On days like this, with summer on its way, you can almost feel it coming. Those lazy days in the sun, the salt-dusted eyebrows from days spent in and out of the ocean, eating chips on the beach and enjoying a refreshing summer beverage as the sun sets ... every time you catch the scent of sunscreen, it's almost as if you're there. And, in just a few short weeks, you will be.
With this in mind, we're turning our attention to one of our favourite places to spend the summer: Byron Bay.
The combination of stunning beaches, friendly locals, a widespread paddock-to-plate food philosophy and a decidedly luxe bohemian culture in an area blessed with near-perfect weather makes this coastal town an amazing summer experience for everyone.
While compiling this guide to Byron Bay for Summer 14/15, we kept encountering the word “balance”. You’ll see this in almost every aspect of Byron life, as the town welcomes its visitors while fiercely opposing any threats to the pristine ocean and environment that draws us all there.
With Vodka O, we've put together a dream weekend to help you get summer started early. You could win a weekend for you and a friend based around the pick of our new discoveries and old favourites in the east coast's most-loved coastal town.
In the words of local shop assistant Gail de-Wardt, “The different layers of people in Byron Bay means people can express themselves as they want to be.” Enter the competition for your chance to visit Byron, make it your own and find balance in its beaches, laid-back vibes and a food culture that puts it on the map.
EAT [BY DAY]
Follow the well-worn trail of salt-licked guys and girls heading from Clarkes Beach to the Top Shop. This long-time favourite keeps everyone happy with great coffee, acai bowls and killer burgers with plenty of veggo options. Claim some territory on the lawn out the front for the locals’ tips on surf conditions and the best gig in town that night.
65 Carlyle Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 6495
Naked Treaties Rawganics
You want it? Naked Treaties has got it: Raw, vegan, ethical. Gluten, dairy and cane-sugar free, this raw bar is the next level of #healthyliving. At last count there were six variations of bliss ball and if you don’t know what you want, the liquid-feast menu will ask you how you feel to gauge what kind of smoothie will best serve you. Try the coconut-heavy I’m Awesome to start your day on a natural high, and chill out with the ubiquitous guitar playing, mother-earth crowd while you plan your next move.
2/3 Marvell Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 7856
Byron Beach Café
What looks like a beach shack is actually the ideal place for lunch with the best view in town. Enjoy a crisp glass (or two) of pinot gris and a plate of seared scallops, wakame seaweed, smashed avocado, lime, coriander or fried wonton and take in the amazing blue of the bay. Great for a coffee after an early-morning swim as well.
Clarkes Beach, Lawson Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 8400
Mon to Wed 7.30am–4pm
Thu to Sat 7.30am–7.30pm
There is nothing worse than the feeling of FOMO when you can’t get a table at Harvest. Never fear, Sourdough Saturdays (and Sundays) are here. Make sure you’re up bright and early for when these artisan bakers open the doors to this beautiful, 101-year-old, wood-fired bakery and lay out the day’s offerings of organic sourdough breads and French pastries. Grab a coffee and enjoy your pain au chocolat in Harvest’s kitchen garden ... and if you can't get a table for breakfast, remember that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, it's well worth heading back. The venue transitions seamlessly into an amazing restaurant with a well-stocked bar which perfectly compliments their local, sustainable dining.
18–22 Old Pacific Highway, Newrybar Village
(02) 6687 2644
Open daily 8am
Thu, Fri and Sat dinner
(Harvest Deli Daily 9am–5pm)
EAT [BY NIGHT]
Treehouse on Belongil
After a full day of sun, salt and sand on Belongil beach, the Treehouse beckons the brave with its Hot Chilli Margarita; a great twist on the classic with chilli-infused tequila, Cointreau, lemon and lime and agave syrup and whole red chillies. Grab a table outside, order a Salty Sea Dog (a hand-spun, wood-oven pizza with mozzarella, anchovies, kalamata olives, capers and oregano) and enjoy live music under the stars.
