Ultimate Byron Bay Travel Guide for First-Time Visitors

Updated July 2023. Reading time Ultimate Byron Bay Travel Guide for First-Time Visitors: 21 minutes.

This travel guide is full of up-to-date travel information and travel inspiration for first-time visitors to Byron Bay in Australia.

Everyone needs a little sunshine in their life, especially when the weather turns icy cold and daylight hours dwindle north of the equator. Swimming in the Pacific Ocean, riding down waves (in my case baby ones), and meeting interesting people to talk about creative endeavours, drinking Ginger Necktar. A dense green bush that grows right down into the beach. The sweet smell of frangipanis in the air. In summer the water temperature is at 24 degrees Celsius. A legendary vibe. An iconic lighthouse. Cute wildlife. Talented street buskers. Trendy cafes and restaurants that use single origin coffee and organic products. People who care about their community and the environment. Hang on, where is that place? Book a trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and make your way to Byron Bay, the easternmost point of mainland Australia in the state of New South Wales. A place for dreamers and drifters and for everybody else. I find summer extra sweet when I jump straight in from winter. In Byron Bay you get to live a Bikini kinda life but there are also events like the Bluesfest, the Writers Festival and The Falls Music and Art Festival. This town makes me feel like flying.

Travel Australia. Ultimate Byron Bay Guide for First-Time Visitors

The Ultimate Byron Bay Guide for First-Time Visitors


Visit the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse

Cape Byron, as the most easterly point of the continent, needed a navigational light. The 18 metres high structure, operated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, was constructed from concrete blocks in 1901. From this location on Australia’s eastern coast it flashes white, every 15 seconds with a range of 27 nautical miles (that is 50 kilometres).

Start in the centre of Byron Bay and walk along the beach till you reach Captain Cook Lookout, walk inland along the Tallow Ridge bush track through the rainforest, and further up to the Lighthouse (good chances to see dolphins, leopard sharks and turtles from up here). Visit the little museum and have a drink and a snack at the Lighthouse Café (another to die for view over the bay and Julian Rocks) before you walk on to the easternmost point of the Australian mainland. Swim at little Wategos or Wategos beach and keep on walking till you reach Palm Valley (good chances to see Koalas and Kookaburras). Have a break at The Pass Café and head down to the beach to head back to town after another swim or two.

Please do not drive up to the lighthouse in your car, there is enough traffic already. Walking up here is a fantastic experience. No one needs cars up here. Please consider those around you, who come to this place searching for serenity. For hopening hours and more infos visit the website.

A white lighthouse under a cloudless bright blue summer sky.

People sitting in the shade of a cafe with a view of the ocean. A strip of white sand beach lines the shore in the distance.

Tropical large green plants growing on a tree with a light coloured bark.

Leafy tropical forest in the late afternoon sunshine.

White wooden handrail of a fence that leads to a white lighthouse in the distance.

Lush green forest with a few houses and the blue ocean in the background.

Green vegetation with the blue ocean in the background.

Meet the Wildlife of Byron Bay

Aren’t we all dolphin lovers? Walk through and out of town and see sea turtles, pods of dolphins, manta rays, leopard sharks, koalas, flying foxes and listen to the sound of exotic birds, and the laugh of kookaburras.

Watch out for the 80 centimetres long Eastern Water Dragons, I saw them in the gardens of my hotel. They have spikes that run over their back and head, all the way down to their tails. I watched them every day and saw what amazing jumpers, runners and climbers they are. One day I found one of these backyard buddies sitting on a coffee table on the veranda. I have been told that they love water, can swim and stay underwater for up to an hour. When I spoke to one of them, a male, he gave me a cute look. You can find them in the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland.

Look closely and you surely see koalas in the wild. You will almost walk past these cute little fellas, before you can say “Hello mister, pleased to meet ya” (I stole that line, obviously). When you see koalas in the wild, please do not disturb the animal, talk only quietly, keep a distance of ten metres and do not touch the koala. Australia’s koala population faces extinction, the population around Byron Bay is under threat because for example things like people, dogs, cars, food shortages, forest clearing and road construction put their habitats at risk. It is the best feeling to see wildlife in the wild; they don’t belong in a zoo or circus. Let us not harm animals for our entertainment. Together we can change everything. It is so interesting, how visitors from all different parts of the world get excited about the same wonders of nature, and there is this instant camaraderie when people point these out to one another and smile widely.

