A coastal town located on the far north coast of Australia, Byron Bay is a unique place full of character and stunning scenery – where the rainforest literally meets the sea. We hired a car and spent four days there, which allowed us enough time to explore the area and surrounds without feeling too rushed.
What to do:
1. Marvel at the views from Cape Byron Lighthouse
For anyone visiting Byron Bay, the Cape Byron Lighthouse is definitely a must do. Located at the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, the lighthouse was originally built at the turn of the 19th century to protect ships passing along the coast. Today, it offers visitors impressive views over the ocean and hinterland and includes a Maritime Museum located in the former lighthouse keepers office which provides visitors with an abundance of information about the history of the lighthouse. Entry into the museum is free and is open every day from 10am until 4pm.
There are a couple of different ways to access the lighthouse. You can choose to drive up there (a fee of $8 per vehicle applies for each vehicle at the carpark). However, we would recommend ditching the car and accessing the lighthouse through the Cape Byron Walking Trail instead. The trail is a 3.7km loop and provides stunning views of both the ocean and rainforest.
The walk is worth it though as we made it to the lookout, we saw sightings of dolphins and whales (the whales migrate their way along the east coast from May to November). The lookout provides panoramic views anytime of the day, but we would recommend getting there at sunrise if you want to make the most of this scenery. We didn’t wake up this early unfortunately, however, we would still recommend going early in the morning as the trail becomes quite busy throughout the day.
GRADE : EASY TO MODERATE: The track was a short walk from our accommodation and started off easy, however, the track does include several stairs as we made our way up the cliff. The track can also be accessed at several different points along the way if you want to walk the track in shorter sections instead.
2. Try your hand at ocean kayaking
If you’re up for a bit of adventure while visiting Byron Bay, we would recommend trying kayaking through Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay. We were first-timers and we can say that it’s definitely a lot harder than it looks! We were lucky enough to go in June during the annual whale migration, so we saw both dolphins and humpback whales. Seeing these majestic animals will make the amount of pain your arms are in worth it though!
We spent about 2 and a half hours on the water (with some rest stops in between), which was definitely enough time to spend out there. The guides were friendly and provided us with a wealth of information about the surrounding area and the local marine wildlife – and at the end of the trip we were rewarded with refreshments and photos on the beach.
3. Visit the magical Minyon Falls and the colourful town of Nimbin
A visit to Byron Bay wouldn’t be complete without visiting the unique hippy town of Nimbin. Located around an hour from Byron Bay, the drive to Nimbin includes some tight and windy roads through sub-tropical rainforest, but it’s nothing short of beautiful. If you don’t have a hire car, there are a number of coach and shuttle options which offer day tours of Nimbin and the surrounds.
On arrival, we immediately felt like we had been transported into this weird and wonderful world. The main street is where you will see all of the buildings painted in bright colours contributing to the quirky character of this town.
TRAVEL NOTE : The town is known for its pro-cannabis culture, so some places will smell of cannabis, and people on the street might try to offer you psychedelics. We politely said no and continued on with no issues.
A short drive from the centre of town are the Nimbin Rocks, which are volcanic extrusions leftover from the Mount Warning Tweed Volcano that erupted over 20 million years ago and can only be viewed from the main road.
TRAVEL NOTE : Google Maps might offer a route to get closer to these rocks which will lead you onto unsealed road and through private property. These rocks are sacred to the Bundjalung tribe and there is no way to get closer to them.
On the way back to Byron Bay, we stopped in at Minyon Falls Lookout. It’s located about an hour from Nimbin (and about 45 minutes from Byron Bay). The falls are located in Nightcap National Park, where the road leading to the falls is unsealed and bumpy but the walk to the falls from the carpark is only short. The lookout offers some of the most spectacular views of the waterfall and surrounding rainforest. We were only here for a quick stop, but you can certainly spend more time here as there are plenty of picnic and barbecue options.
WHERE TO EAT : We couldn’t go past trying Nimbin Pizza & Trattoria. Located in the heart of the town, this place offered some delicious pizza and fresh smoothie options.
4. Take a road trip down the coast
On our first day visiting Byron Bay, rain was forecasted for most of the day. We still wanted to make the most of our stay in Byron and decided to do a road trip down to Ballina, as we had heard this coastal drive was beautiful.
Our first stop was visiting The Three Sisters rock formations, where the Aboriginal story goes that three sisters were turned into these rocky outcrops.
GRADE : EASY. This walking track is located in the Broken Head Nature Reserve and is an easy 1.6km return walk. The track will take you through lush rainforest and as you emerge, you will be rewarded with some awe-inspiring views of the rocks and Kings Beach.
Our next stop was the surfer town of Lennox, where we went to Lake Ainsworth (Ti Tree Lake). In nice weather, this lake would’ve been even more amazing to see, as the tea tree plants grow beside the lake and the oil from the plant drips into the lake leaving the water with a tea stained look.
Our next stop was the Pat Morton Lookout, which is located on top of Lennox Point and provides extensive ocean views. In nice weather, you should be able to spot surfers, dolphins and even whales. You can access part of the coastal track from the stairs located in the carpark, which provides a beautiful scenic walk, taking you through rainforest and along cliff-tops to Boulder Beach and Ballina.
While we were in Ballina, we had heard about the ‘Big Prawn’ which pays homage to the fresh seafood found in the area. We weren’t amazed by the Big Prawn, mainly due to the location, as it was located next to a Bunnings carpark. We think if it was located in a nicer location in town, we would’ve enjoyed this more.
Where to eat:
Miss Margarita: For a delicious taste of Mexico, this is the place to go. The décor was beautiful and made us feel like we were eating in a cosy little restaurant on the coast of Mexico. We had a hard time deciding on what to choose to start off with, as there were so many delicious options. Thankfully we were able to try the appetiser taster which was a great way to try out all of these! (Our favourite and a must try is the Jalapeño Poppers). For mains, we opted for two different tacos; the salt and chilli squid and chipotle chicken. And for drinks, we couldn’t go past the margaritas, where we tried the mango margarita and the chipotle chilli and lime margarita. Both of which were a refreshing complement to our food.
TRAVEL NOTE : This is a local hotspot and gets quite busy especially on weekends. We had to wait about half an hour for a table. The good thing was that we could go for a walk around town and they messaged us when the table was ready.
Foxy Luu’s: For a fresh taste of Asia, we would recommend this place. Both the food and décor offered a beautiful take on Modern Asia. We decided to try their chicken and pork Bao’s, both of which were extremely tasty.
Suffolk Park Bakery: Don’t miss grabbing some baked goodies from here. We tried the almond croissants which certainly didn’t disappoint!
Where to stay:
We stayed in a guesthouse which was beautifully decorated and was located in close proximity to the centre of town. Unfortunately, the guesthouse is no longer available on Airbnb, but there are heaps of guesthouses available which offer a similar experience to the one we had.
How to get there:
Jetstar does direct flights from Tullamarine Airport (Melbourne) to Ballina Airport, taking around 2 hours. Byron Bay is located about 33 minutes (36.2km) away from Ballina via the M1 and we hired a car through Europcar for the four days that we were there, which made it easier to get around. There is also a shuttle bus transfer between the airport and Byron Bay.