Byron Bay lighthouse at sunrise.jpg

What to do in Byron Bay

Nikki Parkinson Travel 53 Comments

It’s almost six months since we made the move to Brisbane from our beachside home of many years.

Whenever I meet someone new or catch up with an old friend, the first question I’m usually asked is, “do you miss the Sunshine Coast?”.

I do. And I don’t.

This move of ours was a long time coming. It had been carefully timed and planned around the big “kids” finishing school and it signalled an end to our commuting family life.

I can tell you that I don’t miss not having a husband around all week. And he can tell you he doesn’t miss driving that highway either.

Ironically we ended up on that highway – the famous Bruce Highway (only in Australia!) – last Friday on our way to Byron Bay. No, that’s not a typo, that’s just what happened.

My Nan passed away last week and her funeral was scheduled for Friday so with surf boards strapped to the roof of the car we headed an hour and a half north before turning around and heading south to our original destination.

About three and a half hours later we arrived. Peak hour through Brisbane and at the back of the Gold Coast (where road works are ongoing) contributed to adding an extra hour to the normal journey time.

But it was worth it in the end. It always is, don’t you think?

That moment when you arrive at your planned destination and you hear the sound of the waves crashing on to the beach and see those waves under the glow of a very full moon … that’s the moment when you acknowledge to yourself that, yes, you do miss the “coast” part of our residential equation.

We also acknowledged that our former lifestyle meant we rarely ventured further afield on a weekend – particularly if it involved driving – so for both of us it had been a very long time between Byron Bay visits.

I’d last been in town about three years ago for a hen’s night (anything group partying related is very big in Byron – as are the weddings themselves) and stayed in the centre of town with a bunch of my girls at one of the backpackers’ hostels.

Let’s just say at the outset, this weekend past was a few (hundred) notches up from that bunk room I shared with six others.

We were still very much in the centre of town – across the road from the main beach. So close we could seed the waves breaking. All the shops and restaurants were short walks away. But should we choose to escape from it all, we very easily could. And did.

yron Bay Beach Suites booked through Alluxia - balcony

Where we stayed

Luxury accommodation booking site Alluxia had invited us to Bryon Bay to experience one of the properties they recommend – Beach Suites.

Never one to knock back a challenge to spend a couple of nights in luxe surrounds, I took all of 20 seconds to say yes.

And when we finally walked through the doors to our two-bedroom penthouse apartment that Friday evening, I was so glad I did.

A huge living, dining and kitchen area greats you. Massive sofas that invite you to lounge around, poor a glass of wine and settle in for the evening. Balcony sliding doors fully pulled back to let in the sound of the surf (or as on Saturday night, the sound of the wedding DJ at the surf club offering up everything from Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time to B52’s Love Shack).

Byron Bay Beach Suites booked through Alluxia.jpg

Bedroom-wise, this apartment came with two generous king-size rooms, each with bathroom-sized ensuites and positioned at the back of the apartment, away from most night-time noise.

The set up was perfect for two couples, a group of of girls or a family of four – for a special occasion getaway. We were a family of three with just the eight-year-old in tow and very grateful for the opportunity.

The stand-out feature of this apartment was the private roof-top deck area, complete with heated plunge pool (water for the pools is collected via the roof and stored in an underground tank) and even more expansive views – across to the beach, up to the lighthouse and out to the hinterland.

Bryron Bay Beach Suites - penthouse view.jpg

Beach Suites is about five years young – built by local craft and trades people. It’s built in a prime location that offers the convenience of parking your car and exploring Byron Bay on foot but also a sense of luxury and escape once you’re inside.

What to do in Byron Bay

Our late arrival Friday evening meant essentially we had one full day and two nights in town. We wanted to maximise our time doing the stuff we wanted to do but also find time to generally do not much at all.

1. Surfing. Mr SY was keen to re-acquaint himself with his longboard which had been gathering dust underneath our city home.  And re-acquaint he did, surfing Clarke’s Beach and The Pass and taking the eight-year-old out on his foam board at Main Beach. The conditions were clean and the water was clear – ideal for rusty old and not-so-old sea arms and legs. Never surfed? There are plenty of surf school options to learn at one of the most beautiful breaks in Australia.

