I absolutely LOVE Byron Bay, the place I was lucky to call home for 2 years. In fact, it’s probably my favourite place in the entire world and that’s saying something given that I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 37 countries so far! But I won’t bang on about why it’s so amazing as you can read about that here in my other post ‘Why Byron Bay is my favourite place in the World.’ Instead, I want to tell you what the best things to do in Byron Bay are and how to make the most of your visit. Be warned, the list is long so you might want to allow longer than a weekend to visit Byron Bay if you want to get a real feel for the place!
Before I crack on and tell you about the must-see Byron Bay attractions, have you considered your accommodation in Byron Bay? Only I found an amazing luxury tree house which I talk about in my post ‘5 of the best treehouses on AirBnB‘ that you should most definitely check out! Or if hostels are more your style, Claire from Clairesfootsteps.com has that covered!
** Pssst, this article may contain affiliate links. If you have no idea what this means, click here and everything will be explained!**
First the important things
When is the best time to visit Byron Bay
Personally, my favourite time to visit Byron Bay is in the Autumn, from March to May. The temperatures are no longer stifling, the ocean still warm from the summer, the crowds beginning to disappear. At the end of Autumn, you may even catch the start of the whale watching season.
How to get to Byron Bay
Reaching Byron Bay by road
Byron Bay is easily reached by car from The Gold Coast in about an hour. It’s a long drive from Sydney – about 8 hours – but passing some incredibly beautiful coastline along the way. Its very straightforward to get here – just follow the coast road in either direction!
Flying to Byron Bay
The Closest airport is Ballina just a 30-minute drive away. There are regular shuttle buses to Byron Bay.
Take a hop on hop off coach.
Greyhounds allows you to pay for a ticket from your start to finish destination but allows you to get off and on the coach as often as you like so you can choose your own itinerary. They even have wifi, reclining seats and USB ports to allow for a comfy journey!
Consider taking an organised tour hitting up all the highlights. Here are a few great tours which take in the best attractions in the local area
Organised tours visiting Byron Bay
A 5-day surf trip from Sydney to Brisbane – learn to surf and practice at all the best places such as Sydney, Byron Bay, Brisbane and the Gold Coast!
14 day trip from Cairns to Sydney with G Adventures – my favourite group tour company, I’ve travelled with them 5 times now! Travel with a small group of like-minded travellers and experience the main highlights in Sydney over 2 weeks including the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands, Brisbane, Byron Bay and Sydney.
28-day trip covering most of Australia’s highlights – this month long trip also with G Adventures, covers most of my favourite places. Visiting the same places as above but also with Melbourne(my favourite city ever), the Great Ocean Road, Uluru and Fraser on the tip itinerary.
Ok so for the best things to do in Byron Bay, here we go..!
Fun things to do in Byron Bay, Australia
Visit the Beautiful Byron Bay Beaches
You can’t possibly visit Byron Bay without some beach time! There are several to choose between from small secluded coves to long stretches of perfect white sandy beaches with aquamarine water.
If it’s peace and quiet you’re after, head to Tallows Beach or Clarkes Beach. If you like to be in the middle of all the action, head for Main beach. If you love a secluded cove, Wategos beach si for you. And if it’s surfing you’re after then head for The Pass or Wategos beach.
Park up your beach towel and chill out with a good book, it’s time to relax!
Shopping in Byron Bay
When you’re done relaxing, it’s time to hit the shops. Now Byron isn’t a big place so don’t go expecting any huge shopping malls! But it has small-town charm and you will find some beautiful shops selling unique homeware, interesting gifts, gorgeous beachy clothes and beautiful bookstores. There’s even a hippy shop selling everything tie-dye! If vintage clothes is your thing, you will find an abundance of great treasure troves. I’d recommend getting off the main street as a lot of my favourite treasure troves were down the side streets.
Diving at Julian Rocks, Byron Bay
Just a 10-minute boat ride from Main beach, is Julians Rocks. Warm and cold currents meet here creating an amazing opportunity to see a huge variety of marine life. Between December and May, there is a good chance you’ll get to see leopard sharks at Julian Rocks. Dive or snorkel, it’s your choice!
Take the Byron Bay Lighthouse Walk
An absolute must-do activity in Byron Bay! This walk, which starts from Main beach, will take you through the woods (keep your eyes peeled for wallabies,) up over some cliffs to watch the waves crashing against the rocks, down to some beautiful coves and then back up to the Lighthouse – Australia’s most eastern point! The views are just beautiful in every direction you look! A must-see in Byron Bay!
