Byron Bay is a global destination, a name on backpackers’ itineraries from Stockholm to Osaka, a town of beautiful beaches and countryside and a famous lighthouse, but fairly ordinary streets, though with some extraordinary shops.
Fifty years ago it was a whaling station, today the tourists arrive to watch the whales swim happily past, thirty years ago it was just a quiet little coastal town, twenty years ago property was still hard to sell for much of a profit and yet today it often seems like an outpost of the Sydney market. And why not, when so many ex-Sydney-siders, and Melbournites, and escapees from everywhere else have moved here to reinvent their lives. Residents range from forest-dwelling ferals to surfers to born-here locals (and born-again locals), to telecommuters to multi-millionaires, and somehow it all works. As the bumper sticker says “Just another day in Paradox.”
The original inhabitants, the Arakwal people (part of the Bundjalung group) had a comfortable lifestyle in this lush area when Captain Cook sailed past in 1770, and named the Cape after a vice-admiral, not the poet Lord Byron, who was the vice-admiral’s grandson and not yet thought of, let alone famous. However this anachronistic idea was perpetuated in the late 19th century when the streets were laid out and named after famous poets. However the fast-living and flamboyant Lord Byron would surely feel right at home here today!
The shape of the Cape creates the many different surfing beaches, so there is almost always somewhere to surf, and often a range of choices. Surfers discovered the town during the 1960’s, and more and more visitors arrived seeking alternative lifestyles in the 1970’s. By the late 80’s real estate value was recognised and the backpackers were rolling up.
Today the visitor can sample a huge range of activities, from tandem hang-gliding and parachute jumps, to kayaking, surfing (or learning to surf), bike or horse-riding. The marine park at the Julian Rocks, just off the main beach, is the meeting place of tropical and temperate currents, which provides SCUBA divers and snorkellers with some amazing scenery. There is a great walking trail to the top of the Cape, with stunning coastal views, and the lighthouse is the spot to watch for whales in the season. Don’t miss the rainforest walk down to Kings Beach at the Broken Head Nature Reserve.
If some retail therapy is necessary, there is a great range of original crafts, clothing and gift ideas, and coffee shops everywhere to revive the tired shopper. The restaurant scene has moved right along from the days when tofu and lentils ruled to lots of listings in national food guides. There is plenty of nightlife and bands in pubs and clubs.
- Population – 6130
- Transport Services – Blanch’s Bus Service, Brunswick Valley Coach & Travel, Rail
- Byron Bay Taxis and Limousines
- Council – Byron Shire Council
- Community Markets – 1st Sunday each month
- Blues and Roots Festival (Easter annually)
- Byron Bay Triathlon – May
- July – Whale watch season commences
- Byron Bay Writers Festival – August
- Taste of Byron Food Festival – September
- Byron Bay Comedy Festival – September
- Buzz – Byron Bay Film Festival – October
- Byron’s Chamber & Lions Xmas Carols – December
- Byron Bay New Year’s Eve Street Celebrations – December