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5 must-do things in Byron Bay

Published January 15th, 2015

Summertime is made for Byron Bay. The morning sun glints off the surf rolling into Main Beach, the cooler mornings are the best time to walk/run/bike up to Cape Byron Lighthouse, and once the town wakes up, it seems an United Nations of travellers and locals are out and about in the streets, on the beaches, and perched on chairs at the bars, cafes and restaurants – all ready to soak up the laidback vibe of Australia’s fave boho enclave. To make the most of the lazy summer days (before and after the rain!), here’s my 5 must-have Byron Bay experiences.

 

The Byron Bay sign
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

Eat a vego meal

Australia’s alternative capital is heaven for vegetarians. Pretty much every eatery will have vegan/paleo/gluten-free options, and some are geared solely for those who shun meat. Some of my fave things to eat in Byron Bay include the teriyaki tofu burger at Byron Corner Store, Red Ginger’s vegan yum cha, a super-healthy smoothie from Naked Treaties, and the salads from Manna Haven Cafe (located within the Byron Bay Seventh Day Adventist Church).

 

Naked Treaties I Feel Delightful green smoothie
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

If you prefer to source your own kale and coconut oil, you’ll also find plenty of wholefoods stores like Fundies Wholefood Market, The Green Garage and Santos Organics.

 

Main Beach, Byron Bay
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

Hit the beach

Main Beach, at the end of Jonson Street, is the main drawcard in town but there’s plenty of sandy shores to sunbake, swim, snorkel, dive and surf in Byron Bay. From the lighthouse you can look down onto Watego’s Beach, Julian Rocks is a popular local dive spot (see the guys at Byron Bay Dive Centre), and if you’re a surfing newbie, try Main Beach or the consistent swell of Belongil Beach. Experienced surfers will want to check out The Wreck, The Pass or Clarkes Beach.

 

Hope & May boutique
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

Shop local

While you’ll see plenty of bronzed travellers getting around town barefoot in bikinis and boardies, make no mistake – Byron is more boho luxe than bogan beach when it comes to #fashun. The prices of some of the boutiques may make you wince but if you want a piece of the effortless Byron style, the best local stores to hit up include Spell Designs for floaty boho pieces and festival-ready gear with a rock chick edge, Hope & May for beach wear and covetable homewares in sun-bleached tones, and Arhem Clothing for gypset style and hippie luxe threads. For guys, head to Afends, Stoked Byron and Unplugged Byron Bay.

 

Cocomangas nightclub
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

Love the nightlife

The after-hours scene in Byron Bay is either all about backpackers or bars. Cocomangas (or just Cocos) was doing drinks in jam jars before every moustachioed hipster had a mason glass and matching striped straw, while the Great Northern Hotel a.k.a. The Northern attracts a revolving lineup of upcoming bands on tour and secret gigs from visiting festival headliners. For tapas eats and share plates matched to wines by the glass, try St. Elmo Dining Room & Bar.

 

Great Northern Hotel by day
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

 

Keen to make shapes on the dancefloor? Sometime locals Sneaky Sound System can be found behind the decks at the Beach Hotel (Beachie) or head to the refurbed La La Land for top tunes.

 

Alley art behind St. Elmo Dining Room & Bar
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

Watch the markets

For a snapshot of the Byron lifestyles, check out the local markets. Held on the first Sunday of the month (and Farmers Markets every Thursday morning) at the Butler Street Reserve, the Byron Bay Markets is people-watching at its best. Crazy percussionists? Check. One-man ambient trance masters? Check. Swamp music families? Check. Tie-dyed clothing? Check. Local produce? Check. Vintage fashion and one-off craft? Yes and yes!

 

Street art in Byron Bay
Photo: Cassandra Laffey

 

Don’t miss the Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts (make mine the traditional cinnamon sugar) and ask for chilli on your Pizza Loca slice!

 

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.