Top tip: If you’re an early riser, head up for sunrise at the lighthouse – it’s spectacular!
Byron Bay Markets
I LOVE the markets in Byron Bay. In fact, it was one of my favourite things to do in Byron Bay! They take place once a month on a Sunday so you’ll have to time your trip well but if the market isn’t in Byron, it’ll be in another local town! The markets are always teeming with people. There are so many colourful stalls selling quirky items. You’ll find delicious eateries and lots of live music. It’s a great way to spend the morning.
Live Music in Byron Bay
Byron Bay is host to some awesome live music. Despite being a small town it attracts both local musicians and big names alike.
When I lived in Byron, I loved Sunday afternoons at The Beach Hotel where the music starts in the afternoon and carries on late into the evening. All the locals would head straight to the pub, conveniently set right on the beach, straight from the popular markets I mentioned above.
It brought the whole community together – young and old. Frequently in the afternoons, the children were encouraged to get up on stage and join in with the bands! I loved this relaxed, local friendly vibe!
For bigger bands and an adult only venue, there’s the Great Northern Hotel which hosted some awesome bands when I lived there. For more local music, The Railway Bar (a converted railway station) never disappointed.
Splendour in The Grass Music Festival
Once a year in the Summer, Byron Bay hosts one of the biggest music festivals in Australia, Splendour in The Grass. Spread over 3 days, it sees huge acts – my favourite I saw there was Lana Del Ray! Other artists who’ve featured recently include Vance Joy, Queens of the Stone Age, Two door cinema club, Stormzy and Royal Blood. Read more about it here.
Byron Bay Bluesfest
The BluesFest is yet another amazing music festival right in Byron Bay! Set over several stages on Easter weekend, this contemporary blues & roots festival has seen acts such as Bob Dylan, Hozier, Paul Simon and John Legend perform! On the line up for 2018, you’ll find Lionel Richie, Lauryn Hill, Seal and Sheryl Crow!
Sea Kayaking with dolphins
I absolutely loved this – what an absolute giggle! Mostly because I’m truly terrible at sea kayaking and my friend was even worse! At one point we actually ended up being towed past the waves out to sea by another Kayak!
Hey, here’s a top tip: if you see a dolphin, don’t both lean the same way to get a better look… You guessed it, Splash! On the plus side, our giggles as we tried (mostly in vain) to get back into the kayak, actually caught the attention of the dolphins who came over to investigate! Maybe sometime I’ll have to tell you the full story! (By the way, I’m now a lot better in a kayak, thank god for that!!)
A sea kayaking tour in Byron Bay lasts about 3 hours, all equipment is provided and it’s super fun. We got so close to the dolphins in their natural environment – what a privilege!
Take a surf lesson in Byron Bay
Surfing is one of the most popular things to do in Byron Bay and often the main attraction for people visiting this famous surf town.
Ok so I was equally bad at surfing as I was at sea kayaking but for me, it resulted in yet another wild dolphin encounter! Whilst all the others were practising their new found skills, I was still trying to stand up! A curious dolphin made it’s way over – maybe it thought I was in trouble?!
But dolphins or no dolphins, you have to try surfing in Byron Bay! It’s actually famous for its great surf!
Lessons will usually last between 2-4 hours and are designed for complete beginners as well as more experienced surfers.
Whale Watching in Byron Bay
As you might have gathered by now, Byron Bay is not short of dolphins! But it also gets its fair share of Humpback whale sightings between June and October. It’s a great activity to do in the cooler weather when you may not feel like lying on a beach!
You can take a whale watching tour or if you’re strapped for cash or short of time, keep your eyes peeled at the Lighthouse – I saw whales breaching and splashing about from there on occasion – it was incredible!
However, if you want to get up close to these magnificent beasts then I definitely recommend booking a tour – for me, it was worth every penny. These tours do book out quickly especially in peak season so I recommend booking in advance.
Visit one of the many amazing restaurants in Byron Bay
Byron Bay’s food scene is amazing. Breakfast, lunch or dinner – Byron will have something to suit everyone! From Thai food to seafood or pizzas on the beach, you can’t fail to have a good meal in Byron! My personal favourites include;
The Treehouse – outdoors and lit up with cute fairy lights in the trees, great acoustic live music and delicious pizza, all a stone’s throw from the beach.
