On Australia’s east coast, there seems to be 2 types of hubs: the bustling, densely populated, always-happening cities like Brisbane and Sydney; and the slower, more laidback beachside towns that dot the coastline. There are too many to count, but some stand out among the rest when it comes to popularity, and Byron Bay is one of them. Trust me when I tell you that you will feel immediately at home here, with Byron’s free-spirited, eclectic hippie crowd, stunning beaches, warm weather, and wide variety of places to eat, drink, and shop. I decided to take a day trip to Byron to experience the place for myself, and while I could have easily stayed here for a week or more, 1-2 days is still a solid amount of time to get a strong dose of what this beach town has to offer. Here’s how to see Byron Bay if you only have 1 day.
Byron Bay is just a tiny town located near the border between Queensland and New South Wales. From the Gold Coast, it’s a short 1 hour, 15 minutes drive. Take the Byron Bay Express for $40 USD round-trip (or, ‘return,’), which will allow you about 5 hours of time to explore the town. This is how I did it. The site will ask you for an Australian phone number when you make your booking, and if you don’t have one, you can just enter ‘1234’ as a placeholder.
From Brisbane, the drive is a bit longer ( 1 hour, 45 minutes). If you’re going from Sydney, allow even more time – around 8 hours altogether, one way. Alternatively, if you’re flying in from somewhere else, the Gold Coast Airport is the closest place, as it’s only 30-40 minutes away from Byron by car.
HOW TO SEE BYRON BAY IN 1 DAY
STOP 1: Trek Up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse
Every guide to Byron Bay will mention the Lighthouse, and for good reason. It’s seriously so stunning, and the walk up to where the lighthouse is located – with beautiful homes, beach views, and lush greenery – is easy to navigate and super relaxing. From town, the trek takes about 45 minutes to an hour to the top. Once there, you’ll see a fantastic perspective of the vast expanses of coastline that can be found here, from downtown Byron on one side to the nearly 4 miles of lesser-traveled Tallows Beach on the other. And, you may even spot dolphins, whales, turkeys, and hang gliders, too. If you’re hungry or thirsty, the cafe located next to the Lighthouse has a decent menu and ocean views.
STOP 2: Admire Australia’s Most Easterly Point
Right next to the Lighthouse, you’ll see signs pointing you to continental Australia’s most easterly point. Take the path down to go check it out for yourself. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful cliffs, more viewpoints, and a marked path that’ll take you right down to another uncrowded slice of sandy paradise: Wategos Beach.
STOP 2: Hit the Beach
Bryon Bay is known far and wide for its beaches. There are several different spots in Byron choose from, most of which are walking distance from the Lighthouse or from town. On my way back down from the Lighthouse trek, I detoured into Clarkes Beach to lay out and enjoy Byron’s warm, turquoise blue water. And, mind you, since I’m from Hawaii, when I say a beach has warm water, I really mean it!
STOP 3: Explore Downtown Shops, Bars, and Restaurants
Before you leave, be sure to spend some time exploring Byron’s downtown area. For shopping, you’ll find everything from chic boutiques and souvenir shops to crystal healing storefronts. Culturally, Byron Bay is renowned for having one of the densest populations of creative professionals outside of the big cities, so you can count on an abundance of good food, cocktail, and coffee spots, too! I didn’t have time to explore these too much, so if you’re also limited on time but want a quick caffeine fix or healthy meal, don’t miss Combi. This cafe is so cute and trendy without going overboard, and it serves up the most amazing dragonfruit bowl I’ve ever had, sparing no expense when it comes to the abundance of fresh fruit and superfoods you get with it at no additional charge.
Have More Time?
If you have more time to spare in Byron, there’s tons more to do. Here are some ideas:
Explore the nearby waterfalls, rainforests, and hiking trails. Minyon Falls and Protester Falls, I’ve heard, are great places to start
Go to the markets – almost every Sunday will feature at least one market, showcasing crafts, arts, homewares, and more from the community’s creative and exotic inhabitants
Take a day trip to Nimbin for a strong dose of alternative living and colorful characters nestled where New South Wales’ farmland and rainforests meet
Byron Bay is the perfect little beach town to get lost in, whether you’re traveling by yourself or hanging out with a big group. Try it out for a day and you’ll see why I am already dying to return!
P.S. – this is the first in a long series of posts from my most recent trip to Australia that I’ll be sharing on Rachel Off Duty in the coming weeks. Let me know in the comments what you’d like to see more of, what you want me to cover, and what you have questions about, so I can be sure I’m giving you more of what you want to see!