Byron Bay: a lots of other things besides surfing
If you’re coming to Byron Bay you’re probably thinking you’ll spend your days sunbathing or surfing. Well, yes you can do that and many people do, but there are lots of other things to do in Byron Bay, places to see, history, events and all that jazz in addition to surfing and sunbathing. Let’s start with a bit of history, Byron Bay was famous in the 1960’s for 3 things, whaling, meat and surfing. Byron Bay had a whaling station right on the Main Beach where the locals would stand on the wharf and watch humpback whales being brought in to slaughter for their oil and blubber. Later the whaling station was turned into a meat works and eventually closed altogether. Tourists can now enjoy seeing the very much alive whales (and lots of dolphins too) during their migration along the coast.
Surfing has long brought visitors from far and wide to the aqua blue shores of Byron Bay, thanks to the 7 major breaks. No matter what the weather, there is always a wave in Byron Bay. To this day it remains one of the most popular and well known surf spots in Australia and overseas. You haven’t surfed until you’ve surfed Byron man!
In addition to the beautiful beaches this town has to offer, where you can spend the days lazing the hours away, Byron Bay is only a half hour drive from beautiful rainforest regions overflowing with Australian flora and fauna, complete with cascading waterfalls, bubbling brooks, acres of rolling hills and small country towns with big character (like Nimbin or Mullumbimby).
Here’s our list of 15 awesome things to do in Byron Bay.
Take A Stroll Through Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary
In the past, before it was urbanised, Byron Bay used to be a swamp. And while today it’s a very modern and trendy place, there’s still a spot in the town that’s used to preserve its history. It’s a relatively small place that’s an actual wetland, and even though it’s controlled, it does have an unbridled feel to it. But not to worry, if you choose to take a stroll through the sanctuary, there’s a boardwalk that elevates you above the swampy ground. The Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve is a wonderful place to explore for a few hours, and offers quite a different experience to the more common activities in Byron Bay that revolve around the beaches. What’s unique is that it’s still a wetland, so naturally there are plenty of mosquitoes so it’s wise to carry a repellant with you at all times when strolling. One of the solutions to the mosquito problem is the presence of the Eastern long-eared bat. But this is not a regular bat, in fact it’s a micro-bat that’s just 5cm long. It’s a threatened species unfortunately, but there are quite a few places in Cumbebin that the bats have made their home in order to feast on their natural prey, the mosquitoes.
Explore Arakwal National Park
A very important national park, Arakwal is absolutely stunning, both when looking at it from near and far. It’s an easily reachable place with plenty of available parking, so visiting it will be easy for anyone that has access to their own transportation. It’s a beautiful place filled with forests, hills, dunes, and a beach, each interwoven so intricately that it’s a real treat to explore this park. Arakwal is not only important for its wildlife and flora, but also for the native community, which is why the park is co-managed by the state of New South Wales and by the Arakwal Aboriginal Community. Everything is constantly maintained and in excellent shape, with the crown jewel of this park being Tallows Beach, a long strip of white sand that’s ideal for relaxing walks when a person wants to get a bit lost amidst all the nature.
Visit The World Famous Cape Byron Lighthouse
When visiting Byron Bay, it would be quite a shame not to see one of Australia’s most beautiful lighthouses. Positioned at the edge of Cape Byron, this is actually the easternmost point on the Australian mainland. Its history is interconnected with that of the city, as it was built in the very start of the 20th century and has remained functioning ever since. While it has been spinning continuously since the day it opened, in 1989 it changed to an automated light. Amazingly before then it was kept working by resident lighthouse keepers. It’s an iconic building whose light can be easily seen in the town, and it has been one of the most important landmarks of Byron Bay for a long time. The lighthouse itself is not only one of the best things to see in Byron Bay, but the views it allows are spectacular. The ocean on one side, with dolphins and turtles splashing about, and the hinterlands on the other, it’s no wonder that Cape Byron Lighthouse has become the symbol it is today.