Byron Bay surfers at The Pass

2. Massage and meditation. This was my idea. HAH! I always like to book in some kind of pampering when away on a break. This was my Byron Bay spin on that. Instead of heading to a spa, I had Katie Connolly from Byron Bay Massage (pictured below) come to our apartment for an intuitive massage (yes – very Byron Bay and spiritual-ish but oh, so what I needed). When I was looking through her website and discovered she gave meditation lessons as well, I was on to that quick smart. There may have been eye rolls from the male members of my family but they humoured me and joined in. The biggest mistake I’ve been making with mastering meditation is that I’ve been lying down. I fall asleep too easily for that. So upright it is for me now and I’m aiming to make it a daily practice. Even if it’s just for five minutes.

Katie Connolly Byron Bay Massage

3. Walking. Up until a year ago I never bothered taking my sneakers on holidays with me. Now, I don’t know who I am but I do know that I not only pack my sneakers but I use them. This weekend it wasn’t a super long walk – but one that was good to do with Mr 8 on Sunday morning while Mr SY was having a final surf – from the town centre up to The Pass. The track from there continues around and up to the lighthouse so definitely worth exploring if you’re staying longer.

4.  Visit the Cape Byron lighthouse. In another “I don’t know who I am” moment, I suggested we set the alarm and get up early to see the sun rise at Australia’s most easterly point. Totally worth it. Even though by 11am, it felt like it was time for afternoon cocktails.

Byron Bay lighthouse at sunrise.jpg

Where to eat in Byron Bay

There are so many options when it comes to dining out in Byron Bay. We took a few recommendations from friends, ruled out some venues on account of dining with an eight-year-old, and ended up experiencing good food and excellent service at just a handful of fabulous Byron Bay eateries across the weekend. Here’s what I recommend.

1. Pizza Bar ByronThere are quite a few pizza restaurants and takeaway places in Byron. This one caught my attention because the toppings were more on the Italian than Aussie side. And they offered gluten-free bases. The base on my pizza was so good I was actually scared that they’d given me a regular base by accident. You are spared any toilet talk because it WAS gluten free and my stomach remained in normal condition overnight and the next day.

2. Dip cafe.  This was the scene of my breakfast date with Mr 8 while Mr SY was out surfing. The place was buzzing (always a good sign) and service was quick. My breakfast of truffled mushrooms on goat’s cheese, baby spinach and smashed potatoes with a tasty addition of diced bacon, well and truly set me up for the day.

3. Blue Olive Delicatessen. This deli was just around the corner from Beach Suites. It doesn’t seem to have a website or Facebook page but it’s at 27 Lawson Street and you need to find it if you’re in town. You’ll find all the usual deli suspects – perfect for wine time poolside – but also a very good range of salads, meals and side dishes made on site that you can easily serve up in your apartment.

4. Miss Margarita. Coming up with a dinner time venue that was fun for all three of us – and offered food that we all loved – lead us to Miss Margarita and I’m so glad it did. We arrived on sun-down – just after 5pm – and in time for happy hour $10 classic margaritas. The place was already full but staff have a great system whereby you can wait on the lounge outside (with your drinks) until a table is available. In our case this took all of five minutes! Food service was quick and I’m still dreaming about the snapper fajitas.

Miss Margarita Byron Bay

5. The Pass Cafe. Breakfast on Day 2 did not disappoint. Plentiful and tasty servings ensured that I did not need lunch that day either. The Pass sits in the trees just behind the beach of the same name. Loved the humour of the owner or manager who handed Mr 8 a huge water pistol for scaring away the resident kookaburra who happily swoops and takes advantage of any stray pieces of bacon or sausage should you look away for a second. Mr SY did and lost a slice of Bangalow sausage.

Ready to scare kookaburras at The Pass cafe Byron Bay

Where to shop in Byron Bay

Mr SY is fond of shopping. I know. Lucky me. When in Byron though, I knew that his version of shopping and mine would be worlds apart. His would involve anything surf related. Mine would not. We went our separate ways (him with the boy in tow) and both had an enjoyable couple of hours. For me, it was about discovering and browsing through the beautiful independent lifestyle and fashion boutiques – mostly in Fletcher Street. The boho vibe is all pervading. Yes, if Nina was looking for a shopping holiday destination, Byron Bay is it. Here’s what I found and loved.

1. Phyllis and Mimosa. I only knew this store via its online shopping site until last weekend. The owner invited me in and kindly gave me this fabulous denim dress (which I’ll also wear as a coat). You’ll find plenty of individual pieces, jewellery and accessories inside. The overall look is one of relaxed by sophisticated elegance.