The Balcony – Always a great menu, I remember the seafood paella was particularly good. Wash it down with some lovely wines or cocktails and indulge in some people watching from your prime balcony position!
TopShop – no not the British clothes shop, this is a great cafe with a real local vibe. Take away, sit inside or lounge on the grass outside, anything goes. I highly recommend the chicken pesto on sourdough with a banana smoothie. So addictive – it was not good for my waistline!
Visit Bangalow, NSW
Just up the road is a small town called Bangalow which I loved to visit on my days off. Great cafes, vintage clothes shops and a bookshop that I never got bored of browsing! They also have a great farmers market on the weekends.
Visit the Arts Factory
The Arts Factory, primarily a budget backpackers hostel, is also a great place for finding live music, workshops (such as didgeridoo making and African drumming) and the Byron Bay Brewery pub on site is also home to an alternative cinema The Pighouse Flicks where you can chill out on comfy cushions on the floor whilst sipping a glass of wine!
Join in the Drumming Circle
On the 1st Sunday of the month, after the markets, head to where Main beach meets Belongil beach at sunset for The Drumming Circle! A group of people who love music who join together to jam together. A random mix of drums, guitars, banjos, ukeleles, even saxophones! If you, don’t have an instrument, make one! (I frequently saw people drumming on bins even!) Or dance. Or just find a rock to sit on and enjoy the music and people’s creativity!
Have a Barbeque on Wategos Beach!
One of my favourite things to do in Byron Bay is to enjoy a beach BBQ. Wategos beach, perfectly nestled in the hills and home to several millionaire mansions, is a great place for a chilled out BBQ on the beach! Take a dip in the sea, have a surf or watch the beautiful sunset with a few beers and throw a shrimp on the barbie!
Take a Yoga Class
Byron Bay is a great place for alternative healthy living and has a great colourful hippy vibe. So there is nowhere better to take some holistic classes such as yoga or pilates. You can even do some Yoga on the beach!
Take a Massage
If you are not relaxed enough already, there is an absolute abundance of places to get a massage in Byron Bay! Or if you feel like splashing the cash, there are also lots of beautiful retreats in the surrounding areas for the ultimate R&R! My favourite place for a massage was conveniently a 2-minute walk from the beach, the HollisticMassage Centre.
Visit The Byron Bay Hinterland
Some people get so caught up in the beautiful beaches, coastal walks and other great things to do in Byron Bay that they forget entirely, to visit the Hinterland which has its own charm. Beautiful rainforest, quirky villages such as Nimbin which appear stuck in the 70’s and impressive waterfalls. Definitely, pay the hinterland a visit when you are in Byron Bay.
Go horse riding on the beach in Byron Bay
An alternative way to explore the beaches in the surrounding area is to go by horseback. They cater for all levels of experience and only go out in small groups. What better way to experience the beautiful beaches than on a glorious sunset horse ride?!
Get the Adrenaline Pumping – Paragliding in Byron Bay
One of the most popular things to do in Byron Bay is to go paragliding or hang gliding from near the lighthouse. Soar over beautiful Tallows beach and get a great birds-eye view! Alternatively, you can also go skydiving!
Climb Mt Warning
For one of the best sunrises in the Byron Bay area, you’ll need to get yourself to Mt Warning. This is the highest point in the region and gives you a brilliant overview of the whole area.
Visit Lennox Head
A quieter less touristy coastal town, a great alternative to Byron Bay. It has the beautiful beach, the impressive surf and plenty of great restaurants but without the crowds and is only a 20-minute drive from Byron Bay.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride over Byron Bay
This one is still on my bucket list but I know people who’ve taken to the skies in Byron Bay via hot air balloon and loved it.
Visit the hippy town Nimbin
It’s like stepping back in time to the 1970’s hip era in this colourful village. Don’t be surprised if you get offered drugs several times when walking down the streets. Don’t worry though, no one will cause a problem when you politely decline – it’s just part of the laid-back culture here. There’s even a museum all about Cannabis! Personally, I loved Nimbin for all the colourful street art!
So there we have it, 20 of the best things to do in Byron Bay, Australia! Do you have any other suggestions? Are you planning a trip to Byron Bay? If so please tell us all about it in the comment section below!
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