Looking for great waves, the chance to paddle with the dolphins and eat a range of fresh, exciting and (importantly for me) allergy-friendly food? Byron Bay and quiet neighbour Brunswick Heads are what you’ve been searching for. We adore Byron Bay. The vibe of the place has undoubtedly changed over the years and many of the old-souls will tell you to stay clear of Byron now as it’s too commercial and busy. Yes, Byron Bay tourism has bloomed and chain-stores have moved in. However it’s also not too hard to get away from the main tourist areas and enjoy the great parts of Byron Bay, without the bad.
Byron Bay is a great place to take a surf lesson, and is a spectacular place to skydive in Australia. You can also kayak with the dolphins and more importantly, the weather is warm enough to swim for most of the year! There are plenty of free things to do in Byron Bay too. We have a whole article dedicated to that, so head over there for a full list of free things to do.
So why is it that Byron Bay has this magnetic draw for so many people? I tried to put it into words in a past article about How Byron Bay saved my lifestyle, but after our latest visit, I think I have a better way to articulate it. You can be yourself in Byron Bay, no matter who or what that is. That is the drawcard. After spending 12 months visiting beaches that are prettier, towns that are more surfie and staying in accommodation that is better quality that what is on offer at Byron Bay – the reason we were itching to return to Byron was that in no other place did we feel completely comfortable and relaxed in our own skin. You can be a hippie, a goth, gay, asexual, commercial, alternative, a yogi or a tutu-wearing skinhead and nobody in Byron will look at you with disgust, make you feel unsafe, intimidate you or really even give you a second glance. It is this ease of being yourself which we crave. It is why we LOVE Melbourne, that city of freaks is perfect for us (if only the weather wasn’t so miserable), and it is why we will always see Byron Bay as a second home.
Once you’ve taken a couple days just to soak in the atmosphere of Byron and enjoyed all the treats of the main beach and towns, it’s time to branch out a little further. Iconic views across Byron Bay and the most Easterly Point of the Australian mainland can be accessed at the lighthouse. Built in 1901 the Byron lighthouse is now the most powerful in Australia – and is a great spot of whale watching! Personally, my favourite part of a visit to the lighthouse are the views that you get across Tallows Beach. If you’re looking to escape the crowds of Byron’s main beach, then head to Tallows Beach. Stretching from Cosy Corner (a wind-free section tucked up again the lighthouse headland) to Suffolk Park, it’s easy to get a patch of sand to yourself here. beware though, the rips are strong and the waves wild. There is only one surf lifesaving patrol on Tallows Beach and that is at Suffolk Park, so if don’t know how to read the water, then don’t go in too deep. That goes for you gromit surfers too! Know your limits guys.
A great day out (for those like Monique who can walk all day and still want another walk after dinner) is to head towards the lighthouse and down the other side onto Tallows Beach. Follow the beach to the neighbouring township of Suffolk Park and hit up the cafes and/or bakeries there for lunch before walking the return trip. If your legs have packed it in, or your girlfriend is going to murder you in your sleep in you make her walk the return journey, you can always take the bus back to Byron from Suffolk Park.
After a full day of walking, swimming, surfing and dolphin spotting you will want to hit the town for some great grub. If you’re a health junkie or vegetarian you will feel like you have died and gone to heaven. Byron Bay offers a range of raw food and vegetarian options for breakfast and lunch – dinner however is a little trickier with seafood being a staple on menus after 5pm. Our faves? Glad you asked. Manna Haven is a bit of a different place but offer the BEST breakfast we have had in a long time. Naked Treaties is a MUST VISIT for the sweet tooth, health addict and smoothie lover – Monique loves Naked Treaties! Very close to both Naked Treaties and Manna haven is Fundies, a great lunch spot with a kickin’ juice bar. We’re yet to try Cardamom Pod yet, but it’s on the list for next time. For dinner try Heart and Halo.
If Byron Bay is all just too busy for you, then Brunswick Heads will suit you much better.
Many of the grey nomads we have met on the road have told us that they just can’t handle Byron Bay anymore, and prefer to stay in Brunswick Heads. It’s the slower paced and much less touristy option, whilst still being in the Byron region. The population of Brunswick Heads is just over 1,600 (against nearly 5,000 in Byron Bay) and it is generally overlooked by travellers who hop back to the Pacific Highway from Byron and head towards the Queensland border. For those who take the time to stop though, Brunswick Heads is sure to charm you with it’s family vibe, beautiful river-mouth and beach and locally produced food and crafts.
The local pub offers great meals and free live music, plus it all finishes up before midnight; such is the lifestyle in this coastal village. A river separates the township from the beach with an old wooden bridge linking the two. Motorists, pedestrians, bike riders and skaters all share this bridge. The pace of Brusnwick Heads is slow, don’t try to rush your stay or you will find yourself very frustrated.
Brunswick Heads is great for fishing and yabbying, kayaking up the river and generally chilling the fuck out. We love it for window shopping, the monthly markets and meandering with no real destination in mind.
Places to stay in Byron Bay & Brunswick Heads
North Coast Holiday Parks run camping grounds at both Byron Bay and Brunswick Heads. They offer a great loyalty program where you get one night for every 6 that you pay for. North Coast Holiday Parks are the more expensive option at Byron Bay however this program of one free night per week (when you stay at 2 parks or more) does make the cost a little more reasonable. You can find out more about the parks via the following links: Clarkes Beach Holiday Park (Byron Bay), Terrace Reserve Holiday Park, Massey Greene Holiday Park and Ferry Reserve Holiday Park. When staying in Byron Bay though, we prefer to camp at Byron Bay Holiday Park, it is further out of town that the North Coast park however the park offers more space, larger sites and an unpowered camping section that is separated from the powered sites and cabins. Byron Bay Holiday Park is cheaper to stay at and had direct access to Tallows Beach. The walk to Byron town centre is about 3kms and is a lovely walk or easy bike ride.
If camping isn’t your style, then try airbnb (click here for $35 airbnb credit). You can rent the following for under $100 per night – all within walking distance to Tallows Beach and Byron town centre.
- Little Pandanus Cottage
- Byron Studio
- Tropical Garden Studio
- Studio on Bangalow Rd
- Tropical Centre Byron
- Garden Room
Best time to visit Byron Bay region
All year round baby! Although unless you are specifically visiting the Bluesfest or Splendour in the Grass, you might want to avoid these times (generally mid-April and late July). Byron Bay can also be a popular destination for schoolies, so avoiding that week would be wise too, unless you’re into that sort of thing (in which case you might want to look up the term ‘toolie’).