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Byron Bay Travel Guide: Things to do in 4 Days

byron bay lighthouse on cape byron, Australia's east coast

Byron Bay has a real reputation as an easy going, forward-thinking, hippy destination with a dash of transient backpacker thrown in for good measure. It is this, but after spending 4 days in Byron Bay, I discovered its so much more than a place to smoke pot, grow dreads, and wear Aladdin pants. 

It’s a town where bare feet are common, and foreign accents are more likely be serving you in a cafe than chatting amongst the waves.

It’s a town where every day is the weekend, (much like any town centred around tourism).

It has an extraordinarily young demographic too. I hardly saw anyone over the age of 35 walking around the streets and working in the local businesses. For all the talk of people retiring here, they must just stay in their villas. 

Located in Australia’s sub-tropics on NSW’s north coast, Byron is a haven for foodies and thrillseeker’s alike. And with 2 craft breweries thrown into the mix, there’s even plenty to keep the beer-lover happy. The weather when Kynie and I visited was not ideal; it was overcast most of the time and somewhat rainy, so unfortunately that ruled out most water activities (of which there are plenty), but this is what we did do.

Get Your Bearings

The Byron Bay “CBD”, if you will, is centred around Johnson Street, and 6 blocks off to the side. This is where the bulk of the restaurants, bars, and boutiques are situated and is probably where you’ll spend most of your time when not at the beach or your accommodation. You’ll get your bearings pretty easily after just walking around it for a day or two (it’s really not that big). 

At the top of Johnson Street is Main Beach, and along to the southeast is Cape Byron, the most easterly point of mainland Australia. To the north is Belongil Beach.

Things to do in Byron Bay 

Like I said above, the weather wasn’t great for most of the activities that Byron is best for. I’ll still list them in the interest of giving you ideas and inspiration, though, for the sake of completeness. 

Lighthouse Walk

The beacon on Cape Byron is the lighthouse, which looks over the town and looks out for ships at sea. There are roads that can take you directly to the lighthouse carpark, but if you want to get active, there’s a great walk that goes from the bottom of the Cap out to the lighthouse and back. It’s 3.7km, is pretty hilly but is a great way to see the town and the lighthouse. 

Most Easterly point on the Australian mainland - Cape Byron

Turtle Watching

I saw a few brochures on this, and I know that my friends over at the Fit Traveller have recommended a turtle watching tour in their own guide. There’ a small island just out from the beach (you can see it from the headland) and apparently this is where a lot of sea turtles live and a great place to spot them in the wild. I expect snorkel and dive equipment would be provided by your tour. 

Byron Bay Markets

There are a lot of markets hosted at Byron. While it changes depending on the day of the week, and the week of the month so check the official Byron Bay tourism site to know which ones are coming up when you’re there. 

We went to the Byron Bay Flea Markets at the Youth Centre on Saturday. It’s a great initiative where young people are given a free stall with the incentive to make some money. They were pretty small – mostly young people selling their old stuff – but I did pick up some great novels for $2 a piece. 

 

The Beach

This one goes without saying. Byron Bay is first and foremost a beach town. You can tell this by the sheer number of surf shops are around in the CBD. The beach will most likely be a central part of your stay here so prepare accordingly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me because of the weather but I think this just means I need to go back now! 

Belongil Beach Byron Bay

Best places to eat dinner in Byron Bay

It’s really easy to eat well in Byron Bay. I put this down to the lifestyle of the locals, who tend to be health centred with a focus on sustainability; two characteristics I saw at most places we ate. 

Main Street Burger Bar

As I said, Byron is well known for its hippie organic vegan culture, and it is so easy to slip into one of these by accident, but don’t fret meat lovers, there’s plenty for you too. There are a few burger joints in Byron, but Main Street was so good we had to go there twice. The patties are thick and juicy and the toppings are plentiful. I added pickles and mustard to mine because I like it American-style and the second time I got the special topped with onion rings and hot sauce. It was literally dripping with goodness.

Main Street Burger bar original burger

Treehouse on Belongil

Located a few k’s away from the main strip, the Treehouse is set behind Belongil Beach in a quiet, largely residential street. It’s a very relaxed indoor/outdoor setting with live music most nights.

Treehouse is a semi-outdoor restaurant with an eclectic mix of what can only be described as 1970’s furniture, including an old box television and chairs that would have adorned your grandparent’s dining room. They have live music on most nights of the week, but this won’t start until about 8.

