Destination Feature-Byron Bay
What first comes to mind when you think of Byron Bay?
There seems to be two distinct schools of thought about the world famous beach side town.
The first is that it’s a party town, full of backpackers, hippie (or hipster) wannabes and hard core partiers, devoid of the original soul that it once had in the 70’s and 80’s. The second is that it’s a cultural and spiritual mecca-a conscious community of creative spirits, passionate about the environment, self awareness, wellness, and natural living.
I fall into the second camp. When I go to Byron, I feel like I’ve come home.
Byron has an indescribable energy, and this is the reason so many esoterics, artists, travelers, healers, and those in need of healing are drawn to the place. In fact, the Arakwal Bumberlin people have used the area as a place for healing and fertility for thousands of years.
The Bay itself and the surrounding hinterland is a place of supreme natural beauty. The azure waters and squeaky white sand beaches are just the tip of the iceberg (Or should I say volcano). Uniquely positioned close to several National Parks, Nature Reserves and incorporating a Marine Park, Byron is a gateway for those wishing to visit some magnificent natural attractions. Subtropical rainforests, waterfalls, superb headlands, scenic drives and nature walks are all on offer.
For most of its European history, Byron has been a working mans town. Originally known as Cavvanbah (‘meeting place’), it was home to many industries including logging, whaling, sand mining, abattoirs, and dairy and pig farming.
The town slowly began to change when it was discovered by surfers in the 60’s, and then the new age settlers that came to the North Coast for the Aquarius Festival in 1973.
Nowadays, most of the old buildings and factories are gone. The piggery is now home to the Arts Factory; a cinema, bar, brewery, day spa, and backpacker complex on Skinners Shoot Rd- a reflection of everything that is unique about Byron Bay.
The Buddha Bar at the Arts Factory
Top ten things to do in Byron Bay (and surrounds)
1. Take a long walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse and enjoy the beautiful view. In winter, watch the annual humpback whale migration, and throughout the year, dolphins, and other marine life-then stroll down the hill to reach the most Easterly Point on the Australian mainland.
2. Surf the Wreck (or paddleboard or swim or snorkel-just get out there and check it out!
Image credit: Alex Frings
3. Watch the sunrise from Mount Warning, the first place in Australia to receive the sun’s rays each day.
4. Attend one of the many cultural events happening year round. Byron is a creative playground, with more music, arts, film, writers, and spiritual festivals than you can poke a talisman at.
5. Check out the many regional markets in Byron, The Channon, Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Brunswick Heads. The markets are the ideal place to experience the personality and spirit of the locals. Creativity and freedom are on display from a community that lives in harmony with its surrounding physical landscape.
6. Drive to the awe inspiring Minyon Falls in the Nightcap National Park-the lookout is simply stunning.
7. Check out the Crystal Castle and Shambala Gardens, located just past Mullumbimby. The subtropical gardens are reason enough to visit, with many Buddhist and Hindu statues located throughout. There are also some magnificent Amethyst geodes and Rose Quartz on display.
8. Dive at Julian Rocks-rated as one of the top 5 scuba diving sites in Australia. Get up close to over 500 species of fish, coral, sea turtles, rays and grey nurse sharks. The dive sites are suitable for novice and experienced divers.
9. Drumming circle at Main Beach-Every day at sunset, there is a drumming circle on the grass at Main Beach. You’re welcome to join in, or you can just grab a picnic blanket and something yummy and enjoy.
10. Relax! You can do as much or as little as you like in this beautiful part of the world. And if you need some assistance, there are plenty of alternative therapists willing to help.
Where to stay
Byron is a popular spot in Summer and so if you’re not into crowds-and who is-avoid the area during peak season (November-April). Here is my pick of a few of the nicer camp grounds in the Bay area:
Clarkes Beach Holiday Park
Clarkes Beach Holiday Park-within walking distance to town, and with direct access to the beach, Clarkes Beach provides a pretty tranquil environment. The dining area on the viewing platform overlooks the ocean and has one of the most beautiful views in the area.
Suffolk Park Caravan Park-about eight minutes out of town, this is also right on the beach. The sites are a little small but the park is nice and quiet with great facilities.
For an altogether different experience, try Terrace Reserve and Ferry Reserve parks in Brunswick heads. Both are located close to town and the river, and one of the best pubs in Australia!
Rummery Park Campground-just a short walk from the Minyon Falls. The camp ground is small but well equipped, with an amenities block, wood bbq’s and toilets.
Wow! I’ve surprised myself by not gushing too much about this place-it is honestly my most favourite town in Australia. Here’s to you finding the magic too.