From its surf shops to its marina full of fishing boats, from its gloriously golden sand to its Art Deco architecture, Brunswick Heads is the quintessential Aussie beach town. The reboot of the popular drama Sea Change was even shot here. But don’t come expecting Hollywood buzz; the sleepy hamlet on the NSW North Coast is as laidback as they come, with bare feet and salty hair accepted and expected.
A world of wonders
Days here revolve around the water, whether you’re jumping into the Brunswick River that cuts through town, or tackling the legendary waves that crash to shore along this part of the coast. If you’re an avid angler, you’ll fit right in, with beach and river fishing not just a pastime, but a passion among generations of locals and visitors. And where the sea ends, the rainforest begins, with nature reserves to the north and south, and immense World Heritage-listed rainforest to the west in Nightcap National Park.
Surfers come to this stretch of shore year-round for the lovely, long and consistent breaks along open beaches, with the waves at the entrance to the Brunswick River the stuff of legend. If you prefer to sightsee while seated, jump aboard a boat or go for a paddle with Byron Bay Eco Cruises and Kayaks or Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay, both accredited ecotourism operators. Blue Bay Divers will take you below the waves for diving and snorkelling expeditions around Cape Byron Marine Park.
Between May and November, thousands of humpback whales migrate through the waters off Brunswick Heads. Paddle out to see them on a kayak or join a tour with Blue Bay Whale Watching for an up-close glimpse of humpbacks in the wild. You don’t have to be on the water to see these gentle giants breaching and blowing, with lookouts offering unbroken views of pods as they charge up and down the coast. Dolphins are spotted year round and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see one swim up the river right through town.
Wining & dining
The Brunswick Hotel delivers everything you could want in a beachside bar: live music, a leafy beer garden, local brews and a menu packed with pub essentials like fish and chips, chicken parmigiana and burgers with every trimming. Or you can travel the world through cuisine, slurping steaming bowls of Japanese noodles at pop-up Ramen Bar and sipping Mexican cocktails while munching tacos at cantina La Casita.
For the best possible start to your day, stroll the town’s main streets to grab great coffee and breakfast at cafes like Happy Dolphin and Table View, the latter delivering an innovative menu with a Scandinavian twist. For fine dining, head to the 22-seater Fleet for farm-to-table produce.
Festivals & events
Water is also the star of the town’s events calendar, with May’s Mullum2Bruns Paddle spanning 10km down the Brunswick River and raising funds for local charities. It may sound like a seafood celebration, but the annual Festival of the Fish ‘n’ Chips (officially known as Woodchop) in January actually revolves around a wood chopping competition – with a carnival, twilight market and fireworks on the side.
You can pick up local produce, arts and crafts at the Brunswick Heads Monthly Markets, held in the middle of town on the first Saturday of the month, or come June, hunt for vintage treasures at the Old And Gold Festival.
If you want to splash out, there are some seriously stylish holiday houses available for rent around town, including the funky Bruns Surf Shack. Other accommodation offerings span classic motels with retro flair, such as The Chalet and The Sails, as well as serviced apartments and holiday parks with cabins and powered sites either by the beach or on the edge of the river.
On the far North Coast of the state, Brunswick Heads is a scenic 8.5-hour drive north from Sydney or almost two hours south from Brisbane. You can fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport or the Gold Coast Airport, both around 30 minutes away.