See Killen Falls
There are many Byron Bay activities that feel designed especially for tourists, which is not necessarily a bad thing at all, especially if they’re designed to be memorable and fun. But the nature that surrounds Byron Bay is what truly makes this small town feel as unique as it is, because it doesn’t matter which way you look, you’re bound to find something beautiful. That’s exactly the case with Killen Falls. In a secluded location found about 20 minutes from the town, it’s like an oasis, definitely one of the best places you could ask for if you’re looking for a place to relax and have a little quiet time. It’s a small swimming hole with a 10m waterfall that also has a cave underneath it. It’s a soothing place, one that’s ideal for a little bit of romance, and to add an extra spark to an already amazing journey.
Check Out ‘The Farm’
One of the more unique things you can find in Byron Bay, The Farm is in fact just that, a farm. But what’s great is that it represents so much more than agriculture, it has become another symbol of the town. It’s an 80-acre working farm, and it represents individual businesses whose sole intentions are to grow, to feed, but also to educate, because the farm is actually a modern rendition of a co-operative. The Farm offers guided tours of their property. Wandering around for yourself too can be quite good, because that way you’d get to see everything at your own pace, and The Farm is nothing if not peaceful and calm. You can stop by for a snack or a meal, and also to pick up some of the produce that has been grown on The Farm. It’s a great place to contemplate on what it means to live a healthier lifestyle, and how to help the environment at the same time.
Visit The Farmers’ Market
What originally began as a dream has grown into quite the attraction over the years. Inspired by the local people that wanted something better for the community, the Farmers’ Market is an event that takes place every Thursday from 8-11 AM. There are plenty of different goods for sale, and while produce is the focus of the markets, there are various other items for sale too. The Farmers’ Market has risen in popularity in recent years, and it has spread to the neighbouring town of Bangalow, which together with Byron Bay, supply the Farmers’ Markets with as much variety as the seasons allow. But the market isn’t just a place to buy and sell, it’s also a community where you can regularly find live music, and people chatting, exchanging recipes, and trying to find a way to improve the lives of everyone they can. Visiting the Market is definitely of the best things to do around Byron Bay.
Go Whale Watching
The wildlife and marine life in Australia is quite famous for its diversity and uniqueness. And with the vastness of the ocean, along with modern technology, witnessing the magnificence of the sea creatures has never been easier or more fun. Whale watching is one of the top things to do in Byron Bay, not only because it’s fun, but also very educational. Seeing these magnificent beasts surface is amazing, and they’re nearly always accompanied by some of the sea’s most fascinating creatures, dolphins and sea turtles. Whale watching tours give the unique opportunity to see a diverse range of marine life in their natural habitat, while simultaneously educating about the whales, dolphins, turtles, and any other species that you might encounter on your tour. The famous humpback whales are practically guaranteed to make an appearance, during the migration season from June to September. Just seeing them not enough? Many vessels come equipped with a hydrophone so that you can listen to the amazing whale songs that they constantly sing. It’s an experience like no other, so whale watching is definitely one of the best things to do in Byron Bay.
Visit The Wonderful Local Cafes
As a whole, Byron Bay is decidedly casual, even if it has grown in popularity over recent years. What started as something of a hippy commune has developed into a trendy beach town with dozens of activities, but it hasn’t lost that chilled out charm. Not that it doesn’t have its share of speed and action, but that has never been the point of Byron Bay. The stunning scenery in the region is perfect for casually relaxing with a nice meal and a cup of coffee, which is why in recent times a wide variety of cafes and interesting restaurants have popped up all over the place. It doesn’t matter which part of the town you’re visiting, whether it’s the beach, the main street, or even the hinterlands, there can always be found a relaxing café ideal for a low-key or a romantic evening.
Witness A Magnificent Sunrise Over The Sea
There are few places in the world that give out an ambiance such as that found in Byron Bay. The relaxed nature of the place, even despite the occasional traffic jams, gives off a feeling of surreal calmness that’s perfect for soothing the soul. And this is characterised with some of the best sunrises in Australia. With the lighthouse being on the easternmost point of Australia’s mainland, there’s absolutely nothing obscuring the view of the sun rising over the calm azure waters of the Pacific. And there are many more points scattered all around the town that are just as amazing as the lighthouse. It’s worth waking up early to catch this colourful view, or perhaps staying up all night to watch the start of a new day. With the perfect company, this can be one of the most romantic things to do in Byron Bay.