2. Hope an May. Right next door is a coastal boho heaven of fashion and interior pieces. The emphasis is on neutral shades and plenty of texture. The was something to like at every turn. So much so, I only bought a scarf. Thankfully I can get future fixes online.

Hope and May Byron Bay

3. Enzo and Toto. The emphasis here is on quality pieces aimed at women who are not interested in fast fashion but want pieces that are relaxed with a European-type edge to them. You can also buy online.

5. Spell. I first discovered this store via Instagram, falling for the beautiful imagery and way they showcase their gypset designs. It’s boho with an edge and also available online.

6. Sweet Papillon. Just loved the crocheted white hammock hanging outside. Inside was a treasure trove of boho dresses and tunics including its own label and an extensive collection of One Season designs. You can also buy online.

The time to return home came all too soon. We did make a quick detour into the hinterland town of Bangalow. It was the annual Billy Cart Derby. Such a busy and buzzy vibe in the main street that day but not really conducive to wandering and exploring the shops in a leisurely manner (check out my blogging friend Vanessa’s post about her recent trip to Byron Bay that included a fun day out shopping in Bangalow).

But that’s ok. It very much leaves this for our next visit. One I hope won’t be too far away.

Byron Bay Beach Suites penthouse view.jpg

Info

We were hosted by online luxury escape booking specialists Alluxia for our accommodation at Beach Suites Byron Bay. All other food, shopping and activities were at our own expense. 

Accommodation:  Accommodation at Beach Suites is priced from $350 per room per night. The two-bedroom apartment (sleeps four in two king rooms with large ensuites and roof top pool) is priced from $1500 per night. For alternative Byron Bay accommodation through Alluxia, click here.

Special offer: Book Beach Suites, Byron Bay and stay for three nights or more (between now and September 18, 2014) and mention “Styling You” in the booking comments to receive a Byron Bay gift box.

Over to you. Have you been to Byron Bay recently? What stores, restaurants and activities can you recommend?

Comments 53

  1. Awesome article, who doesn’t love Byron Bay 🙂 Thanks for the tip about Blue Olive Delicatessen, we’ll definitely have to check that out. Make sure you give Orient Express a try, it has amazing food!

    We try and get to Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat once a year to recharge. It’s just up the road from Byron Bay and we make sure we get to Byron at least a couple of times during our stay. That place has a way with making you feel amazing!

  2. Go to Arnhem next time it’s amazing! I want everything in there its boho style and just amazing! they are online too

  3. It’s been many years since I was up the coast. I loved the dawn trek to the lighthouse – an absolute “who am I???” moment. But the best was the visit to the hinterland and the cute shops in nearby Bangalow.

  4. Gosh you did well Nikki with your choices! I too prefer the Fletcher street end. My trips for breakfast: Byron Fresh Cafe (near pub), Harvest Cafe (Newrybar, short drive away – they also have “Sourdough Saturdays in their bakery selling fresh pastries and bread – just divine!), Road House Cafe is supposed to be excellent but I haven’t made it there. Lunch – Fishheads Cafe – it is BYO and the view over main beach is incredible!, Byron Beach Cafe, excellent view again. Liliana’s is incredible, short drive and very good food and lovely view. You must go to Bangalow when the Derby isn’t on. Some good shopping and of course – food! Walking – you must walk along Tallows Beach next time – just beautiful! Good surfing at Broken Head as well for the boys. If you walk up to the lighthouse end of Tallows Beach, you will reach Cosy Corner which is a beautiful little spot (don’t tell anyone though) and quite protected. If staying at Suffolk Park (5 km’s south of Byron, the village has an excellent Bakery with great coffee as well as good pub food. We have a holiday rental called Beach House on Armstrong at Suffolk and guests love to walk to the village or Tallows Beach – very calming. Top Shop Cafe near Clarke’s Beach do great coffee and excellent food. You can hang out on the lawn outside if you wish – very Byron! You need a week Nickki but now you know that it doesn’t take too long from Brissy to get to Byron, you might go more often eh?

  5. Love this post Nikki. Its kind of like taking a holiday without going anywhere! Having recently visited Byron myself, I loved reading all about your adventures and making lots of mental notes of places to visit next time. Thank you for the link too. P.S. I’m sorry to hear Bangalow was so busy too but sounds like you made up for it in Byron. x

  6. You could be a travel writer Nikki – that was great reading! Even tho’ I live on the GC, I have never been to Byron! It’s always seemed too hippy or beachy to me! I can now see there are cafes and shopping (yes!), and nice places to walk. Since I live so close, I could even do a day trip! Again, thanks for that info.