Inquisitive looking large Water Dragon holding its head up while sitting onon wooden floorboards.

Koala with open eyes sitting in a Eucalyptus tree.

A large pod of dolphins in the ocean.

Surfing is Big in Byron Bay

Old, young, it feels as if almost everybody carries a board. You see tradespeople who have a surfboard in the back of their ute (that is the Australian word for utility car) next to their tools. What a lifestyle. Have you tried surfing? It feels so good to be in the ocean. If you would like to learn to surf, I give you a quick overview of beaches, so you know which ones are suitable for beginners. I went with a surfer friend but recommend you contact surfing schools (try Soul Surf School) in town to book lessons with them, rent a board and ask for weather conditions (they are the experts).

-The Wreck. Called after a ship wreck that lies here, because of rips not suitable for beginners.

-Main Beach. Ideal for beginners and everybody who wants to learn to surf. This stretch of beach is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.

-Clarke’s Beach. Ideal for beginners and everybody who wants to learn to surf. This stretch of beach is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.

-The Pass. This beach is beloved by everybody and popular all over the country. There is parking, but not many spaces. Carry your board the short walk from the town centre, it is roughly a walk of 20 minutes.

Surfers with red and blue surfboards in the ocean, with some people standing on the beach.

Two surfers and rock formations in the green-blue coloured ocean.

Swimming in Byron Bay

All beaches in and around Byron Bay are of, it sounds dramatic, extreme beauty. The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water that spans three third of the surface of the globe. To give you an idea of its vastness, if you stand on the beach in Byron Bay and you face the ocean, you would have to swim 11,660 kilometres to reach Valparaiso in Argentina. I picked that place since it is sort of directly opposite. A day on the beach make your heart and eyes sparkle.

The Wreck - Main Beach - Clarke’s – Beach - The Pass

The four beaches the Wreck, Main Beach, Clarke’s Beach, The Pass are one long stretch of beach. Walk along the water’s edge from one end to the other, it is a beautiful walk of roughly 4.5 kilometres, and stop a few times to go for a swim.

Wategos and Little Wategos Beach

These are the most easterly ones in the bay, wait they are actually the easternmost beaches on the Australian mainland. Little Wategos Beach is to be reached over a narrow walking track. In this area they used to grow bananas and vegetables in the 1930s. When swimming, stay close inshore to not get carried out to the ocean by currents.

Cosy Corner and Tallow Beach

These two beaches are on the southern side of the Byron Bay lighthouse. This beach is a long stretch of 6.5 kilometres; you can walk all the way to Broken Head.

Before you go swimming in Byron Bay

Watch the sea and look out for rips, prevention is the best option to not get caught in one. From what I have been told one can swim parallel to the beach out of a rip. Obey shark or bluebottle warnings. It is best to ask lifesavers on the beach, they will explain this far better.

When you head to the beach think of these few things to have the best day. Search for the red/yellow flags, and swim between them, so that lifeguards can look after you. Swim during the day and in daylight only. Eat light before you go swimming; jumping into the ocean with a full tummy is bad when you already have e.g. cardiovascular problems. Swim only when you are sober, drinking alcohol on the beach in the heat is awful anyway. Swim or surf with another person nearby, that way you can both look after each other. Listen to local advice. Wear sunscreen and a hat.

In Europe topless sunbathing and swimming is no big deal. In Australia, things are slightly different. Some get upset when they see women’s nipples on the beach, especially if you go topless in front of children. I find that very strange, sunbathing or swimming topless is a sign of equality and not about trying to be a Porno star on the beach. Never mind, it is what it is. Anyway, the danger of cancer is real, so better wear your bikini top.