The treehouse is known for their pizzas and the list is long and varied. In my opinion what makes or breaks a pizza is the base, and this base was something special. It’s a thin base with a crispy, doughy crust that I just wanted to pick at it, even though I was already stuffed to the brim.

1970s Furniture at Treehouse on Belongil

Miss Margarita’s Mexican Cantina

Miss Margarita’s sits at the top of Johnson Street with diners spilling onto the sidewalk 7 nights a week. They serve some of the finest Mexican I’ve ever eaten outside of California. I had three mixed tacos with beef, pork and fish. IT was so good I even looked past the fact that there was a healthy serving of coriander on it. A must visit when in Byron.

Three Blue Ducks at The Farm

More than just a cute name, The Farm is an actual working farm, 6 kilometres from the city centre on an acerage growing a long list of foods, all of which are used in the kitchen. The farm has a florist, an organic general store, a takeaway section and a sit-down restaurant. The takeaway has things like gourmet sausage rolls and pies as well as burgers and sandwiches, while the restaurant is full service with gourmet meals such as pork, beef pies and mussels and a choice of craft beers and over 50 wine taps!

Kynie and I went for a wander while we waited for our table (it was packed) we came across black pigs and piglets but there are also poultry and cattle.True to Byron style, it’s a very laid back place to have a picnic in the grounds or enjoy some fine food.

Best coffee and brunch in Byron Bay

Bayleaf

The best coffee I had in Byron. Single farm beans roasted locally. So good I had to have a second; a rarity for me. The place was packed with locals and visitors alike which is always a sign of a quality place and food matched this. I had the granola, which was a delicious mix of oats, nuts and seeds with yoghurt and rhubarb compote. Not something I’d usually go for, but when in Byron. 

Fancy cold brew at Bayleaf Byron Bay
Fancy cold brew at Bayleaf

Combi

Another vegan option, Combi is decorated with a semblance to a coffee cart construction with full timber panelings, an awning, and “windows” through to the back area. The coffee was solid but they have also an epic list of super smoothies.

Combi Cafe in Byron Bay

Folk

Folk is hipster, organic, vegan eating at its finest. The menu is simple, the coffee good, and even if you laugh at vegans like me, you’ll even find something on the menu to like (tip: it’s the pancakes!). That might be a bit tongue in cheek, but if you put aside your desire for meat for one meal, I’ll guarantee you’d enjoy anything on the menu. 

It’s certainly not the sort of place you’d expect to find attached to a Discovery Parks holiday park, but low and behold it is! This definitely doesn’t take anything away from the charm though, as the cafe looks out over their own lawn and is absolutely is its own space set apart from Byron. And it’s so spacious I doubt it would ever feel crowded. 

Folk Cafe Byron Bay

The Top Shop

Past the footy fields and well away from the main busyness of the Town Centre is The Top Shop, named, presumably for the hill that it sits on at the foot of Cape Byron.

Top Shop represents everything you know about Byron Bay. The coffee is good, there’s a huge selection of food, all guaranteed to fill you up, and largely very healthy. We had granola bowls and bircher muesli and it was so filling and delicious it was actually one of the few places we visited twice.

Best places to drink in Byron Bay

Mez Club

This sleek Moroccan themed bar oozes style and is perfect for a few cocktails after a big day of shopping. Despite not having a single homage to surfing or the beach, the bar stills retains a certain cheerfulness one would expect at a sandy feet bar, which I think is owed to the generous usage of white walls, light coloured timbers and cane furniture.

The cocktail list is extensive and the happy hour quality, which runs from 5-7 every night. I enjoyed a local, (and purple) “ink” gin and tonic. The perfect drink to quench a sunkissed thirst.

Gin and tonic at the Mez Club Byron Bay
Gin and tonic at the Mez Club, infused with natural plants to get the colour.

Stone and Wood Brewery Tour

I booked a tour of the Stone and Wood brewery a few days before. These usually sell out so this is important. They said to get there a bit early and being ever-obedient that’s exactly what I did. I rocked up to the tasting room and when I said I’m here for the tour the girl behind the bar responded with “are you driving?” and handed me the first of 7 beers. A requirement of the tour is to try all the beers.

The week I was in Byron was very cloudy and at time rainy. Thankfully, the sun finally decided to peep out from the clouds so I enjoyed the green coast lager in the sunshine that to this point had been largely missing from a place famed for its sun and waves. The lager was crisp and sweet, surprising for a lager, and perfect for drinking in the sun. A highlight was actually trying a beer direct from the fermenter and it’s honestly the freshest tasting beer I’ve ever had. 

