Erase from your mind all notions of hemp-wearing hippies, smelly backpackers and the try-hard boys from The Inbetweeners Movie because Byron Bay is a seriously stylish holiday destination and I’ve put together this trip report to prove it. Discover all the best places to brunch, shop, sip cocktails and sleep in this stylish guide to Byron Bay.
Before we’d fully cruised into Byron we spotted its famous lighthouse and felt instantly drawn towards it. I highly recommend you start your Byron explorations here, at the most easterly point of Australia, as you’ll be faced with fantastic 360 views of the bay and perhaps like us will wind up spying the beaches you’d most like to spend more time on. If you’re dressed more appropriately than me you can take a short walk around the headlands and if you’re feeling really energetic there’s a walk you can do to/from Wategos Beach at the bottom of the cliffs. Or you can cheat like we did and drive straight up there and park for $8. (No judgement please.)
Our favourite activity in Byron was a snorkelling trip we booked with Byron Bay Dive Centre. It got cancelled a few times due to choppy waters but was luckily deemed safe enough to go ahead on our final day. Although you spend approx 1 hour in the water allow 2 to 3 hours to go through all the briefings and get kitted up. From the dive centre you’ll be transported to the beach and then it’s a short white knuckle speed boat ride to Julian Rocks Marine Reserve. Following the easy-on-the-eye expert guides who joined us in the water we spotted leopard sharks, giant bat fish and friendly sea turtles. On the boat ride back we also sailed past a big pod of female dolphins and their young (over 100 live in the waters around Byron) and it was the perfect way to end the trip.
Our best experience was the beer sampling at local craft brewery Stone & Wood. The friendly staff explained the different ales in laymans terms and then we got to sample a whole paddle of them for just $10. If you book in advance you can also take a tour of the small brewery (included in the $10 tasting price) and learn more about the brewing process.
My favourite beach in Byron was Tallows Beach, a long golden expanse of sand with hardly anyone on it. We visited on a Monday morning and it was pretty much just us, Elizabeth Gilbert (I’m reading Big Magic) and another pod of dolphins who frolicked just a few waves beyond us.
Other options I plan to check out on my next visit are:
Surf and Yoga Retreat by Surf Body Fit
Spa Day at The Byron at Byron
If you like your clothing and home to reference the seaside then Byron Bay is a brilliant place to shop. A number of independent fashion brands that started in Byron are now internationally known and sold (largely thanks to Instagram) but you can find their original stores still here in town. My absolute favourite store was Hope & May, which sells a gorgeous range of beach chic clothes and items for the home like cushions and throws. The shop even smelt of beach chic – think: notes of coconut and lime – and I couldn’t help but buy some candles and bars of soap in order to bring the scent home with me.
Other places we loved were: Spell Byron Bay, Mr Simple (one for the blokes), Mary Stevens Books (fantastic friendly staff who gave us lots of great restaurant recommendations), South Of The Border, Ahoy and Golden Breed.
I’d eat brunch for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I could and in Byron we almost did as there were so many fab places to check out. You might be visiting Byron on just a weekend break though so to narrow it down here’s my top 3:
For the decor: Folk
Folk was probably the most instagrammable spot we dined at in Byron. Situated on the edge of a caravan park this brunch spot is as folky as its name. I loved the rustic furniture, retro rug and perfectly positioned campervan. The organic menu features the likes of buckwheat hotcakes (my pick) and superfood granola. The coffee is also really good – we saw many locals parking up for a takeaway on their way into town.
For the açaí bowls: The Top Shop
I didn’t even know how to say açaí before visiting Byron but one bowl from this place and I’m hooked. They also make top coffee, iced chai and giant berry muffins (because brunch should be balanced, right?).
For a really good feed: Bayleaf Cafe
Bayleaf was always bustling when we passed it so after our snorkelling on the last day we decided it was time we checked it out. Good decision. These guys serve serious-sized portions of bacon, eggs and avo on chunky slices of sourdough. Whilst I love a good granola bowl sometimes you just need a proper feed, in which case head to Bayleaf.
I’ve heard that no trip to Byron is complete without a pilgrimage to the Beach Hotel. Whilst this generous sized venue has a good buzz it doesn’t really have any style – lest you count the sea views. Nearby Balcony, however, has a great retro beachy vibe going on and an excellent cocktail list (although they were a little slow to serve us).
Just beyond the beach Miss Margarita has a popular happy hour and decent Mexican cuisine – my sizzling DIY fajita plate was cool. However, you will definitely need to queue here on a weekend and don’t believe their estimates – our predicted 15 min wait turned out to be 40 minutes.
An awesome low-key spot that we didn’t have to queue at was the Treehouse on Belongil Beach. A little tucked away this live music venue and restaurant is worth the cab ride. The outdoor area is made up of a collection of old sofas and chairs that look like there were stolen from a school in the 80s. The staff are cheerful and chatty and the wood-fired pizza is really good – although I wasn’t expecting my pumpkin one to have such giant slices of the veg on it!
An awesome spot we had lunch at (but also does dinner) is Three Blue Ducks on The Farm. This award-winning eatery is found on a 86-acre working biological farm and the plates of food are just as pretty as the scenery. I ordered a haloumi and beetroot salad and it was the most tastiest way I’ve ever eaten those 2 fine ingredients before.
Other options: Two places that were recommended to us by both locals (the whole book shop gave us tips!) and blogs I read were Roadhouse and Harvest. Both are a little out-of-town so we didn’t have time for them on this trip. Next time..
I was trying to be healthy on this trip (Byron is the Australian spiritual home of açaí remember) but I did sniff out some sweet treats to share with you. One place that’s only a little bit naughty is YoFlo – a frozen yoghurt shop where your pot is sold on weight. The yoghurt is fat free but the brownie and white choc buttons I sneaked on top of mine definitely weren’t. (Whoops.)
Byron Bay Cookies are sold and loved all over Oz and at their shop in town you can buy every flavour imaginable. For chocolate lovers check out Love Byron Bay creperie and chocolate boutique – I really wanted some white choc dolphins but resisted. This time..
We found some super cute accommodation on booking.com. Bayshore Bungalows are just a 5 mins walk from the beach and a 5 minute drive into town. (Note: we hired a car for the weekend and I recommend you do the same as some of the best eateries are a little too far to walk to.) Our bungalow had a modern kitchen, beach-chic bedroom on the mezzanine and super comfy living area. The resort also has a little pool and tennis court. It’s supposed to have wi-fi but we couldn’t get it working. (Maybe it was a sign to log off for a few days!)
Right next door to us was the brand new Elements Of Byron who were having their official opening this week. Intrigued I popped my head in for a sneak peak and was totally wowed by the everlasting pool, beachfront access and cantilevered day beds. We stopped for lunch at Graze – I had a very tasty Caesar salad – and were impressed with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. The 50 acre property features all private beach villas and a spa – I didn’t get to see inside these but I certainly plan to on my next visit to Byron Bay.
So are you tempted to plan a trip to Byron?