Green vegetation wit a white sand beach and the ocean in the background.
Clarkes Beach

Swimmers and surfers on a white sand beach and in the green-blue coloured ocean next to green vegetation on a hill.
Cosy Corner

Palmtrees and people on a white sandy beach with the green-blue coloured ocean in the background.
Main Beach Byron Bay

Footsteps on the beach with green hills and the ocean in the background under a cloudless blue sky..
Tallow Beach

Blue bottle jellyfish on the beach with green hills and the ocean in the distance under a cloudless blue sky.
Blue Bottle on Tallow Beach

A woman sunbathing on a small sandy beach lined with rockformations.The green-blue ocean as a background.
Watego Beach

Dance on the Beach and Listen to Street Buskers in Byron Bay

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn’t hear the music (Friedrich Nietzsche). Have you ever been to a silent disco? People wear wireless headphones and dance to music that only they can hear. In Byron Bay the beach under the starry night sky became a dance floor. There were three different types of music to choose from, organised by a colour code, dancers could switch between green, blue and red. Despite the fact that all were wearing different colours and with that dancing to different tunes, the crowd got on beautifully and everybody had fun. Proof that people of different colours and backgrounds can live together in harmony. To announce the end of the night, all headphones were switched to blue and Men at Work - Down Under was played. Everybody kept dancing. Tolerant enough to accept a different style.

In the most easterly point of Australia, sunsets look good anyway, but especially so when they come with music. While buskers play at main beach often hundreds of locals and tourists are dancing to it with a view over the Pacific Ocean. Shine on crazy diamond. You will find street buskers all over town, on any given day. Just take your time and listen, and never forget to give them a cold coin donation (or more). On most nights in summer there are drumming sessions at the main beach car park during sunset, everybody can join.

A guitar playing busker surrounded by a sitting audience und a cloudy blue sky with the green-blue coloured ocean as a background..

Silhouettes of palm tree leaves and people, looking at how the sun sinks into the ocean and painting the scenery in orange and purple.

Swim in a Tea-Tree Stained Lake in Lennox Head

There is this lake, a tea-tree stained lake, where you can swim between the ocean, a skip and a jump from Seven Mile Beach and a fresh water lake. Go in the late afternoons, with the sun shining it is like swimming in a glistening cup of tea, without the milk. Since the water is coloured by tea tree tannins, originating from the trees that surround the lake, it is exactly the colour of tea. A swim is a wonderful experience and a refreshing one, and the tea tree water has apparently rejuvenating properties for the skin and hair. I happily confirm that skin feels soft like silk after a good long soak in the lake.

It is also an ideal spot for stand up paddling and kayaking. Please check with the council and ask locals before you take the plunge, at times this lake can be contaminated with blue-green algae (cyanobacterial algal blooms) and not be suitable for swimming.

Information: Lake Ainsworth, Lennox Head NSW 2478, Australia. Tickets: Free. There is free parking as well as paid parking in front of the caravan park next door to the lake at Pacific Parade. It is a 22 kilometres drive from Byron Bay via Broken Head Road.

People swimming in a clear tea-tree stained lake lined with lavish green trees, under a blue sky.

Go On a Road Trip Through the Hinterland

Bangalow, a small town full of white painted weatherboard homes and verandahed properties on the main road, only a few minutes’ drive from Byron Bay surrounded by mainly farmland, lush and green, and the ocean in the not so far distance. When I bought a magazine and stood in line to pay, an old guy, weathered skin, sort of jumped to the front, put his money on the counter, wordless, and left the store, newspaper under his arm. All these eccentric characters one meets along the way. Drive 20 kilometres to Newrybar, where you find the small foodie heaven Harvest. To experience hippie flair drive the 67 kilometres from Byron Bay to Nimbin. In Alstonville, which is 40 kilometres from Byron Bay you can buy fresh Macadamia nuts and avocados.

A large light purple water lilly sitting on a green leaf in a lake.

A highway winding its way through agricultural used land.

A white kayak and palm trees on the shore of a lake overgrown with lily pads.

Visit a Waterfall in the Nightcap National Park

The lookout in the World-Heritage listed rainforest is surrounded by eucalypts. Look down 100m below onto the gorge full of palm trees. If the conditions permit, walk along the Minyon Falls path down to the base of the waterfall and jump into the pool. Go for bushwalks, have a picnic, inhale the fresh air and enjoy the tranquillity.