Stone and Wood Brewery Tour Byron Bay

Byron Bay Brewery Tour (weekends at 2pm)

The Byron Bay Brewery is located in the Byron Bay Arts Centre. It’s a super random location, the complex hosts concerts and also has a backpackers attached, and the brewery is a tiny fishbowl of a room next to the bar area.

The first thing you see as you enter the bar area is 6 large conical steel fermenters. At first, I was a bit confused as to why the long shell of a bar was so empty, but then I discovered the back outdoor patio.

I grabbed a schooner while I waited for the tour to start, which began with an overview of the brewing process. It was all pretty base level stuff for anyone without a shred of knowledge of how beer is made. The brew room is surprisingly small, with a mill, a mash tun, lauter tun, two carbonators and a kegging machine. The tour concluded with a rundown of the beers. 6 samples in total, all free. I’m honestly unsure if there’s a cost for the tour. All I know is I didn’t pay, and I got 6 generous samples at the end. The Lively One (IPA) and The Bold One (India Pale Lager) were favourites with special mention to The Pale One (pale ale).

It was a bit of a disappointment to learn the brewery is owned by Lion Nathan, especially since it’s such a small scale brewery. But the product is quality so it’s not like they’ve sold out the brand so I got over it pretty quickly.

Byron Bay Brewery Tour

Sticky Wicket

Sticky Wicket is a pretty standard sports bar, with some mostly average beers on tap (Cricketer’s Arms, the house beer is owned by Asahi). BUT, and it’s a big but, they have a pretty phenomenal happy hour. Schooners of Cricketers Arms lager is $5, jam jar cocktails are $10, and the wings (oh the wings!) are $1. This is good value in Australia and the wings were good enough for me to come back 2 nights in a row.

Jam jar at Sticky Wicket

Railway Friendly Bar

The Railway Friendly Bar is a large country style bar with covered outdoor seating in the form of picnic benches. There’s a decent selection of boutique beers on tap and one of the most comprehensive menus of pub grub I’ve ever seen. Everything from burgers, pizza, pasta, steaks, seafood, and schnitzels were on there, plus a bunch of stuff I forget about. It wasn’t super cheap, as far as pub grub goes, but it was pretty good quality and very healthy serving sizes. 

Music was provided by a local blues musician Dan Hannaford and he was awesome. Next time in Byron I’d definitely be looking up where he’s playing next. 

Did I miss anything? What was your favourite place or thing to do in Byron? I’ll add it to my list for when I return. 

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Sydney to Brisbane Coastal Road Trip Itinerary

sydney to brisbane road trip

Sydney is the undisputed gateway to Australia so unsurprisingly receives the most tourists of the country. But there is an entire coastline just begging to be explored to the north of Sydney up to Brisbane and beyond. I’ve lived on the coast my whole life and have travelled up and down it times too numerous to count and the good thing is that not once have I ever seen it overrun by tourists.

The coast is full of cities and towns, each a different size, each with its own quirks and character, and of course, each with multiple beaches. Beaches will be a common theme in this post so strap yourself in, I won’t be ignoring them just because they are everywhere!

Australia’s public transport system is notoriously shite so the best way to explore the east coast is easily by car. Pick up your pre-arranged car rental in Sydney and drive up the coast (Alpha Car Hire have very competitive rates).

It should take about 10 and a half hours to drive from Sydney to Brisbane, but by breaking it up into 1-2 hour blocks over a couple of weeks, you’ll see some of the best coastline and towns that NSW has to offer at a rather leisurely pace.

Crescent Head Beach at Sunset
Crescent Head Beach at Sunset

The NSW east coast is primed for camping, with national parks and holiday parks in great supply. This can be a really cheap way to travel if money is tight. Not to mention, camping is fun and gets you closer to nature than almost any other activity. Pick up some cheap gear on Gumtree and relist it immediately in the region you expect to finish in anticipation of passing it off to someone else.

I’ve picked out some of my favourite places along the east coast to help you know where to stop on your East Coast road trip but of course, you should always go where the moment takes you. Take the scenic route. Take a recommendation from a local. Pull over at a place you’ve never heard. And go have an adventure.

