My most recent trip to Byron Bay was a spontaneous one and it was exactly what the doctor ordered. While it was not my first trip to the coastal town (my third to be exact), I really wanted to feel like a local in Byron Bay this time around.
Byron Bay is long past beyond a hidden gem on the Australian east coast tourist trial. A popular stop along many traveller’s road trips, it is still a popular destination for Australians as well. For good reason! Byron Bay ticks all the boxes. It is one of the surf capitals of Australia, it is home to an abundance of organic food restaurants and the fashion is boho heaven. It’s after all the birthplace of Australia’s best-known boho labels such as Augusta The Label, Spell & The Gypsy Collective, Arnhem Clothing and many more!
With the rising popularity among backpackers and travellers of all kinds, I wondered what keeps drawing the locals in and where they are hanging out! Arriving in Byron Bay, you will quickly notice the main street filled with backpacker travel shops and international chains. Due to the strong local community, however, there are still many beautiful local shops, restaurants and endless places to explore.
They say Byron Bay is a place to heal and restore and this is exactly why we went. While window shopping and scoring some boho vintage pieces was high on the list, the main reason for my visit was to get inspired. Inspired by the creative local atmosphere and the beautiful nature around the beach town.
Where do locals go in Byron Bay?
My wonderful friend Lindsay (who also writes about travel) and I purposefully stayed away from the backpacker party life (which is excellent as well), enjoyed many amazing coffees and brunches and most importantly got up early every morning to explore the surroundings of dreamy Byron Bay!
Beaches close to Byron Bay: Tallow Beach and Wategos Beach
Most first-time visitors to Byron Bay will visit the main beach of Byron Bay and watch the sunset at the lighthouse. While those are excellent spots, there are other options if you are trying to avoid the crowds. Tallow Beach and Wategos Beach are less well known and are still within walking distance of the town centre.
Tallow Beach is popular for it’s surfing and wildlife spotting and will therefore not be empty. Both times I visited the beach, most people stuck around the Northern Part of the beach and a short walk along the beach quickly provided a secluded feel. I for one will never forget my first trip to this beach as we had dolphins right in the waves with us! Sticking around until sunset? Quickly walk back to the main beach and catch the sunset from there.
Wategos Beach is right next to the main beach and a short walk away, making it more secluded from the main crowd. It’s often pictured on local’s Instagram shots and provided a heavenly view over sunset as well. There are even some beachside BBQ’s to have an evening picnic!
Still too crowded? Here’s your own secluded beach at Whites beach.
An insider’s guide to Byron Bay cannot be complete without Broken Head nature reserve and Whites Beach. While it’s not a secret under the locals, the dirt road leading to the path and the brisk walk down the cliff means that the number of tourists will be significantly less.
If you look closely on the map, you’ll see some small beaches further up north that you can get to by climbing over the rocks or even walking along the water at low tide. This is where you can find your secluded beach and enjoy a little bit of extra freedom -wink, wink-. Oh, you may even bump into the Hemsworth brothers as they supposedly live in Broken Head!
Explore the Hinterland towns of Mullumbimby, Bangalow & Newrybar
Forget about Nimbin and experience the true boho lifestyle in Mullumbimby and Bangalow. While Nimbin feels like it’s stuck in the 70s, the towns of Mullumbimby and Bangalow actually make you want to stick around!
Both towns are filled with unique shops, amazing coffee and brunch and a lively local community. ‘Mullum’, as the locals call it, has the best coffee/brunch at Punch & Daisy and dinner in the famous Milk & Honey pizzeria. Time it right to visit the local farmer’s market every Friday morning or the local arts & crafts market every third Saturday of the month. If you’re looking to relax a bit, Kiva Spa offers entrance to its bathhouse for only $25.
Visiting Newrybar was a little slice of heaven in my book. Conveniently located close together, Newrybar offers one of the best restaurants, antique stores, shops and delicacy stores all in one stop. Harvest, is well-renowned in the area for offering amazing food, a gourmet deli ‘chockers‘ with amazing delicacies and a local bakery. Luther & Co is there for excellent antique finds and up-to-date fashion can be found in Driftlab.
