Byron Bay is one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations, and with good reason. Glorious beaches, fabulous dining and bars, and a reputation for being a playground for the rich and famous, all conspire to bring visitors to Australia’s most easterly point by the truckload.
(Wategos Beach, Byron Bay. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: James Horan)
For many, ‘Byron’ is their destination of choice – the perfect place to flop-and-drop or party like it’s 1999. Or both. But for an increasing number of visitors, Byron is a base from which to explore the area’s other seaside villages and hinterland hamlets which brim with surprises for those prepared to explore.
Your ATAS accredited travel agent can help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in and around Byron Bay.
Here’s a snapshot of some easy extensions to a Byron Bay holiday, and emerging destinations in their own right.
(Hinterland, Byron Bay. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: James Horan)
Like a holiday postcard from the 1970s, Brunz is an absolute charmer. But don’t let is sleepy vibe deceive you – this town is happening.
(Brunswick Heads. Image credit: Casey Eveleigh / brunswickheads.org)
Home to a gaggle of fab shops, a legendary bakery, the renowned (and hatted) Fleet restaurant and one of the NSW coast’s best pubs, Brunswick Heads is pretty much the new black. A recent edition to Brunz’s offering is the brilliant Brunswick Picture House – an old cinema lovingly restored by dedicated locals after dodging the wrecking ball for 30 years. The Picture House shows movies, hosts performances, concerts and cheeky cabarets year-round.
(The restored Brunswick Picture House. Image credit: brunswickpicturehouse.com)
The town sits beside the final sweeping bends of Simpsons Creek before it enters the Brunswick River by the sea. Visit and you’ll see families splashing about in the sandy shallows amongst pelicans, and kids leaping off the old wooden bridge that rumbles and rattles with each car crossing.
Across the bridge, swim in the calm waters protected by the sea wall that reaches out into the surf, or take your spot on the beach and find the perfect wave peeling off sandbanks carved by the ocean.
Look South, and you’ll see the full sweep of Byron Bay, the lighthouse atop Cape Byron and wonder what all the ‘Byron’ fuss is about.
One Saturday each June, the streets of Brunswick Heads swell with treasure hunters as thousands descend on the town for its Old & Gold festival. A paradise for vintage clothing hunters and fanciers of retro knick-knacks, vinyl and furniture, Old & Gold completely consumes this town.
Brunswick Heads is just 15-20 minutes north of Byron Bay.
In the hinterland just 20 minutes from Byron Bay sits the gorgeous (and a little bit posh) town of Bangalow. In the last 15 years or so, Bangalow has gone from nondescript village by the highway, to enclave of great dining, retail, galleries, festivals and events.
With a compact town centre, a great pub and Bowlo with its legendary Stockpot Kitchen serving smokehouse barbecue goodness to hungry locals and out-of-towners, this town is a surprise packet.
(Our Corner Store, Bangalow. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: James Horan)
Get your timing right and you might just visit Bangalow on a market Sunday (the 4th of every month), or on Billycart Derby day (mid-May) when the main-street is closed to cars, lined with hay bales and given over to the pilots of fast carts and contraptions that careen down from the pub to the primary school. It’s absolute chaos, the kind of thing that makes you reconsider life in the big smoke and how on earth they get away with it.
(Bangalow Billycart Derby. Image credit: Ben Alcock)
Get really lucky and you’ll stumble on the Sample Food Festival or the ever-larger Bangalow Bluegrass and BBQ (think slow-and-low cooked American style BBQ) Festival. Every Saturday morning the Farmers Market sets up in the carpark behind the pub; there’s even an occasional pop-up drive-in cinema on weekends in the Showgrounds.
(Sample Food Festival, Bangalow. Image credit: Ben Alcock)
If you’re a fine-diner, you’ll feel right at home at Bangalow’s Town restaurant – a regular A-lister in good food guides and best-regional-restaurant lists.
Newrybar is a classic blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town. Just 10 minutes from Bangalow, the jewel in Newrybar’s crown is the renowned Harvest restaurant. Like Fleet in Brunswick Heads, and Bangalow’s Town restaurant, Harvest regularly features in lists of Australia’s best regional diners. In recent years, Harvest has expanded to include a well-stocked deli and heritage bakery.
Drop everything and venture into the bakery on weekend mornings (8.00-10.00) for traditional sourdough, pastries, baguettes, doughnuts and all kinds of treats.
(The Shed, Newrybar. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: James Horan)
Across the road from Harvest, you’ll find Newrybar Merchants – a collective of creative local artisans and curators of fine goods and eclectic antiques aplenty.
This intriguingly-named hamlet is a tiny gem, famed for its antiques and – unexpectedly – a renowned Japanese diner, Doma. Recently reviewed in the New York Times, tiny Doma sits inside a ramshackle timber shopfront beside the town’s General Store, serving bona fide Japanese fare and fusion in unmistakably Australian rural surrounds.
(Doma Cafe, Federal. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: James Horan)
A drive to Federal along Coolamon Scenic Drive from Byron Bay for breakfast or lunch takes just 25 minutes or so, and is an utterly charming outing.
(Lookout on Coolamon Scenic Drive. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: Trevor Worden)
At the southern end of an (ironically) unbroken 8-kilometre stretch of sand that starts in the shadows of the iconic Cape Byron lighthouse, Broken Head is a secluded corner popular with surfers and locals looking to escape the crowds and seasonal chaos of Byron Bay.
(Looking south the Broken Head from Cape Byron. Image credit: Destination NSW / Photographer: James Horan)
Home to a few luxe homes (keep an eye out for a Hemsworth or two) and a caravan park, Broken (as it’s known locally) is just 20 minutes by car from downtown Byron.
‘Mullum’ – as it is known locally – sits 11 kilometres upstream from Brunswick Heads, just 25 minutes from Byron. This is a fair-sized country town with – unfairly – a reputation for being a bit, well, dull. The Friday morning market in Mullumbimby alone is worth a visit.
(The Middle Pub, Mullumbimby)
While you’re in town, explore its wide streets and keep an eye out for local hot-spots ‘Milk and Honey’ for legendary local pizza, and Poinciana cafe. Other highlights include Kiva Spa & Bathhouse, and The Rock and Roll Coffee Company.
The town’s annual music festival takes place over four days each November, drawing visitors from all over the country.
Fun fact: Iggy Azalea hails from, you guessed it – Mullumbimby.
With a car and an ATAS accredited travel agent in your corner, you can leave Byron Bay and you be in any of these gems in half an hour or less. So, get out, explore and see where the roads beyond Byron can take you.
You might never want to come back.
Byron Bay is just a 2-hour drive from Brisbane, an hour from the Gold Coast, and just 25 minutes from Ballina. Car rental companies Avis and Hertz operate out of airports in each of these locations, and shuttle bus operators have scheduled connections between each.
Sadly, the rail line that connected NSW‘s far north coast with Sydney no longer runs through Bangalow and into the platform beside the Railway Friendly Bar in Byron Bay – a wonderful journey for those who remember it. Rail fanciers these days have to alight in Casino, and transfer to Byron Bay by Countrylink Coach.
Ask your favourite ATAS accredited travel agent for advice on how to make the most of your holiday in this stunning corner
of New South Wales.
Looking for more holiday ideas to beat the winter blues? Read our Top 5 Place for Travelling this Winter blog.