3 DAYS* in Byron Bay
It seems as if the Lords and Ladies of Byron, who mostly look like they escaped from a Free People catalog, have quietly come to an agreement that life in this little Australian beach town should run a bit slower. People here work to live, not the other way around.
There seems to be a general appreciation for the herb, the bean or anything that’s good for the soul and taste buds. Organic, locally farmed and thoughtfully prepared, it’s hard to have a bad meal or shitty brew (caffeinated or alcoholic) in this place. Coming from the land of Monsanto, it feels like entering a foodie’s Shangri-La. How easily I could have spent weeks, months, years here… grazing my way through the town’s eateries, reading, surfing and hitting that hammock. Early retirement plan - Check!
DAY 1* in Byron Bay
First things first… get yourself a surf board and, if needed, an instructor. It’d be sacrilege not to partake in the Gold Coast’s favorite activity. Legendary surfer Rusty Miller settled here in the ‘70s and is the only instructor allowed to give private lessons (group classes are more common).
The Pass, Byron’s famous break caters to experienced and novice surfers alike and the glassy turquoise waters take your mind off the considerable shark population. Boards can be rented all around town and if you score yourself a room at the Atlantic Byron Bay you can borrow one, for free.
The Atlantic’s central location and proximity to the beach has that and much more going for it… bright and breezy, this oasis hits all the right notes. From the decor to the communal open-plan kitchen, the sleek turquoise pool and the campfire at night.
Drop in at Bayleaf Cafe for breakfast/brunch/lunch depending on your morning activity and sip into a creamy latte or coconut cold brew from one of the grungy-hot baristas. The young folk of Byron are generally insanely hip and good-looking and probably spend considerable effort perfecting their “I woke up like this” appearance —> perfect pretty people watching!
While Byron is a very walkable town I’d still rent some wheels for exploring. First stop: The 7-Mile Beach, a long sandy stretch of coastline between Broken Head and Lennox Head where Chris Hemsworth dropped some serious dosh for his ocean-front beach pad. A book, a board or just a bikini can keep you busy for hours.
The secret of adjacent Whites Beach is out, unfortunately. Since it was voted Australia’s number one secret destination, the hidden cove draws more beach dwellers, but is still worth the short hike. A picnic while watching the experienced wave riders do their thing can be quite magical. Just make sure to pack up all your trash before you trek back up the dirt path.
General tip: Australia has some venomous creatures prowling around. No need to be paranoid, but a little awareness goes a long way.
Cruise back into town and up to the lighthouse for some whale spotting (April through October) as the sun sets behind Clark’s Beach then hit up the cozy Roadhouse Cafe for dinner.
Specific recommendations are difficult as the menu changes daily based on fresh available produce but amuse your bouche with some jalapeño popcorn to get the evening started. A night cap at The Rails Friendly Bar orthe Treehouse on Belongil and you’ll probably start checking the local real estate listings.
DAY 2* in Byron Bay
Grab a vegan-latte from Espresso Head and stroll along Clark’s Beach towards the Pass’s Overlook or explore Watego Beach on the other side of the lighthouse. Stock up on some kilojoules with an avo toast or an overpriced smoothie from Naked Treaties and off you go to the Hinterland. First stop: Bangalow! Nestled into the country side this small community has a number of upscale retail therapy options that will make you long for Jeff Bezos’ black AmEx.
Island Luxe is compulsively instagramable with displays of sumptuous soft fabrics and intoxicating scents. Try to resist the urge to lie down and take a nap!
A few more pit stops along Byron Street: Millar & More, Bisque Traders, the beautiful old pharmacy and Our Corner Store, which carries my favorite local jewelry designers Temple of the Sun and Meeshka! Stylish like its Byron sister cafe Folk, Woods is begging for its picture to be taken with retro decor and more good-looking baristas (are you starting to see a trend?).
Take your brew to the Poet Book shop and plant yourself on the ‘bar’ outside for a bit of literature browsing. Harvest in neighboring town Newrybar is an idyllic spot to fill your belly and I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend the Trout Rilette and homemade sourdough bread. Newrybar’s Merchants, a curated collective of desirable home goods across the street will be another challenge to your savings account. Pink flamingo wallpaper anyone?
Continue your drive through the Gold Coast’s Hinterland where curvy roads give way to ocean views, bucolic pastures and palm plantations. Mullumbimby, Australia’s ‘biggest little town’ is up next. This hub for ‘real hippies’ who migrated once Byron Bay had become too gentrified might lack appeal at first sight, but don’t be fooled by it’s Plain Jane facade.
Izakaya Yu isn’t the only culinary gem hiding in this sleepy hamlet. Craving artisan pizza? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously. Mike and Honey’s got it down and the bone marrow crostini is the bomb.
Carbed up we suggest one more stop. A proper Aussie pub - Hotel Brunswick for trivia night or live tunes. You might get lucky and encounter a random gem like the Oz band Wild Marmalade performing their innovative didgeridoo dance music with the local crowd going batty. On your ‘casual dinner’ playlist their songs may not tickle the right spot, but here, with a bunch of MDMA induced hipsters the show couldn’t have been more entertaining.
Day 3* in Byron Bay
Don’t let The Farm’s uninviting parking lot be a deterrent. Grub, coffee and the gift shop are all convincing reasons to spend a few Aussie dollars.
Offset the constant grazing with an easy hike to either Minyon or Killen waterfalls or opt for the more strenuous yet highly rewarding Mount Warning trek. To avoid the crowds, try to submit by sunrise and the view will etch itself onto your hard drive for eons.
Afternoon: So many options, so little time… Practice your duck dive at Tallow Beach, get pampered at Be Salon or indulge in a one-on-one healing session with new age therapist Ruth Smith who stands out in the sea of reiki healers and rebirthers. I didn’t get to try but rumor has it that an hour with Ruth will have you feeling perky as a wallaby after a bubble bath.
Shopaholics can find plenty of ways to max out the credit card at Spell, Ahoy Trader, Retrospect Galleries, Afends, Hendrix & Harlow, South of the Border and Hope & May. Sweeten your stroll through the town’s touristy hub with a scoop of passion fruit or pistachio ice cream from Bella Rosa and a little aperitif at Miss Margarita wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Craving a bit of downtime instead? Try the porch at Arcadia Guesthouse, another 3 Days* approved accommodation. Located in Old Byron, the so-called classic tinder Queenslander oozes charm and delivers serious bang for your buck… dreamy beds and double rain shower heads that make for one of the best on-the-road-scrubs ever.
Lastly, add an additional pound to your love handles at St Elmo with their reliably tasty, contemporary tapas and raise your glass to Oz with one of the bartenders surprise specials. He knows what he’s doing. By now you’ll probably be ready start your visa process and a Koala sanctuary in Byron Bay with me.
- Rash guard
- An appetite
- a boho outfit, if you care about fitting in