5 March 2018
With its laid-back atmosphere, fantastic weather and beautiful coastal setting, many consider Byron Bay to be Australia’s backpacking paradise. In fact, this small town of just 9,000 residents attracts close to 2 million visitors each year. If you’re seeking a taste of alternative culture and bohemian life, check out our guide to backpacking in Byron Bay.
By car: Byron Bay is about a 2-hour drive south of Brisbane (or 9 hours north of Sydney).
By plane: Regular shuttle buses are available from Brisbane, Gold Coast and Ballina airports (roughly $60, $40 and $20, respectively).
Cape Byron Lighthouse is Byron Bay’s most iconic landmark. This bright white tower sits on the easternmost point of Australia, which makes it a popular place to watch sunrises, sunsets, and whales migrating along the coastline between May and November.
The Farm is a perfect example of Byron Bay’s philosophy and culture. This 80-acre property is home to a community of small businesses united by a focus on local produce and sustainability. Here, you’ll find friendly farm animals, educational workshops, fantastic eateries, and artisan products available for purchase.
One of Australia’s favourite brewing companies, Stone & Wood has been churning out award-winning beers in Byron Bay since 2008. Visitors can book a tour of the brewery ($20) to learn all about the company’s history and brewing process, before purchasing a tasting paddle of their favourite craft beers in the brewery tasting room.
The lighthouse trail is a ‘must-do’ for anyone visiting Byron Bay. This 90-minute walk takes visitors through Cape Byron State Conservation Area, passing Wategos Beach and scenic ocean views from all sides. Take a small detour to explore Little Wategos Beach, Australia’s most easterly Beach. Be sure to keep a lookout for wallabies, dolphins and whales, and stop at Cape Byron Lighthouse to enjoy panoramic views of the Australian coastline.
With its many beautiful beaches and waterways, Byron Bay is a fantastic place to try out different watersports. Great waves at places like The Wreck and The Pass ensure that surfing remains a popular pastime with locals and visitors alike. Get a different perspective by windsurfing, kitesurfing, or kayaking on the ocean. Those looking to relax on the water can also join a stand-up paddleboarding tour along the Brunswick River.
Byron Bay’s markets are an important part of its community and identity. Held on the first Sunday of each month, Byron Community Market offers a wide range of local food, art and handicrafts. This is one of the region’s biggest markets, and many shoppers come from out of town to attend. The Byron Farmers Market (held every Thursday morning) showcases fresh local produce such as macadamia nuts, olives, chutneys and prawns. On Saturday evenings between October and Easter, Byron Artisan Market focuses on sustainable clothing, jewellery, accessories and crafts, with a side of food and music. Held four times per year, Byron Beachside Market offers a full day of live music, handmade crafts and homewares, art, fashion and food.
Thanks to its reputation as a backpacking haven, Byron Bay contains a range of accommodation options to suit those on a budget. Hostels are the most popular choice for short-term stays, with top picks including Backpackers Inn on the Beach, Byron Bay Beach Hostel, Aquarius Backpackers, Byron Bay YHA, Nomads Backpackers, Arts Factory Lodge, The Aviary and Cape Byron YHA. Dormitory beds often sell out months in advance (even during winter), so either book early or be prepared to pay for a private room.
There are also a few campgrounds, holiday parks and caravan parks dotted around town. Although prices and facilities vary, many campsites cost less than $20 per person per night. The campground at the Arts Factory Lodge is a great choice for social campers and offers a refreshing alternative to family-oriented holiday parks.
Bay Leaf Cafe: This busy, well-priced cafe is a favourite spot for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
Il Buco Cafe and Pizzeria: Authentic Italian pizza – arguably the best in the region.
Dip Cafe: Fantastic cafe serving breakfast (plus sandwiches and salads) until 3pm.
Miss Margarita: Bustling Mexican cantina good for cocktails and all the classics.
Bay Kebabs: Byron Bay’s favourite kebabs. Sauces, condiments, and bread-free options available at no extra charge.
Orgasmic Food Byron Bay: Their customer service might be hit and miss, but their falafels are the stuff of legends.
Heart of Byron: Vegetarian joint open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fill up a plate or a takeaway container with Indian food for $9.95.
Beach Hotel: This well-known pub sits right across the road from the beach. It’s a popular place for sunset beers and attracts an international crowd.
The Sticky Wicket: Formerly known as Cocomangas, this Byron Bay institution has been revamped into a modern sports bar. Good food and great hour happy deals.
Cheeky Monkeys: Party venue filled with backpackers, cheap food and drinks.
Byron Bay Brewery: Relaxed, airy venue serving award-winning craft beers.
Byron Bay makes a great starting point to explore the ‘Rainbow Region’ of northeast NSW. This region of scenic hinterland and countryside is home to a harmonious blend of artists, farmers, environmentalists and hippies. Nimbin is particularly famous for being a haven of alternative culture, while The Channon hosts a number of colourful events despite its tiny size.
The area surrounding Byron Bay is also rich with national parks, waterfalls, agricultural plantations and lush rainforests. Mount Warning makes a great spot for hiking and picnicking, while nearby Uki village is worth visiting for its colourful monthly bazaar. That said, it’s also wonderful to simply drive along the coast and soak up the stunning scenery of the northern NSW.