10 Reasons to Drive to Byron Bay

From surf breaks to yoga retreats, Byron Bay is a coastal paradise with more to offer.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @celesteluzv

A mecca of sand, sun, and serenity, this NSW beach town is easygoing and known for its alternative culture. Spend your days surfing the breaks, walking the long stretches of sand, or venturing into the rainforest. If you’re looking to refind yourself, you can take the easygoing route, sinking into the tranquil yoga retreats, exploring the region’s hippie culture, and wellness culture.

Regardless of what you’re looking for, Byron Bay offers something for everyone. Here are 10 reasons to drive to the state’s most popular beach town.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @byronyogacentre

Reset with Byron Bay’s Wellness Culture

Byron is the New Age epicentre of Australia, attracting naturopaths, psychics, healers and massage therapists. As such, you’ll find tarot, palm and horoscope readings, as well as reflexology, iridology, kinesiology, and reiki therapies. The Byron Yoga Centre offers a range of yoga, health and wellness retreats, but if you’d prefer to simply take a class, there are options including prenatal yoga and yoga for new mums.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @steventures__

Walk the Cape Byron Track

The Cape Byron Track is on every Byron visitor’s list—it’s too beautiful to miss. Start with a good breakfast at the Beach Restaurant, overlooking Clarkes Beach, before taking a stroll to The Pass. From here take the track’s 3.7-kilometre (2.3-mile) loop, which winds through Bangalow palms, across kangaroo grasslands, along pretty Wategos and Little Wategos beaches and out to the tip of the Cape Byron Headland, which is the easternmost point of mainland Australia. The end is near, once you walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse, a century-old whitewashed lighthouse, which you can climb for magnificent views south along Tallow Beach, east across the Pacific Ocean and west over a lime-green plain.

things to do byron bay

Chill out at Pighouse Flicks

Opened in 1995 in an old piggery, this venue is now an alternative cinema, screening art-house movies and international films. Enjoy a locally brewed beer from Byron Bay Brewery, and updated pub food, sourced from locally grown produce, then head next door to enjoy a movie. This venue still channels the eccentric spirit of Byron Bay and was the original locale of the Byron Bay Bluesfest. Should you want to stay longer, the excellent Arts Factory backpacker lodge is also located on-site

things to do byron bay
Photo: @raesonwategos

Indulge in luxury accommodation

From classic beach houses to designer chic resorts, Byron Bay is no stranger to the finer things in life. Some of its residents are A-listers, including the Hemsworth family, and soon to join, Zac Efron. There are plenty of mansions to gawk at, but you could also slip into your own slice of luxe accommodation at Elements of Bryon, which sits behind a beautiful white sand beach. Its 94 villas nestle among native bush around a lagoon and along a water lily covered creek on the outskirts of town. There’s a gorgeous resort pool and a swooping pavilion that offers contemporary alfresco dining with fresh, local fare.

Clarkes Beach Cottages sit front and centre on the beach. Originally sand miners’ shacks, they have been beautifully restored with modern conveniences and a few retro touches. If a rainforest experience is more your style, the Crystalbrook Byron is a luxurious all-suite resort tucked into 45 hectares of palm trees, paperbarks and cypress pines.

Raes on Wategos delivers a touch of exotic glamour behind one of Byron’s tucked-away surf beaches. Its curvy facade is whitewashed in a Greek villa-style with timber shutters. Its interiors are full of art and antiques and feature Italian marble floors, eclectic furniture and Moroccan archways.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @cat_food_taco

Surf the breaks

Surf culture in Byron Bay is unparalleled. Most gather at Lennox Head for its most famous break, Lennox point which is one of the country’s go-to places when a big swell hits the coast. Further south in Ballina, you can catch a wave off Shelly Beach. try your luck at The Pass, The Wreck, Belongil Beach or Wategos. Brunswick Heads and New Brighton also have a variety of breaks along their open beaches, while the river entrance to Brunswick Heads is every local legend’s most revered surfing spot. Whether you’re a beginner surfer looking for lessons, or an expert looking to ride your first barrel, you will find every surfing style here.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @serajwright

Swim at family-friendly beaches

While most beaches in Byron Bay aren’t patrolled, you will find a handful of family-friendly beaches, including Wategos and Clarkes Beach. Lennox Head also offers patrolled swimming beaches as well as the freshwater lagoon, Lake Ainsworth. There are calm water beaches to swim at near the mouth of the Brunswick River. Ballina also offers patrolled swimming at various beaches across town, including Lighthouse Beach and East Ballina’s Shelly Beach and Flat Rock. The best place to snorkel is at Julian Rocks, one of Australia’s best underwater sites, just off the coast of Cape Byron.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @loftbyronbay

Eat your way through the food scene

There’s more than one way to fill up your plate in town. From working farms to degustation menus and tapas restaurants, Byron Bay is more than a beach mecca. Intrepid diners can take the Byron Bay Solar Train to North Byron where chilled, poolside cocktails await at the luxurious Elements of Byron—or Argentinian influenced delights will tempt at Barrio restaurant. El Camino up the Palace Cinema end of Jonson Street puts a Byron Bay twist on authentic Mexico. for a creative cocktail and next-level grazing food head up to Loft Byron BayBelongil Beach Italian Food is a newly opened restaurant from Maurice Terzini. You can expect dishes highlighting local produce, with a large focus on fresh seafood and local tipples.

For a cruisy afternoon with a beer in hand, as you watch the Byron Bay sun melt into the horizon, the Beach Hotel will deliver the perfect combination of soulful tunes and easygoing vibes. A visit to the Bay wouldn’t be complete without a stop off at one of the world-class breweries and distilleries. Beer lovers should head to Stone & Wood and the Byron Bay Brewery for a tasting paddle and tour. Don’t forget to stop by Cape Byron Distillery and Husk Distillery.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @splendourinthegrass

Attend a festival

Byron Bay hosts several festivals a year, from large-scale music festivals to markets and community events. The Byron Bay Bluesfest is on around April and the ever-popular Splendour in the Grass takes place in July. You will also see a lineup of food festivals, writers festivals, film and surf festivals.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @islandluxeofficial

Shop till you drop at local boutiques

Add something quintessentially Byron to your wardrobe with the town’s best boutique shops, known for their high-end, handmade threads. You will also find a range of homewares, shoes, and jewellery. Spell and the Gypsie Collective is a modern bohemian label, while Auguste the Label, has its own classic look, that usually involves a flowing floral dress or two. Pop into Habitat Collective for visual splendour, or design shop, Pop and Scott. Island Luxe and Salt and Wood, also sell luxury bed linens and soft furnishings.

things to do byron bay
Photo: @venusgetaways

Discover hinterland gems

Only a short drive from Byron Bay, the hinterland is a playground of quirky towns, countryside living, regional restaurants, and dense rainforests. Venture into Arakwal National Park for the ultimate natural getaway that will satisfy even the most exhausted urban dwellers. Despite being just a stone’s throw from the township, the park provides secluded beaches and exquisite wildlife experiences including birdwatching and whale watching. 

A 20-minute drive from the township will take you to the stunning Broken Head Nature Reserve, where Aboriginal culture and untouched nature blend to create the ideal day trip. The expansive park encompasses sheer cliffs, lush rainforest and secluded beaches as well as boasting a unique subtropical rainforest known as the Littoral Rainforest. 

Tygarah Nature Reserve and Nightcap National Park also offer unique wetlands, waterfalls, including a multitude of walking tracks and hidden pockets waiting to be explored. You can go fishing, hiking, kayaking, surfing, and cycling in the hinterland.

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Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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