Byron Bay is unquestionably one of Australia’s most desirable holiday destinations — and for good reason. There isn’t much not to love about the sunny beachside town on NSW’s north coast — from its string of pristine beaches, array of award-winning boutique hotels, first-class culinary offerings and its unrivalled laid-back vibe, Byron Bay is Australia’s quintessential vacation hotspot.
While skipping work for a week or two to submerse yourself in its free-spirited culture — and to beach, brunch and bar hop until your heart is content — would make your summer holiday dreams come true, we all know such an indulgent break isn’t always easy to weave into our busy schedules. The good news? Byron Bay is still a spectacular escape even if you’ve only got time for a whirlwind visit. Here’s the best way to spend 24 hours in the popular coastal hotspot.
No trip to Byron Bay is complete without completing the iconic lighthouse walk. Start at Wategos and walk up the steep track to reach the lighthouse and when you return, top it off with an ocean swim. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, walk the full 4.5km loop through the rainforest that sees you finish at the Pass. The earlier the better to catch one of the world’s best sunrise views — and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for playing pods of dolphins down below.
Brunch at Bayleaf
Deemed “the king of Byron’s brunch scene” by Qantas, Bayleaf is a Byron Bay staple. The local-filled café offers brunch at its best — a central and sun drenched location, exceptional coffee from local Marvell Street Roasters, an extensive healthy menu featuring local and organic produce, and friendly, top-notch service. What more could you want?
Shop, shop, shop
Post brunch, stroll from Bayleaf straight down Fletcher Street for one very good dose of retail therapy. Peruse Liberty Trading Co. for pretty homewares, gifts and lifestyle accessories; Marr-Kett for one of the most impressive collections of Moroccan textiles in the country; Hope and May for coastal-inspired lifestyle goods (think homewares, fashion and accessories) sourced from around the globe; and Nikau Store, Byron’s botanic and clay emporium that is brimming with indoor plants and ceramics by renowned potters.
If you time it well, the Byron markets run on the first Sunday of the month year-round and, in December and January, also on the third Sunday. You can buy local produce, art and crafts. There’s no better way to discover the region's artisans — a must-do.
Escape town and take a quick trip 20 minutes south west to the tiny, historic town of Newyrbar to experience one of the region’s most renowned restaurants — Harvest. Located inside a charming weatherboard cottage, Harvest creates fresh food sourced from local artisan producers and includes a bakery with 116-year-old wood-fired oven and an artisan delicatessen with an adjacent edible garden used for the seasonal menu. While you’re in one-street town, be sure to pop into Newrybar Merchants to admire and shop their collections of creations from local artisans and then Tigmi Trading for another inspiring offering of rugs and textiles from Morocco and around the globe.
Take a moment
Byron Bay’s newest boutique relaxation hotspot, Comma, is a Byron bucket list essential. As its name suggests, Comma invites you to pause and take a moment for yourself. As soon as you step foot inside into its dreamy studio that looks more like a designer furniture showroom than your typical massage parlour, you can’t help but hit peak relaxation. Go on, treat yourself.
Retail therapy (round 2)
While you’re frequenting Byron’s industrial estate (where Comma is located) — a second round of retail therapy is a must thanks to some of Byron’s most respected brands now calling this emerging area home. First stop: The Candle Library for Australia’s largest collection of candles including its very own in-house brand along with your favourite local and global brands from P.F. Candle Co., Lumira, Palm Beach Collecion and Maison Balzac, to name a few. Second stop: Yoli and Otis for its dreamy range of relaxed-meets-elegant clothing pieces in natural fabrics and neutral hues. Third stop: your favourite Melbourne-born pot and furniture makers, Pop and Scott, have brought their joyful creations to the beach much to the delight of locals and tourists.
No vacation is a real vacation without a couple of pre-dinner cocktails — and in Byron, there’s no better place to do just that than at The Mez Club. Inspired by the food cultures and interiors of the Mediterranean region, The Mez Club is like a holiday within a holiday. The double-storey whitewashed interior with woven straw accents and thatched-straw peak will make you question whether you’re in fact in Byron Bay or the Greek Islands. Down leave without trying its signature Turkish Princess cocktail made created using a locally produced Turkish delight liquor.
If you have time for two rounds of cocktails before dinner (remember, you’re on vacay!), drop into the Raes on Wategoes to experience its brand-new Cellar Bar. The Cellar Bar is a new addition to the iconic hotel and has opened after the property underwent a fresh new renovation. The bar utilising the space that was once the hotel's cellar and it offers an oyster and sashimi menu alongside gelato, Champagne Perrier-Jouet and a selection of cocktails. Yes, please.
St Elmo is a Byron Bay institution. And just like the lighthouse walk, no visit to Byron is complete without experiencing its modern Spanish-inspired menu, impressive handpicked wine list and even more impressive cocktail list. Located in the heart of town, St Elmo’s seriously cool fit-out is made only better by the vibrant vibe, intimate setting and the culinary offering your taste buds will never forget.
Since opening over two years ago in early 2016, Elements of Byron has become the place to stay in seaside town. The award-winning beachfront resort offers luxury accommodation and world-class facilities such as a heated lagoon pool, a world class spa, king-size day beds on the beach front, a horse ranch and the world’s first fully-powered solar train to whisk you into town. Set on a vast 22 hectares, the Mr & Mrs Smith property features 103 private beach villas ranging from studios to two bedroom villas and the modern beach architecture and interiors are inspired by regions unique flora and fauna landscape. The only downfall of staying at Elements of Byron is you’ll never want to leave.
Or if you’re looking for something more central, you can’t go past one of Byron Bay’s newest boutique hotel’s, The Bower. Converted from a motel to a luxury boutique hotel, this property defines everything we love about Byron Bay into one, laid-back location. With a total of 14 suites, plus a barn, a cottage and a family house, the hotel has something for everyone and it’s cool, white-washed palette and relaxed, yet elegant room designs will win the interiors lovers over in a heartbeat. Note: the basket-topped retro bikes lined up outside the reception are you for convenience.