Byron Bay’s reputation as a laid back coastal locale dates back to the 60s when surfers flocked to the NSW north coast town and discovered surfing hot-spot,The Pass. Then in 1973 every Kombi van and daisy-sniffing hippy flocked to the Aquarius Festival when it was held in Nimbin. In the 90s and noughties Byron became the hot ticket for city folk wanting to escape their daily grind and sea changers swapping Louboutins for Hunter gum boots after investing in a hobby farm. These days it’s spot-the-celebrity with Elle MacPherson, Jessica Simpson, Naomi Campbell having all visited and Jack Johnson, Simon Baker and Olivia Newton-John all snapping up property.
Here’s my guide to Byron’s best…
STAY: Byron caters to every budget – from backpacker to blowout.
The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa – set on 45 acres of lush rainforest, enjoy yoga classes, a restaurant that showcases Northern Rivers local produce, eco-lodgings and daiiy strolls to Tallows Beach.
EAT: While living organic has always been a way of life for locals, with the global push for clean living (including gluten-free, sugar-free and superfood options), after my recent visit it’s clear Byron vendors are now offering all of the above on their menus.
Succulent – Coogeecat goes to Byron Bay (coogeecat.wordpress.com)
The Top Shop – Byron hipsters flock here for breakfast goodness, burgers on organic bread and Single Origin Coffee.
Harvest at Newrybar – dine hinterland alfresco on locally sourced organic produce. Open for breakfast and lunch from 8.30 and dinner Thurs – Sat.
Dip – Bustling cafe at 1/21-25 Fletcher Street that served up possibly the best combo of sourdough, smoked salmon, feta, avocado, roast tomato and rocket… I’ve ever had.
Italian at the Pacific – their espresso martinis are infamous as is their regularly changing contemporary Italian menu. And they’ll go out of their way meet your dietary requirements.
St Elmo – modern Spanish tapas and killer cocktails at this buzzing bar and restaurant.
SHOP: Catering to monied up holidaymakers, a crop of luxe shopping destinations are on offer. You can still buy a tie-dye t-shirt and have palm read by a harem-pant wearing psychic if that’s your bag, but don’t you want to live your future now by eating beautifully crafted food, sipping super smoothies, breathing in fresh air while meditating on the ocean’s waves and admire beautiful homewares and drop some coin on designer buys you’re unlikely to find elsewhere?
Hope and May – heavenly homewares store stocking shell bracelets, rattan baskets, and wool throws with the odd pair of denim cutoffs thrown into the mix.
Island Luxe – very cool Easy Rider meets Che Guevara vibe in this darkly lit store that houses (amongst many) cult French label Iro, beaded bracelets and jewels from Central and South America, unique cowboy boots and uber-luxe candles for men and women. If you like skulls, leather, studs and black, don’t miss Island Luxe.
11:11 O’clock – Nudie jeans, Camilla and Marc, Karen Walker eyewear, Stolen Girlfriends… you get it.
If you’re partial to an arvo beer in the sun, head to The Beach Hotel and mix with surfers, rastafarians, backpackers and the melting pot of transitional types that Byron attracts.
Don’t want to swim with the masses at Main Beach? Venture to Watego Beach (Rae’s famous Fish Cafe is here) or ask a local how to get to Cosy Corner on Tallows Beach.