I’ve purposely not included a length of time you should take to make this journey. That’s because that is entirely up to you! Theoretically, each of these headings could be a day’s drive or less. But you could also easily spend 2-3 days at any of them so this could be a 5 day driving tour of the east coast or it could be a 4 week driving tour! You decide.

Sydney

I expect you probably spent about 3-4 days in the metropolis of Sydney. You had a lot of fun, ate a lot of good food and maybe partied a touch too hard, so now it’s time to get out of the big smoke and relax the pace a little. Pick up your hire car and head north!

I have written loads on Sydney. Get it all here.

Sydney to Avoca Beach

Avoca (and equally, Terrigal) is a tiny suburb on the Central Coast. It’s not much but it’s a real highlight of a somewhat dreary country city. A city surprisingly devoid of traffic lights. There are some classic Australian yellow beaches and some great markets on Sundays. We had a wonderful stay at the Avoca Valley B&B, which is actually set back a little from the coast amongst bush.

Avoca is about 90 minutes from Sydney.

Avoca Beach Central Coast NSW
Avoca Beach Central Coast NSW

Avoca Beach to Newcastle

Newcastle is Australia’s second city, a coal city known for beaching a coal tanker in the wild storms of 2007, and was discovered in some pretty comical circumstances. I argue it’s Australia’s most underrated city because of the completely laid back attitude (even for Australians), the incredible food and coffee scene, and is bafflingly untouched by tourists. But most of all I love that you can be in the CBD having a coffee or ice cream and a 5 minute walk will have you at the beach.

Newcastle is about an hour from Avoca. Read my guide on what to do in Newcastle here.

Optional stop: The Entrance for morning tea or coffee.

Anzac Memorial Walkway, Bar Beach, Newcastle
One of Newcastle’s most popular walking tracks

Newcastle to Port Stephens

Port Stephens is virtually untouched – even by Novocastrians who live on its doorstep. There are more beaches than you can poke a stick at, some on the coast, some on Port Stephens harbour – so you can pick if you want the water to be wavy or calm/filled with boats. Anna Bay is great for waves and Shoal Bay is nice and calm. Shoal Bay also has a great jetty for jumping and a fantastic (and short) walk up Tomaree Head with epic views over Fingal Bay and the whole region.

Port Stephens has plenty of adventure activities, with sand dune quad bike safaris, sandboarding tours, skydiving, and paintball. Or if you want something a little more chill you can take a whale watching cruise or visit Oak Vale Farm: a favourite with the kids!

Port Stephens is just under an hour from Newcastle. If you feel like a splurge, the Oaks Pacific Blue (in Salamander Bay) is an amazing place to stay. An infinity pool (by my definition) loops around the entire resort with most rooms opening out to the water, perfect for a quick summer swim. We stayed there a few weeks and it was just an incredible break.

Shoal Bay from the summit of Mt Tomaree lookout
Shoal Bay from the summit of Mt Tomaree lookout

Port Stephens to Myall Lakes National Park

I’ve gone camping at Myall Lakes for more years than I can count. It’s a very well managed National Park with good facilities that don’t take anything away from the camping experience. Popular with Australians in summer months you can often hear the buzz of power boats and jet skis for most of the day.

Boomerang Beach has a great resort right on the beach, Korsmans Landing is a nice and open grassy area for your tent or campervan, Mungo Brush is well shaded on a calm lake, and Myall Shores (near Korsmans) offers basic accommodation by the lake.

Myall Lakes is about 1.5-2 hours from Port Stephens (you have to backtrack a little) depending on where you stay.

Myall to Port Macquarie

Another beach town, Port Macquarie is also the home of Australia’s Ironman triathlon championship each May. The city centres around the breakwall and town beach, with the Sundowner holiday park situated perfectly in between.

If you have an artistic streak you can paint the rocks on the breakwall. There are no rules here so find a crap or fading rock painting and go nuts on it. My friends and I painted one over 15 years ago and incredibly, it is still there! Just don’t be political, please. There’s no need to have an agenda.

Port Mac is as relaxing as it comes. It is small enough that everything is within walking distance but is big enough to support some cool places to eat and drink.

Port Macquarie is about 2 hours from Myall Lakes National Park.

Port Macquarie rock painting
Our painted rock – still there last time someone checked!

Port Macquarie to Crescent Head

Crescent Head is a personal favourite of my family’s, we spend a week at Crescent Head every year. There is not a lot to do in Crescent Head but that’s what makes it perfect. It is well known as one of the best surf breaks in the country and the car park is always full of campers with surfboards.