25 Childe Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6680 9452
The Roadhouse Byron Bay
If Robert Redford, Matthew McConaughey and Russell Brand were to be found at one venue in Byron, this would be it. A short trip out of town; the Roadhouse combines 500 types of whiskey with a locally sourced wholefood menu featuring homemade kombucha, tonics and elixirs. This rocking spot will nourish you after a big night and get you in the mood for the next. We recommend making a booking for dinner because this place goes off in summer.
6/142 Bangalow Road, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 5601
Mon & Tue 6.30am–2.30pm
Wed to Sun 6.30am–10pm
Miss Margarita, Mexican Cantina
Venture 10 paces up the beach and slot in behind sandy surfers for a street-side table at what is undoubtedly one of the hottest eateries in town right now. With eight versions of the classic Margarita, including a Patron Aneja for the ultimate connoisseur, Miss Margarita does not muck around. On the food side, if you don’t have salsa and guac running down your elbows following a taco/tortilla or nachos, you’ve done it wrong. We dare you to find better fish tacos, anywhere.
2 Jonson Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 6828
Mon to Fri 12pm–3pm and 5pm–close
Sat & Sun 11.30am–close
Happy hour daily
Venetian tapas and a menu that’s designed for sharing, Cicchetti is one for the grown-ups. Relatively new, this sophisticated take on Italian has many locals calling it the best food in town. Be sure to book because this place will be packed, and not just for the food. There’s an impressive wine list handled skillfully by dark-eyed and bronzed waiters with accents that make the degustazione incredibly tempting. Try the house-made saffron tagliolini pasta with spanner crab and settle in for the night.
19–20, 108 Jonson Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 6677
Mon to Thur 5.30pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–3pm and 5.30pm–late
After feeding your soul on locally sourced and sustainable goodness, don’t undo it with an artificially flavoured cocktail. Enjoy a carefully crafted tipple from Vodka O instead. Their range of refreshing flavours are 100% natural and available from your local bar or bottle shop.
The Atlantic is three original beach cottages that have been transformed into boutique Caribbean-styled guesthouses influenced by Byron surf culture. Featuring hotel-size rooms with balconies, private bathrooms and a communal kitchen and garden. See if you can book the American Airstream Trailer.
13 Marvell Street, Byron Bay
(02) 6685 5118
Cedia House, Bangalow
Away from the crowds up a tiny road behind Newrybar, Cedia House is a holiday in itself. If you’ve got a large group, or you’re doing the family holiday thing, this is where you want to be. There’s a sparkling pool with views across vineyards, farms and out to the Byron Hinterland and 90 acres of garden. Cedia House is a 10-minute drive to Byron but you probably won’t want to leave this secret oasis once you’ve found the outdoor fireplace.
Lawlers Road, Bangalow
(02) 6685 6011 or 0477 438 118
Nestled in a quiet street just down from Top Shop Café and 10 minutes from the beach, Arcadia House is one of Byron’s original timber Queenslanders. With six big, airy rooms and heavenly four poster beds, you can book individual rooms with names like Seafarers and Beachcomber or the whole house to use as your base next time you’re in Byron. Insider tip; ask the Manager if you can rent the Land Cruiser Troupie Wagon to cruise about town in.
02 6680 8699
48 Cowper Street Byron Bay
Byron Bay Holiday Rentals
If you’re lucky enough to have a week or two in Byron, ask long-time locals Garth and Sonya Brien at Byron Bay Holiday Rentals to find the perfect place for you. For the ultimate Byron experience, ask for Moonstruck; a four bedroom beachfront house build over the sand at Belongil. From the big timber deck you can watch the dolphins frolicking with the surfers, and from your bedroom be rocked to sleep by the sound of waves for the best sleep of your life.
