Byron Bay

Byron Bay is one of the most famous spots on the East Coast of Australia. It is descended upon by droves of backpackers from around the world in tour-buses, camper vans and recently purchased vehicles of dubious road-worthiness. Famously a relaxed and laid back area which does everything in its power to retain an authentic surf-culture feel, resisting the invasion of multi-national corporations in the form of fast food restaurants and coffee shops. This has resulted however in the area feeling slightly clichéd; with everyone there trying so hard that there is little sense of anything special or unique here. Unsurprisingly the locals show signs of resentment towards those who pitch up with the sole intention of drinking, smoking, surfing and spending for a few weeks as they tend to show little regard anyone else, despite the beads and socially conscious t-shirts. The developed area near the beach is busy day and night with the beach following suit in good weather (which tends to be most of the time). Those who persist and hire private accommodation will be rewarded as there is a great deal more going on than most people get to see, although they’d rather not everyone found out about it. The beach and cliff walk up to the lighthouse (Australia’s Easternmost Point) are truly spectacular, although the view down onto the bay may put you off swimming given the number of large black shapes cruising the water.


Whale Watching – The months of June to November see groups of whales migrating from Antarctica along the East coast of Australia to the warmer winter feeding grounds. Very little is understood about the behaviour and social interactions of these amazing marine mammals which could be why they are so enchanting to watch. As they pass the cape, employees of tour operators record the group’s location so as to ferry spectators out to a suitable location from which to observe the animals as they pass. If you are out of season and still want to see some wildlife, kayaking tours run daily where you are almost guaranteed to see dolphins leaping around as you reach the deeper water.

Nimbin – Hailed as the alternative capital of Australia, this truly is an interesting place. In the 1970s people bought land in the subtropical paradise with the intention of setting up communities as an alternative to city life. Now there are a huge number of different settlements around the village with their own food supplies, schooling systems and power generators. The main street is a collection of alternative shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, most of which are some sort of drug paraphernalia. There is also little form of policing and so drugs are widely available. Although most visitors are only interested in mild hallucinogens and cannabis, it is quite evident that a lot of the residents have been addled by far more serious substance abuse. The museum is a unique tribute to all things psychedelic and alternative, which may be a bit much if you’ve overindulged on the biscuits the old women sell on the pavements. The most popular way to visit is with [ Jim’s Alternative Tours] which includes sound advice, an appropriate soundtrack and a visit to the home of a local eccentric.


The shops on the main strip sell surfing gear, accessories and associated fashion ware. There is also a wealth of souvenir and alternative shops selling beads, candles and juggling equipment. There are also some excellent independent fashion outlets selling lines by smaller local labels. On the road out of town there is a large supermarket and the smaller shops tend to sell more functional items and there are some decent record and bookshops, some of which offering an exchange service. The Channon and Bangalow Markets are also very popular and a good place to pick up gifts or clothing.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Despite the absence of Macdonalds, which the locals are so proud of, there is no shortage of burgers, pizzas and pies when it comes to the early hours. Those who stagger back to their spongy hostel mattresses rarely do so empty handed and the food is actually pretty good. The cafes tend to specialise in organic fruit smoothies and vegetable wraps and low end restaurants serving Thai food or pizza. The more expensive restaurants specialise in fish and most places also serve very good wines to accompany the meal at a reasonable price. The Fins restaurant at the [ Beach Hotel] is a popular choice, and is right next to the even more popular beach bar which gets busy every night with locals and backpackers spilling onto the beach. Bands and DJs perform nightly, occasionally making way for the odd film night. A few minutes inland are a handful of more nightclub-like venues such as La La Land and Cocomangas. For a more laid back evening with proper cocktails try the Buddha Bar at the Arts Factory Hostel Resort or live music at the Railway Bar, although it does get busy and the local crowd tends to be older and an occasionally less tolerant. For an entirely cringeworthy but entertaining night out, join the masses on the tables at Cheeky Monkeys. Situated directly opposite one of the main hostels, this “party-bar” serves cold beers, plays appalling music and lures its customers into increasing levels of embarrassment and debauchery with some fairly impressive prizes, it is definitely worth seeing.

Tourist Information

Byron Visitors Centre80 Jonson Street, Byron Bay

  • Telephone: (02) 6680 8558
  • Email:
  • Website: []


The nearest airport is Byron Gateway and is located twenty minute’s drive away at Ballina. Flights operate between Sydney and Melbourne only and international arrivals and departures must use [ Gold Coast Airport] which an hours drive north at Coolangata. Shuttle buses run from the airports to Byron Bay itself and are relatively inexpensive.

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