Are you looking for a stop-over between Sydney and Byron Bay? Here’s my guide to Newcastle!
My personal favourite in Newrybar was Newrybar Merchants. A collective of local creatives, I wanted to move right on in. This beautiful store offers everything from home decor to inspiring books, gorgeous jewellery, scented candles and ceramics. Because you’re in one of the most popular spots in Australia, don’t expect to score any bargains in Newrybar. Expect, in stead, to be filled with plenty of home decor inspo and excitement for locally grown food.
Your last hinterland visit should be to Bangalow. Filled with beautiful historic houses, this town is straight out of a boho fashion shoot! Folk’s sister cafe, Woods, offers a good coffee in an Instaworthy setting. While the food is delicious, it can learn something from its sister restaurant when it comes to portion sizes. Woods is part of the Arts Precinct where you can do some more shopping at Assembly Label and browse art in the local gallery.
Go waterfall hunting!
Exploring the local waterfalls is easy when you’re already exploring the hinterland towns. Many locals head over to Minyon falls on a hot summers day where a 4km hike will take you to the bottom of this picturesque fall.
A more low-key fall is Killen falls around the corner of Newrybar. Don’t be put down by the name of this waterfall, it’s most definitely worth a visit and a perfect spot to practice your waterfall photography skills and go in for a dip!
It’s impossible to visit all of the amazing restaurants that Byron Bay has on offer. That doesn’t mean Lindsay and I didn’t try! In these top locations, I know you’ll have great meals during your short trip!
Breakfast & Brunch
Folk offers by far the best coffee in town and the food is extraordinary as well! It’s located next to the Discovery Parks Caravan park, you may think it’s odd to go splurge at a ‘caravan park cafe’, but I can assure it’s everything but! Watch the locals come by in their uttermost fabulous outfits and pretend you’re a local as well.
In the middle of the town and crawling distance of most hostels and hotels, Combi looks like it’s made to attract Instagram lovers. But hey, we weren’t complaining! With its pink tables and gorgeous paintings, you’d almost forget it has delicious food as well!
Perfect avo and eggs with a delicious dukkah topping? Bayleaf Cafe is the place to be. There may be a bit of a wait on busy weekends, but stick around because it’s worth it! Don’t forget to cross the street and stroll past a few of the most popular Byron stores as well after you fill your belly.
The name itself is very promising and this super cheap falafel restaurant doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for something casual and easy for dinner
Whether you’re up for a sushi train or a hot bowl of delicious ramen, this place is a perfect go-to. Try their Byron Bay summer roll if you want to see how Byron embodies itself in a sushi roll!
I mean, good pizza is always an excellent idea! This local staple serves real Italian pizza just how I like it. They also offer a summer favourite of fresh tomatoes and no cheese which I particularly liked on the rare occasion that I would cheat on my buffalo margarita.
Please do me a favour and head to Foxy Luu’s for the perfect Asian tapas concept. Their tofu boa is out of this world. Foxy’s is also a great spot if you’re looking for a budget option in the town!
Byron Bay offers all sorts of accommodation, from the extremely luxurious to budget options. In the past I have rented an Airbnb (sign up here and get $48 off your stay) and camped (right next to folk) and this time around YHA kindly offered to let us experience both hostels in the city centre.
While the YHA Cape Byron offers traditional rooms with a pool and a cozy atmosphere it was the newly renovated Byron Bay YHA that blew us off our socks. The boutique style hostel delivers exactly what is promises. We felt as though we were staying at a gorgeous new hotel and kept getting amazed at how affordable it is. A twin room with your own brand new bathroom will set you back $99 and a dorm bed is available for as little as $25. A steal for staying a hostel this nice!
As Byron Bay is well established along the tourist trail of the East Coast, it’s easily reachable as well! Drive about 8-10hours north from Sydney and only 2h south from Brisbane. All tourist buses also stop in the city centre.
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Want more Byron Bay? Check out Lindsay’s blog post on our wonderful trip here!
Apart from the sponsored stay at YHA, none of the places mentioned in this article paid for any promotion. Some link might contain affiliate links. That means that, by no extra cost of your own, you will be supporting this blog by buying something through these links. Thank you for your support!