Over time the unofficial capital of North-eastern New South Wales has transitioned from a playground for long-haired hippies, surfers, and nomadic folk to a new generation of placemakers reframing Byron in a globally informed, design-savvy direction.
We’ve rounded up the must-stops for spending a food-focused and nature-heavy 24 hours in Byron Bay.
9am - Breakfast at Folk
Maggie Dylan and Julian Kelly came to Byron Bay from Sydney seeking a slower-paced lifestyle, but soon discovered it’s tricky to settle in Byron when you don’t have an anchor. But in 2014 the young couple found their moor in a dilapidated building tacked on to a caravan park, which they’ve transformed into Folk - a pillar of the region’s gastronomic identity.
The pair renovated the space themselves, shaping a strong aesthetic that’s all white paint, plants and recycled wood. Tree stumps serve as stools, old railway sleepers frame veggie patches, and the lawn is shaded by palms and gum trees.
Folk champions organic, ethical and local food concepts. The menu is plant-based, but without waving it your face. You’ll be so distracted by choosing which breakfast bowl (like the organic quinoa, grapefruit, garden greens, coconut scrambled egg, housemade kraut with biodynamic sprouted grain toast topped with avocado) to pair with which latte (maybe the ‘love potion’ of beetroot, lucuma and maca) you’ll barely notice there’s no meat listed. Coffee is by Dukes Coffee Roasters, and can be paired with cow, almond and cashew, coconut or Bonsoy milks (at no extra charge).
Pick a sunny spot outside to catch those first morning rays or nab an Instagram-worthy table on the front porch near the wall of log ends.
11am - Drive to Bangalow Markets
It’s a 20-minute drive from Byron Bay to Bangalow, but the journey itself is an attraction — one minute you’re cloaked in dense forest, the next gazing over rolling green hills and farmland to the ocean’s edge.
Once in Bangalow, you’ll want to make your way straight to the Bangalow Markets, which is held on the fourth Sunday of every month, running from 9am to 3pm. The first market in 1982 was made up of just 40 stallholders. Today, the monthly event is 300 stalls strong, bringing together a panoply of farmers, bakers, artists, makers and producers.
Only fruit and vegetables grown in the Byron, Ballina, Tweed and Lismore shires are sold at the market, so it’s a great chance to both meet local farmers and source fresh-from-the-garden produce. There’s also preserves to bag for home, along with plentiful food and coffee to enjoy while roaming the grounds.
Start your market wanderings with a hot number from Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts, and pause for a quick kip under the towering fig trees if you’re due for a mid-morning snooze. Parking is available on the showgrounds for $2.
1pm - Lunch at Bayleaf Cafe
Drive back to Byron for lunch at Bayleaf café. Once owned by Nico Kyrpeos of Marvell Street Roasters (whose coffee still fills the hopper), Nikki Muling and Dan Readman took over this local favourite in 2013 and expanded the corner plot.
The kitchen inhabits the original space, while the coffee machine gained its own dedicated bar next door. This means more room to offer filter coffee options (batch brew, v60, aeropress, chemex, iced filter), as well as turmeric lattes, kombucha and iced teas. Here’s where you can try Byron’s seemingly favourite beverage, the cold coconut brew —Bayleaf’s version is infused overnight with shredded coconut, and served over ice with sweet blended coconut cream.
The all-day menu means you can have housemade granola for lunch (honey and peanut-roasted oats with wheatgerm, linseed, coconut, currants, goji berries, rhubarb compote, fresh seasonal fruit, nuts, seeds and yoghurt), or go savoury with the breakfast greens of raw broccoli, shredded kale, avocado, chilli, buckwheat, sunflower seeds, herbs, pistachios, and eggs.
3pm - Swim at Little Wategos Beach
Even in winter, the crowds on Byron’s main beach can be stifling. But a quick drive (or leisurely stroll) in the direction of the lighthouse will lead you to the quieter Wategos Beach. There’s a boardwalk that winds up the hill for the majority of the journey with glimpses of the ocean peeking through the native bush border.
Jump in the ocean here, then if you’re eager for an even quieter strip of sand, climb the wooden stairwell over the headland to Little Wategos Beach.
This secluded spot is just 150 metres long and only accessible by foot—via the Cape Byron Walking Track or over the rocks from Wategos at low-tide. In calm weather this well-protected beach is great for swimming. Just make sure to check the times for high-tide as the sand can disappear entirely.
From Little Wategos it’s a few more metres to the Cape Byron lookout, or you can push on to the very literal-named ‘Most Easterly Point Of The Australian Mainland’. If you’ve made it this far and haven’t quite worked up a thirst for an icy cold beer, you can also continue to hike to the Cape Byron Lighthouse.