  7. So glad you had a relaxing break after the week that was, Nikki. We loved Byron Bay when we visited a few years ago – our little girls managed the lighthouse walkways and I’m so glad they did! xx

  8. My husband’s family live in Northern NSW (Ballina) so when we would visit, we would always have a quick diversion to Byron Bay. We haven’t diverted in years though. I’d love to have a weekend there with the kids and have some spending money to really enjoy shopping. Glad you had a lovely weekend. 🙂

  9. You read my mind. I am currently debating about my Problogger accommodation and was hoping to treat hubby and myself a week away in the Gold Coast following the conference since we are coming all the way from Perth. But might change to Byron Bay. Looks so relaxing.

  10. The first time I went to Byron, R and I spent the night in our car, parking in a hotel parking lot, taking sneaky showers in their outdoor pool shower! It was such a fun weekend! Although I am too old for that kind of travel now…the Beach Suites sound much more attractive!

  11. Oh, Byron, my spiritual home. Just reading your post and gazing longingly at your photo of Clarkes Beach has me feeling a smidge more relaxed as I sit stuck at my cpu. It’s not nearly as luxurious, but I’ve been camping at Clarkes Beach Caravan park for 30 years now- first with my parents, and now with my own little family. Close enough to town (around a 10min walk along the beach) but far enough to escape the hustle and bustle. I do however, get so caught up in spending all my time at the beach or in cafes that I forget to allow enough shopping time – something I am sure to rectify after reading your tips for retail therapy! Looks like a beautiful weekend. I’m inspired…

  12. Mentioned the other day the gems that lie outside Byron town itself, such as

    http://harvestcafe.com.au/ (defo need to book in advance here)

    http://lilianascafe.com.au/

    Best sushi going around at Domo Cafe in Federal, all handmade to order. Worth the drive.

    http://www.elthamvalley.com.au/pages/home.asp

    And a divine place to stay in the Byron Hinterland.

    http://basilsbrush.com.au/

    We moved here two years ago (from Brisbane, tossing up here or your Sunny Coast and they are two very different vibes) and still get excited to explore the area whenever we can. The tranquility, people and beauty of the area won us over.

      1. Nikki, if you do come again I thoroughly recommend Robert’s Basils… it was home away from home when we visited (and it really did feel like YOUR home) and to wake up with the mist sitting in the valley and the cows grazing outside your window is just divine! A different experience to being on the beachfront but it’s only 10/15mins way and a great base to explore from. MInd we loved it so much there, we just stocked up and dwindled away the days reading and sitting in the sunshine. (Also it is pet friendly) And bonus, Lilianna’s is 200m away so fresh coffee and gorgeous breaky is close at hand.

  13. It all looks beautiful Nikki ,l Love Byron bay ,and I’m glad you are going to practise meditation smiling mind is good so is anxiety free…enjoy!

  14. it sounds like you all had a lovely weekend nikki!
    a good recipe for a timely short holiday … btw glad you bought a scarf!
    lol m:)X

  15. Such a lovely little part of our country! Walking up to the lighthouse was a highlight of mine, as was a yoga class on the beach! We were up there about a year ago for a work retreat and stayed in a fantastic holiday house. It was beautiful. And for an august mini break, the weather was beautiful.

    1. Ive been trying to find someone who does yoga actually ON the beach for ages. Do you know who it was through as I would really love to do it.

  16. Love Byron Bay – we go there because they are so dog-friendly. Great accommodation right near the beach and our dog was welcome at (some) outside cafes. Nice place.

  17. Hi Nikki. I was in Byron for a long weekend about 3 weeks ago and I loved how easy it was to be gluten free down there. Never a problem finding good gf food. I wrote a post about my trip in my blog too. I loved Roadhouse for breakfast on our way home. We stayed at Suffolk Park which is just a beautiful beach. I also really loved the Golden Breed shop where hubby stocked up on surf and gopro equipment and I bought a bamboo pineapple shaped napkin holder. The store owner told us he was tired of surf shops only catering to under 35’s and it just had the best tropical gods, cushions, wall hangings and ornaments with a kitsch feel.

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