The country club doubles as a 6 hole golf course: where its casual nature is matched only by its incredible scenery, as it snakes its way up the bluff where you much chip onto the green over a cliff. It’s really quite something, and down below is a perfect place to pick up some free second-hand balls!

The bakery makes Crescent Head worth stopping at all on its own. One of the last true bakery with displays filled with delectable pastries, sweets, and pies. Visits become a daily habit that is hard to break back home.

Crescent Head is about an hour from Port Macquarie.

Watch my time-lapse video of Crescent Head below.

Crescent Head to Coffs Harbour

Across Australia, Coffs Harbour is known as the home of the Big Banana. If you’re driving through and need a pit stop, the Banana is the undisputed number 1 choice for road trippers.

Obviously there’s more to Coffs Harbour though, with the Pet Porpoise Pool giving kids young and old an opportunity to interact with marine life, Korora Lookout offering spectacular views of the region, and of course, more beach.

View of Coffs Harbour from Sealy lookout

View of Coffs from Sealy Lookout, on Flickr by Andrew Schaffer.

Optional Stop: Dorrigo National Park is just inland and is a great place to camp for the night.

Coffs is about 2 hours from Crescent Head.

Coffs to Byron Bay

Byron Bay known as the hippie capital of Australia, the home of Stone and Wood (one of Australia’s largest independent brewers), and Splendour in the Grass (the biggest music festival in Australia, July). Byron is a great place to enjoy the beach, entertain the idea of eating

Byron is a great place to enjoy the beach, entertain the idea of eating organic, and switch off in a completely laid back atmosphere. However, it’s pretty popular these days so in peak times (or even otherwise), be prepared for crowds.

byron bay lighthouse on cape byron, Australia's east coast

Byron is about 3 hours from Coffs.

Optional: break up the trip by stopping in Yamba on the way.

Byron to the Gold Coast

If you thought the crowds were bad in Byron, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Gold Coast is where Australians flock for your typical tropical beach and theme park vacation. (Brisbanites know this so they head north to the Sunshine Coast).

Surfer’s Paradise is the hub of the Gold Coast so I recommend staying a bit out at Burleigh Heads or even Coolangatta. You’ll still get the GC experience without the crowds. And besides, you have a car, you can always drive in to see what it’s all about.

Take in the view from the Skydeck at Q1, Australia’s tallest building. If you’re after some adventure hit up the theme parks, or if nature is more your speed, visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary or the Glow Worm caves.

Take a detour to the Gold Coast Hinterland, Springbrook National Park, if you want to get more into nature before you get back into the cities.

Burleigh Heads Beach Gold Coast
Burleigh Heads Beach

Gold Coast to Brisbane

After a week or two driving, you made it to Brisbane. There is plenty more to see up on the Queensland coast so, by all means, keep driving. But while you’re here, read this post to see how I would spend 3 days in Brisbane.

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10 Reasons Newcastle should make every Australia Itinerary

How does one city get so lucky? Surrounded by stunningly diverse landscapes and inhabited by the most attractive specimens in the country all wrapped up in a perfectly casual attitude to life. This is as good as it gets. It may not seem like it at first, but there are plenty of things to do in Newcastle if you know where to look. You could easily spend 2 or 3 days going at a leisurely pace.

Newcastle is either a really large country town or a small city doing its best country town impression. At only 2 hours drive from Sydney (2.5 by train) it’s an easy day trip from Sydney, but an even easier weekend. Continue Reading

Jervis Bay: A family weekend away

White sands, calm beaches, camping, beautiful nature, challenging (and not so challenging) hiking and even some modern ruins. Jervis Bay is a town like few before it, under-visited and surprisingly important to our history as a nation.

If you ask any person from Newcastle to name some of the places along the northern NSW coast they would have no trouble rattling off probably anywhere between 5 and 10. But ask them about the south coast and you might get 1 or 2.

Interestingly, Newcastle is fairly equidistant to the state border in both directions but for some reason if we want to go on holidays we tend to avoid Sydney as much as possible and just head north.

Murrays Beach Booderee National Park Jervis Bay on a cloudy day
Murrays Beach, Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay

When I came to this realisation of a somewhat subconscious bias towards the north, I decided it was time for it to end. So I booked our little family a weekend down in Jervis Bay over the Australia Day long weekend. It’s a beautiful spot, unfortunately we didn’t have the best weather, but there’s still a plethora or things to do at any time of year.

Continue Reading

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