02 6684 7728
Byron Bay Cottages – Thomson Cottage, Imeson Cottage and Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottage
These are Byron’s best kept secrets. Four restored 1920s beach cottages in prime position on Clarke’s beach and heritage listed Assistant Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottages under the famous Lighthouse. Eco-certified and award winning, these properties are managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Our pick is Imeson Cottage, the perfect holiday shack five meters from the sand on Clarke’s beach. They’re in extremely high demand so book now for next year’s holiday.
National Parks Byron Bay Cottages, Tallow Beach Road, Byron Bay
02 6620 9300 or 1300 PARKS (1300 072 757) Book Online
Watch the sunrise at Cape Byron Lighthouse
At least once in your lifetime (if not every day), get yourself up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse for the sunrise. Australia’s most easterly point puts on a spectacular show with 360-degree views of the Coral Sea. Grab a coffee at the cafe under the lighthouse or just breathe in the magic. If early starts are not your thing, begin the walk up from Clarke’s beach – you’ll have definitely earned your breakfast by the time you get to the top.
Lighthouse Road, Byron Bay.
Stand-up Paddle Boarding
There’s stand-up paddle boarding, and then there’s doing it in Byron Bay. Hire a board early in the morning, get in where the surfers are at the Pass, and slowly make your way around the bay to the main beach, waving to the dolphins and swimmers and admiring the view from the ocean to the hinterland.
Black Dog Surfing
Shop 4/5 11 Byron St, Byron Bay
(02) 6680 9828
From $35 for a half day.
Down a side lane in Mullumbimby there is an ornate wooden door with sign saying Kiva spa. Open it and step into a rainforest garden where for the next couple of hours the outside world does not exist. This is the ultimate escape. With hot spas, sauna and plunge pool it’s worth giving yourself a couple of hours here to have your treatment and enjoy the hydrotherapy options. If it’s a remedial massage you’re after, ask for Max and let this sinewy barefoot surfer dude work his magic.
Once you’ve worked up a hunger from your Kiva experience, try Milk and Honey around the corner for some serious world class artisanal pizzas.
1 McGougans Lane, Mullumbimby
02 6684 4811
Open 7 days Mon – Sat 10am – 7pm, Sun 10am – 5pm
Ahoy Trader is part exhibition space, part curated homewares collection and basically contains all the cool stuff you want in your house. The stand-out pieces are the handmade ceramics by owner and local artist Jai Vasicek. Vasicek spent most of his childhood sailing around the world to places such as Brazil and Mongolia. With tropical themes, island women, whales and Mexican crosses, be sure to take one of these little pieces of Byron Bay home as a reminder of adventures and faraway places. Look out for Vasicek’s new range of furniture and larger tile murals and artworks in his new studio at the Arts and Industrial Park opening in November.
Shop 1/3 Marvell Street, Byron Bay
Ask any of the owners of the best cafes and restaurants in Byron where they get their produce, and they’ll point you in the direction of the farmers’ markets in Byron, Bangalow and Mullumbimby. The Byron Farmers’ Market, held every Thursday at Butler Street Reserve, is a showcase of the quality and variety of produce grown locally, lovingly and as sustainably as possible.
Byron Bay Markets, Butler Street Reserve
First Sunday of the month
Bangalow Markets, Bangalow Showground
Fourth Sunday of the month
Mullumbimby Farmers’ Market, Mullumbimby Showgrounds, Main Arm Road
Every Friday 7am–11am
Spell and the Gypsy
Sisters Elizabeth and Isabella have created a cult following for their take on Byron Hippie/Gypsy style in Australia and overseas. Forget the tie-dyed hemp and fringed bags usually relegated to the back of your closet as soon as you get back from holiday, hippie chic at Spell and the Gypsy’s flagship store will have you dressed head to toe-ring in leather, turquoise and leopard print. The look is Erin Wasson rather than Janis Joplin.
1/1 Marvell St, Byron Bay
02 6695 6116
Open 7 days a week, 10am – 5pm