Byron Bay really needs no introduction. Beloved by domestic and overseas travellers, it’s the kind of spot that has visitors wondering how quickly they can sell up and move in, not just for the coastal setting but also for the enviable laidback lifestyle.
As a regular visitor to this haven on New South Wales’ North Coast, from family holidays as a kid to my parents, now residents in the Byron hinterland for the past 20 years, I’ve watched this sleepy surfer town transform into a world-class wunderkind of global music festivals, cultural events, eclectic boutiques and foodie finds, all wihtout seemingly losing its intrinsic appeal.
It has a community feel with big-city amenities – you can order your organic, non-dairy chai latte while rubbing shoulders with pro surfers, musicians, fashion identities and assorted Hemsworth brothers at the local green co-op. Not surprisngly, Byron Bay is a popular haunt for millennial start-ups with plenty of Wi-Fi enabled cafes to plug in and plot world domination with your niche product.
Just two hours’ drive from Brisbane or a 45-minute highway trip from Gold Coast Airport, watch as the urban scenery cedes to lush, green foliage and rolling hills before cascading down to white-sand beaches and rolling waves. You can actually feel the urban angst peel away as the fresh air and wide open spaces embrace you.
It’s one lane into Byron Bay from the north, but you won’t mind the traffic as you idly watch bronzed surfers clutching their boards with one hand while pedalling into town alongside happy pups trotting to the beach with their owners.
The people-watching possibilites in town are just as fascinating. Where else can you pass wizened, dreadlocked hippies; linen-swathed matrons and stylish kids while hearing assorted global languages spoken by sun-kissed backpackers?
The best spot to take in the scene, and the great blue yonder is from Cape Byron Lighthouse – Australia’s most easterly point, an easy walk or slightly harder run up Lawson Street to the top.
Here you can see pods of dolphins, turtles or even humpback whales during their annual migration. In town, Main Beach tapers off to silky sand and the blue Pacific Ocean. Look out to Julian Rocks – a popular drop-off dive site – or survey the scalloped bays to the north. The consistent swell of Belongil Beach is ideal for surf novices, while experienced surfers can check out the breaks at The Wreck, The Pass or Clarkes Beach.
The town centre and hinterland has steadily attracted an array of well-known names – from edgy restaurateurs to fashion folk – that embody the spirit of collaboration and innovation.
The sister duo behind Spell Designs inspire wanderlust with their ‘gypset’ lifestyle attire, while Darren Robertson’s Three Blue Ducks restaurant entices with meals crafted from ingredients sourced directly from onsite farm.
Byron’s golden glow has also imparted its shine to nearby coastal enclaves, including Brunswick Heads and Bangalow, like-minded yet under-the-radar locales that embrace the eco-ethos, community-minded feel and laidback beachy vibe of the bay.
My parents are adamant that even the local magpies are laidback and friendly – perhaps these notorious swooping birds have adopted the mantra of the Byron Bay welcome sign: “Cheer up, slow down, chillout”. I know I have.
By Cassandra Laffey