5pm - Beers at Byron Bay Brewery
Now you’re coated in an appropriate level of salt and sand, head to Byron Bay Brewery for a refreshing reward. Tucked up the back streets near the Arts Factory Lodge hostel, Byron Bay Brewery has been pouring ales since 2008. In early 2015 the tiny operation was bought by Lion (who own Little Creatures, James Squire, White Rabbit), and the brewery has been scaling up production ever since.
Head brewer Alistair Gillespie looks over five core beers ranging from a roughly filtered, cloudy pale lager dubbed The Hazy One to their signature, earthy IPL. For the non-beer drinker, there’s Pipsqueak Cider on tap and Australian wines by the glass and bottle.
The building itself has an intriguing history, starting life as an 1898-built piggery, before becoming a live music venue in the 1980s that hosted the first three Bluesfests. But the real glory is the rear beer garden, where you can lap up some afternoon rays, or recline on a beanbag in the shade. There are board games (including Giant Connect 4) and the venue often hosts open mic comedy nights.
6pm - Twilight walk to the Lighthouse
The Cape Byron Lighthouse was built in 1901 and operated by a resident keeper until 1989, when an automated system replaced the need for human handiwork
From the middle of town, the leisurely three-kilometre walk to the lookout will take you roughly 45 minutes. If you’re short on time, you can also drive to Cape Byron Lighthouse and park for a small fee.
As the sun dips down beyond the trees to the west in a blaze of orange, it casts hues of pink and purple back to the east. To the south, you’re looking over Arakwal National Park and the waves rolling in on to Tallows Beach, to the west, you’re gazing over Palm Valley back towards Wategos Beach and out to the bay. Take a seat on the wooden railing and savour the final rays of sunshine for the day.
8pm - Dinner at Beach
This beachfront restaurant had already clocked 30-odd years when it was taken over by Byron restaurateurs Belinda and Ben Kirkwood (ex-Dish) in late 2007 and rebuilt. Then in 2014, the Fink Group (OTTO, Quay, Bennelong) came on board to bring Beach into its finest iteration yet.
When it reopened in mid-2016, the new Beach had shed its original dark cloak for a crisp white exterior, gained a takeaway kiosk out front and added a wood grill to the kitchen. Head chef David Lovett (ex-Uccello) now guides the kitchen, letting his Italian savoir-faire be shaped by produce from local farmers markets. The result is a Mediterranean menu through the lens of the region’s terroir.
Just a handful of ingredients form each plate, like the raw Spanish mackerel with finger lime and roe, or the burrata with heirloom tomatoes, nectarine and basil. There’s a daily dish of handmade pasta, and dry-aged meats sourced from nearby farmers regularly appear on the menu.
10pm - Native cocktails at The Roadhouse
Skirt the big beer barns and head for the south end of town and find The Roadhouse. What at first appears to be a dimly lit whisky bar, staffed by stern scruffy types slinging tall beers and neat spirits, is actually an all-day venue and favourite for locals looking for a good meal, mindful swilling and mates.
Of a morning, The Roady (as it’s affectionately known by locals) plates up Byron-centric eats like chia puddings and fermented kimchi pancakes paired with Allpress coffee. Come evening their guiding principles of ‘fresh, local, organic’ translate into bar snacks and mains ranging from dry-smoked jalapeño popcorn with lime and cultured butter to slow-roasted duck ragu.
To drink, there’s a handful of beers and wine by the glass or the bottle. But the really interesting liquids come shaken not poured. Classic cocktails take on native leanings and often made with small-batch Australian spirits. The Old Fashioned melds Melbourne-based Starward whisky with local jelly bush honey and native botanical bitters, while the Margarita comprises Arette Joven tequila, finger lime jam, fresh lime juice and agave nectar with a saltbush-dusted rim. You can also top organic gin, quinoa vodka or mezcal with locally made kombucha.
12am - Midnight beach stroll
Weave your way back to the main beach for a midnight stroll, before moseying back to your accommodation for the evening.
1am – Sleep at The Atlantic
It’s only a short walk from the beach to The Atlantic on Marvell Street, which comprises four restored lodges with simple rooms (though some have a leafy outdoor shower). Each lodge has its own communal kitchen space, stocked with complimentary Capi mineral water, locally roasted coffee and all the equipment necessary to prepare a home-cooked meal. There’s a lap pool and plenty of lawn, perfect for a self-directed morning yoga session or opportunity for an extended snooze.