Info: Minyon Falls lookout, Minyon Platform Track, Whian Whian NSW 2480, Australia. 30 kilometres from Byron Bay. Tickets: Free. For more info please visit the website.

Lush green canopy of rainforest in New South Wales in Australia.

A waterfall crashes down cliffs. The canopy of a rainforest.

Visit the Farmer’s Market in Byron Bay

The stallholders, who are local farmers and producers, guaranty freshness. Ask them everything about their product, they are happy to help. This is a good place to buy fruit and goodies for a sumptuous and healthy picnic. Information: Butler Street Reserve. Hours 8am to 11am.

Three pineapples on a white fruit stand.

The Atlantic - Favourite Hotel in Byron Bay

Over the years I stayed three times at The Atlantic, in always different room categories. I loved all of them. It is a little piece of paradise in the paradise that Byron Bay is. You feel the love that has been put into this to make it this special place. Good-looking bright rooms and stylish communal spaces. Sit on the veranda and enjoy the lush and green tropical gardens. Free use of surfboards and bikes, beach towels and sun umbrellas, some rooms have an outdoor shower, what more does one need, when in Byron Bay? It is only a short minutes’ walk to the best cafes and restaurants and the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Visit The Atlantic Byron Bay.

For all glamping lovers, there is an Airstream in the garden. To me they are a synonym for the great outdoors and road trips. Have you heard of the tiny house movement? It advocates living a simpler life in small homes.

Two camping chairs in front of a silver Airstream Trailor with large palm trees in the background.

Three bicycles with a wooden basket, parked under a pergola next to lush green palm trees.

Shells. Colourfull cushions. Palm trees. A cactus. A white weatherboard property with a rooftop verandah.Pineapples in a wooden bowl. A fringed braided basket on a wooden bench in front of a painting..

The Atlantic Byron Bay

Hotel address
13 Marvel Street, 2481 Byron Bay.
From AUD 395 to AUD 530, inclusive free rental of surfboards, beach towels, sun umbrellas and bikes, free Wi-Fi, use of the guest laundry and the communal kitchen.
Type of Hotel
Tropical lifestyle hideaway.
Type of break
Romantic getaway, wellness, hiking, nature, foodie experience.
Open fire place
Yes, there is a communal fire place in the gardens.
Yes, ask for the password at reception.
Swimming pool
Yes, outdoor.

Banana tree. Palm trees. A water dragon on a table. Chairs and benches under a white pergola. A white frangipani. A bicycle in front of a white weatherboard house. A swimming pool next to the verandah of a white weatherboard house.

Palm trees next to an open door of a white weatherboard house under a blue cloudless sky.

A swimming pool next to a white weatherboard house with palm trees in the background.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Byron Bay

Food, food, and food, and coffee. In Australia there is so much talk about food; breakfast for example is a true lifestyle in Australia. It is heaven. Cafés create ever fresh ideas; I would go so far to say that many places are better to be described as breakfast restaurants. The most amazing breakfast dishes are to be had in this country. In Byron Bay no one raises an eyebrow if you ask whether the food is organic or locally sourced.

The Balcony Bar

Lovely place to grab a few drinks, sitting on the balcony overlooking Byron Bay.

Info: The Balcony Bar. Jonson Street and Lawson Lane, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

The wooden verandah of a bar with tables, chairs, paintings and decorative lights.


I first went to Combi at their cafe in Elwood, a suburb of Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria. Here it is all about a healthy lifestyle, which is organic vegetarian or vegan. Dishes are as tasty as they are fit for a photo. If you aren’t into coffee (that would be a complete waste in Australia), order a Beetroot Latte. I recommend the organic Bircher Musli. Oats soaked for 24 hours in coconut milk. Sweetened with Canadian Maple Syrup and lemon rind, topped with a blueberry chia jam and coconuts and crushed pistachios, served with vegan cashew yoghurt, strawberries and apple. The portion size is too large; I imagine they have to throw away a lot of food. The friendly waiter said they are aware that this is a problem but then there are others who enjoy eating the whole portion.