Skydive Over The Majestic Coastline
Not everything in Byron Bay is experienced on the ground. Skydiving has become incredibly popular in the past few decades, and for a very good reason. It’s a thrilling activity, one that will have your heart pumping quickly as you’re plummeting through the air from an extreme altitude at intense speeds. And skydiving at Byron Bay is no different, except for the views. Because it’s on the easternmost point of the mainland, everything is visible for km and km around, and the diversity of the land makes it much clearer just how amazing the scenery and the terrain around Byron Bay really is. It’s an experience of a lifetime, it’s absolutely exciting, but most importantly it’s very safe.
Spend Some Time In The Ocean
You don’t have to go out in the deep sea in order to experience some of the finest waters in the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Byron Bay is quite known for its amazing beaches, so all sorts of water sports, or even some casual swimming and relaxing in the water, feels downright perfect. If you prefer to do something more active, then kayaking might be right up your alley, as that is a great way to go a bit deeper in the sea, and you might even spot a dolphin or two. Best of all you might even want to enjoy world-renowned waves if you want to do some surfing. Because the temperatures are perfect and the visibility is great, diving and snorkelling are some things you might want to try in the summertime. There’s a great diversity of schools of fishes and corals underneath the sea levels, but even if you have no experience diving or snorkelling then this is the perfect place to learn. They definitely can be some of the most fun things to do in Byron Bay.
Rejuvenate In The Tea Tree Lakes
One of the most unique aspects of Byron Bay is its surrounding tea tree lakes. These are bodies of water found all around the landscape near Byron Bay, and they’re peculiar both in appearance and in substance. On the surface, the water in these lakes looks as black as tar, but once you’re inside it appears to change colours slightly, and these lakes are most known for their healing properties due to the tea trees encircling the lakes. But even despite that, the ambiance around the lakes is extraordinarily calming, feeling almost magical, with the sun shining and the birds singing around you. A visit to these tea tree lakes is definitely one of the best things to do in Byron Bay.
Check Out The Arts Factory Lodge
The Arts Factory Lodge is one of those places that feels like a paradise perfect for relaxation. Originally created in the 70s by hippies, it has seen its share of phases, like an excellent rock and roll venue in the 80s, but it still retains that hippy spirit to this day. It’s not only a place to find budget lodgings for backpackers, but also a wide variety of other activities as well, like learning how to make your very own didgeridoo, Australia’s most unique instrument, or trying out African drumming. It’s a place for yoga and meditation, as well as communing with other people. The Arts Factory Lodge is an interesting assortment of activities and people all banding together to make a very interesting community.
Explore Nightcap National Park
The sheer proof that nature is the absolute highlight to a visit of Byron Bay, this national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s just a treat to explore. Part of the park is the stunningly beautiful Minyon Falls, below which there’s a beautiful pool, however no swimming is allowed. The reason for that is the biodiversity and the wildlife, because part of the animals that have made Nightcap their home is the endangered Fleay’s barred frog, and disturbing their natural habitat just endangers them further. Another great thing about the park is the collection of excellent hiking trails, like the one that loops over Minyon Falls. It’s a tough trail, but worth the effort, because it ends right below the waterfall and is the perfect place to relax after a long day trekking through the park. With the many different species of animals and a scenery so gorgeous, Nightcap National Park is one of the best things to see in Byron Bay.
Crash One Of The Legendary Beach Parties
The parties on the beaches around Byron Bay are epic happenings, which is why many of them are mostly spread by word of mouth. There are plenty of nightclubs in Byron Bay, even despite the relaxing atmosphere of the town, and the city has been often described as the Australian mecca for parties. For locals and ‘doofers’ in the know though, they skip the clubs and hit up secret parties instead. These events can last for entire days, and even sometimes cause a little bit of trouble here and there, but if you’re looking for a place to simply let go, then Byron Bay’s beach parties are exactly what you need to experience. And if you catch word of one happening at the moment, don’t hesitate and just see for yourself what the ruckus is all about. How do you find out about these parties? You’ll have to make friends with a local…