The coastal town of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, Australia has developed a reputation over the years as a laid back, sleepy town, with a hippy/surfie vibe. In truth there probably isn’t a lot that separates this town from other pretty beach towns along this stretch of popular coast, but it’s this ‘vibe’ that brings the backpackers and tourists each year in search of a spot to chill out. Byron Bay’s close proximity to hippy mecca Nimbin, a little further in land, and the great surf conditions on local beaches are major drawcard to the dreadlocked 18-25’s but over the years we have found that this spot has a lot of appeal to families also.
Byron Bay has almost perfect weather conditions. Average summer temperatures are 21C – 28C, and average winter temperatures are 15C – 21C, and this makes it an excellent location for a holiday or plenty of outdoor activities including festivals throughout the year. We found accommodation prices to be a little higher there than nearby coastal towns, but there is still something to suit all budgets from backpacker’s inns to five star resorts. Take a stroll down the main street, visit a café or even a supermarket, and the many, many different foreign accents will remind you of just what a hot spot this little town is.
The local Arakwal Aboriginal people’s name for the area is Cavvanbah, meaning “meeting place”, but it was Lieutenant James Cook who named Cape Byron after John Byron, (grandfather of the poet Lord Byron), in 1770 when they found safe anchorage there. Cape Byron, a headland under the shadow of a 1901 lighthouse, is the easternmost point of mainland Australia. European history in the town began in the 1880’s with locals dipping into many different industries from logging to mining, meatworks, whaling and dairying, before finding a permanent local income in the form of tourism after the arrival of the surfers in the 1960’s.
We’ve stayed in Byron Bay a couple of times with the kids, once camping at the beachside caravan park and this time in a self-contained cabin at Byron Bay Rainforest Resort. This is up on the hill above the town, about a 5-10 minute drive from local cafes and restaurants and the main beach. The accommodation is only rated at three stars, so don’t expect a flashy resort as the name implies. Truthfully, we absolutely loved the location, a cabin in amongst the rainforest trees, but still within earshot of the crashing waves, but the cabins and grounds are looking a little tired. 10-15 years ago this might have been THE place to stay, but a lack of maintenance and TLC leaves the place looking a little sad, (think, flywire hanging off windows and outdated bathrooms). But, the cabins and pool were clean, and the host friendly and helpful even after an online booking bungle. Would we stay there again? Probably yes, but without high expectations for luxury, (three stars and the price range should imply that anyway).
During our short stay on route north to the Sunshine Coast we enjoyed a play on gorgeous white sandy main beach, a stroll along the main street stopping for an excellent coffee in a café, and a visit up to the lighthouse to stand on the most easterly point on the Australian mainland. That’s not a lot really, but Byron Bay is the perfect spot for doing very little. Life here feels a little slower than elsewhere, but if you are the type who’s looking for action why not try surfing lessons, the night scene or whale watching or snorkelling in the crystal clear Pacific Ocean? Families, don’t let the throngs of young backpackers put you off visiting Byron Bay. They’re a well behaved lot who are very budget savvy, which keeps local prices for food, drink and activities down, but perhaps schoolies week is best to be avoided. ‘Chilling out’ might be hard to do when the town is packed to the gills with the newly free 18 year olds let loose after finishing their high school studies 😉
Byron Bay is located in the far-north eastern corner of the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is located 772 kilometres (480 mi) north of Sydney and 165 kilometres (103 mi) south of Brisbane. It took us 9 hours to drive from Sydney, and the next day we were only in the car for a couple of hours to visit family in Brisbane.