Farm and Folk. Plus, drivers in this laid back town will make road rage a thing of the past.
- As you walk through the town you’re sure to see travellers arriving by the bus load. The undeniable advantage of riding the bus is definitely the scenery that abounds through every window. Whether you’re headed to the bay from the north or south, there is sure to be a service to get you there. Greyhound is a reliable operator who offer point-to-point travel, making it ever-so-easy to arrive in paradise.
The Cape Byron Lighthouse Walk
If you have ever fallen down the Instagram rabbit hole of the world’s most beautiful, you might have come across the Insta-famous Cape Byron Lighthouse. Built in the colonial style architecture of 1899, the lighthouse sits on the Australian mainland’s most easterly point, shining its iconic light across the below township. To reach the famous landmark, visitors to Byron Bay have made a habit of hiking the Cape Byron walking track which winds alongside rainforests, beaches, grassland and clifftops.
The track is a 3.7 kilometre loop with clearly marked signs to guide you on your way so there is very little chance that you’ll need to learn how to “live rough”. The hike is sure to get the blood pumping, with some steep ascents and a series of steps, but the scenery makes the burn worth it. Unparalleled views of the waves crashing against the rocks below; bush turkeys and frill-necked lizards lazing by the path; kayakers navigating the swells; surfers awaiting the perfect wave. This is no ordinary walk.
Bike Riding the Beach or the Bush
If, like me, you have ever cycled in the chaotic streets of Vietnam, you may have sworn off two wheels for life. I assure you, however, that Byron Bay is the perfect place to get back in the saddle. Without the heavy traffic of big cities, Byron Bay is, quite simply, a cyclist’s mecca. There are a plethora of cycling trails and courses, ranging from a steady 8 kilometres to a more challenging 160-kilometre route. From beachfront to nature reserves; town centres to hinterland; there’s a cycling scene for everyone. Hire a bike from Byron Bay Surf and Bike Hire by the hour.
Surf Byron Bay’s Famous Beaches
When it comes to the top things to do in Byron Bay for the fit traveller, surfing is one of the first things that comes to mind. For the more accomplished surfers, there are a plethora of beaches promising the perfect wave in Byron Bay. The Wreck, located just off Main Beach, is a favourite spot due to its unique tidal break, caused by the shipwrecked SS Wollongbar. If you’re still a newbie, however, maybe steer clear of this surfing hotspot which can present some challenging rips and tides. There’s also Main Beach, Clarke’s Beach, The Pass (Byron’s most popular surfing spot), Watego’s Beach, Cosy Corner, Belongil Beach, Tallows Beach, Lennox Head and Suffolk Park.
So, if you’ve decided it’s finally time to take the plunge and live out your Blue Crush fantasies, there is no shortage of surf schools to help you find your feet. Even if you lack confidence in the water and would find a way to wobble on a flat surface, the ever-helpful instructors will guide you every step of the way. You’ll also score some pretty spectacular views of the coast and the Cape Byron Lighthouse. So, paddle on my friends, paddle on.
Kayaking in Byron Bay
Maybe ease up on the shoulder sessions in the lead up to this Byron Bay adventure because a couple of hours of kayaking are sure to get your muscles burning.
If you’re going to kayak out into the big blue abyss, you want great people who know what they’re doing. The team from Go Sea Kayak are the best of the best; eco-certified and qualified lifeguards who will guide you to the best spots for spying dolphins, turtles and even whales (between June and November). The best bit? They offer a dolphin guarantee, so on the off chance you don’t see a happy, frolicking pod, you can head out with the team again on another date for free.
Ever the keen participants, we showed up early for our 9.15am paddle and were welcomed by the friendly Go Sea Kayak team who encouraged us to pass the time by performing a dolphin dance on the beach. We knew we were in for a fun morning. After a half-hour briefing covering everything from which partner was best suited to which seat to how to conquer the first waves, we were off on our two-hour adventure.
We dragged our kayaks down the white sand and assumed our positions, ready to take on the waves, before swiftly capsizing and ending up right back in the water. Upright once again, however, we paddled towards our group at the first stop to listen to the tales of the beautiful sights surrounding us. Over two hours and six kilometres, there were multiple stops for story-time and recovery, and, most importantly, for enjoying the pure serenity of being out on the water. I guarantee there is no greater stress-reliever than the clear blue waters of the bay.
River Kayaking on the Brunswick River
If the ocean’s not really your thing, you can test out your paddles on the Brunswick River; known as one of the most beautiful river systems in New South Wales. The peaceful waters will provide less of a challenge than the often-unpredictable ocean, but you’ll still have the opportunity to kayak past sand dunes and stunning coastal scenery, stop for a snorkel, as well as spotting some local wildlife. The tours are inclusive of all kayaking equipment, pick-up and drop off, lessons if required and free photo download, so you’ll forever remember that time you fell out of your kayak in Byron Bay.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding in the Cape Byron Marine Park
In recent years, stand up paddle boarding seems to have taken the world by storm. Byron Bay has, as such, embraced this trend wholeheartedly and now offers tours in the Cape Byron Marine Park. Core strength be damned, tour operators assure first-timers that SUP is easier than expected; but, if it’s not, the views will surely help numb the pain. Most tours run for two-hours and with not a house in sight, serenity is pretty much a guarantee. So, no matter your skill level, get yourself along to a SUP session for the chance to spot an awesome array of wildlife and to take in this little slice of paradise.
Byron Bay Yoga
Yoga and Byron Bay pretty much go together like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson: beautifully. Pair the zen of yoga with the laid back vibes of Byron Bay and you’ll achieve a level of relaxation you never knew possible. With numerous studios offering classes suitable for yoga newbies and aspiring gurus alike, and panoramic ocean views to boot, now is the time and Byron Bay is the place to get your Namaste on.
Coastal Horse Riding
Zephyr Horses is a unique coastal horse ranch in Byron Bay offering small personalised horse tours, both on the beach and in the beautiful sub-tropical woodlands. Founded by horse-lover Kate Noller, the vision of Zephyr is to provide personalised horse riding experiences and to share the beauty of connecting with horses. In Kate’s words, “horses teach you so much more about yourself than you may ever realise.” With tours suitable for all levels, the team are dedicated to delivering soul charging, adventure packed moments to last a lifetime.
So, whether it’s surfing at dawn, paddling through the afternoon haze or hiking past epic sunsets that gets your heart pumping, these are just some of the top Things to do in Byron Bay. With plenty more on offer, you’ll no doubt find that one visit to Byron Bay will never be enough.
Krish is the quintessential Melburnian with an insatiable passion for travel, books and fabulous food. Her blog, The Bucket List Diaries, is all about helping people make the most of this one wild and precious life.