Info: Combi Byron Bay. Shop 5b 21-25 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

Breakfast porridge decorated with berries, apple slices, and a cut strawberry served in a wooden bowl.

Flat White espresso drink served in a blue cup, with crowds at a cafe in the background.

Folk Café

This beautiful mid-century decorated café is a little bit out of town. Their motto is “organic, ethical, and plant-based” and I would walk miles for that. Smashed avocado on sourdough is my all-time favourite ever since I moved to Australia all these years ago. This is one dish everybody needs to try at least once when in Australia. It is a massive hit. Financial advisers have been saying for years that kids should stop having these since they otherwise will never get a foot into the property market. The café is beautiful inside and out.

Info: Folk Café. 1/399 Ewingsdale Rd, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

Flat White Espresso drink served in a brown cup with plants in green planters in the background

Avocado on sourdough decorated with edible flowers served on a light green plate. A woman in a summer dress orders food at a coffee counter in the background.

A couple sits on a verandah of a weatherboard cafe with palm trees in the background.

A green coffee machine and brown and yellow coloured plates stacked on a rustic cafe counter. Decorated with green plants.

Top Shop

A popular and friendly café somehow off the beaten track (location-wise) that has been around in this form for a decade. Great coffee, beans from Single Origin Roasters from Sydney, delicious breakfast in the residential part of town. Sit on the lawn and relax.

Info: Top Shop. 65 Carlyle Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

People drinking coffee on the verandah of a white weatherboard house with pink window frames.

The Byron Bay General Store

Newly opened café, in the completely refurbished town’s general store which has been at this site since 1947. The cafe is owned by Phil Taylor and Ben Gordon, a drummer of metalcore band Parkway Drive. They try to be as sustainable as possible. There is a filtered drinking water system for customers (check out the sink, so pretty) and the café waters plants with excess water. Speaking of pretty, also check out the floorboards on the veranda please. I recommend the Avo Alfalfa Toast for breakfast. There is also a Community Book Exchange, where one can leave a book, and take a book. If you’d like to donate books to help them get their library full, bring them. Furthermore you can buy organic succulents and other green plants and some other local produce.

Info: The Byron Bay General Store. 26 Bangalow Road, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website. Ride your bike, walk or skate and you get 10% off. Bring your own coffee cup and you get 50 cents off your coffee.

Avocado on sourdough decorated with a salad next to a lemon. People in the background waiting for a free table at a cafe..


Middle Eastern food with an Australian twist made from organic locally sourced ingredients where possible. For dinner I recommend the watermelon fingers sprinkled with pistachios, sesame, dates, feta cheese and drizzled with rosewater, Australian finger lime (also known as lime caviar) and sumac. Grilled local halloumi marinated in mint with pomegranate molasses. Vine Leaves. Oven-baked beetroot slices.

Info: Safya. 8 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

Espressohead Café

Locally sourced organic products. The Gluten Free French Toast with fresh fruit, coconut cream and nuts is just as perfect as the coffee they serve. They seem very passionate about coffee here. From all coffees I drank in Byron Bay this is the best one. If you start the day with a coffee that tastes like vanilla and blueberry nothing can go wrong.

Info: Espressohead Café. 7 Middleton Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

Flat White espresso drink served in a light blue cup on an orange saucer..

Magazines and a bunch of flowers in a white vase on a wooden table. People in the background eating in the outdoor space of the cafe.

French toast, decorated with blueberries, sliced strawberries, diced mango and nuts, served on a white plate.

A green vehicle parks in front of the white fence of a cafe in a red brick house. The yellow umbrellas offer shade in the outdoor area.

Light Years

Vietnamese food at an intimate little café with a neon rose on pink painted walls and white wooden shutters. Eat fresh food in tropical style. I recommend: Crispy spring rolls. Salt and pepper tofu, sweet chilly and Szechuan. Fried Eggplant, sticky caramel, Thai basil, kaffir lime.

Info: Light Years. 3/17 Lawson Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Opening hours: Visit the website.

Low stools around a small black wooden table standing on a white painted wooden floor. The room is decorated with plants and lights and is painted in pink. In the background there is a group of people eating while sitting on high bar stools.