I might have been the only Aussie who had never been to Byron Bay before. That was until recently of course. On our recent trip to Australia, at the recommendation of friends, we decided to head down to Byron Bay for a few days after we spent a week on the Gold Coast with my family.
Our friends had compared Byron to Noosa where I had previously taken Si, and he absolutely loved the sophisticated seaside resort town, so it was going to be tough to beat. With the promise of a gorgeous beachside town with high-end boutiques and restaurants that felt just like Noosa, we eagerly awaited our stay. So, did it live up to our expectations?
Byron Bay is located in Northern NSW and can be reached by car from Brisbane in about 2 hours. It is a charming, rustic seaside town with pristine beaches with soft white sand, and magnificent surf conditions. There is an abundance of nature, wildlife and natural beauty.
The locals are boho, down to earth, soul of the earth types. Tourists flock in their droves to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, and enjoy dining in upmarket restaurants that serve fresh and locally sourced produce, and indulging in some serious shopping in one of the many artesian style delis and cafes or designer boutiques located along the high street.
Seeing as our friends compared Byron to Noosa, I’ll clarify that we didn’t think it was at all like Noosa. Your flip flops, aka thongs, will be welcomed everywhere, including the most high-end restaurants, unlike it’s Sunshine Coast rival. It’s really quite refreshing.
We stayed a short drive out of Byron Bay (10 minutes), at Elements of Byron. The lavish resort, owned and operated by Sofitel has a luxurious boutique feeling, with 94 eco-friendly villas located on the property, all strategically spaced to offer maximum privacy.
We were warmly welcomed by staff and show to our overwater eco-villa (forest and dune locations are also available). We were struck by the generous size of the lavish cabins. Our one bedroom was set over two floors with designer furnishings and artwork, including a sunken lounge room with state-of-the-art AV, and an all-important Nespresso, polished hardwood floors throughout, a romantic freestanding bathtub, and a large walk-in shower.
With loads on offer to keep the whole family entertained, including conveniently located public beaches at the property’s boundaries, 20 acres of lush greenery to explore with a bocce court and giant chess board, tennis courts, yoga classes, an extensive library, a gym, complimentary WIFI throughout, 40-metre infinity lagoon pool, an adults-only pool with swim up bar, a decadent spa, and child-minding services; this resort really is inclusive for all and makes a great luxury family-friendly option.
Award-winning chef’s offer delicious seasonally inspired food and cocktails at the resort’s restaurant, Graze. I will, however, admit that Si and I decided not to sample the gastronomy on offer. Given our limited time in Byron, we wanted to try as many local restaurants as possible.
Pros: We could not fault the friendly service that we received, it was world class. Top points for the overall look and feel of the resort too. If you’re after eco-luxury, this is the perfect getaway.
Cons: We felt it was a touch too far out of town. They have done everything possible to make Byron Bay accessible with a solar train running in each direction hourly. Alternatively, you’ll need to grab an Uber or self-drive (remember Australia is hot on drink driving, so don’t be tempted!).
Also, worth mentioning, I felt the buffet breakfast was really overpriced from $27 AUD, given that I personally don’t eat half of what is included in a buffet breakfast. We were advised that a-la-carte was not an option for breakfast. I’d suggest trying one of the many local cafes offering delicious breakfasts for a fraction of the price.
Rooms from $410 AUD (in low season).
What to do
Byron Bay has so much on offer, you need ever be bored. An absolute must is a hike to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Australia’s most powerful lighthouse, with a light intensity of 2,200,000 cd, is located on the most easterly point of the country. From the peak, you will be amazed by incredible ocean views and of the hinterland beyond. Often turtles, whales and dolphins can be seen. We were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins passing by. There are also a number of walking trails you can take along the coastline to enjoy secluded bays dotted along the way.
Make sure you pay a visit to The Farm, a 10-minute drive out of town, where you’ll find a collection of micro-businesses working together to offer fresh, sustainable produce. It offers city dwellers an opportunity to observe the working elements of a real-life farm. You can see crops being tended and healthy and happy animals enjoying life. There is a fantastic restaurant, bakery, artisan groceries, and a florist located onsite. Si and I skipped breakfast at Elements of Byron for The Farm, and after a short wait, we weren’t disappointed. It is the ultimate Aussie breakfast! Not one to be missed.
Another gem to check out is the Go Sea Kayak, who off an incredible once in a lifetime experience to kayak on the open waters of the South Pacific Ocean among dolphins, whales and turtles. They are also the only company operating in the bay that offers return visits free of charge if you are unsuccessful in seeing any wildlife on your trip (although this is rarely the case). Unfortunately for us, we did not get to see any sea creatures – they must have exhausted themselves frolicking past us at the lighthouse earlier in the day. Although, we still thoroughly enjoyed the open water adventure all the same.
Where to dine
The Farm for breakfast, a must!
Beach Byron Bay is a great option for a chic lunch. Located at the far end of Byron Beach, it offers secluded views out over the sea. A contemporary Australian menu is served in a stylish, yet relaxed setting. The service is flawless. Make sure you call ahead and request a table located by the windows with absolute beachfront views.
I’d recommend Raes Dining Room at the exclusive boutique hotel, Raes on Wategos for a sophisticated evening meal. It is located along a beautiful stretch of secluded beach, home to the rich and famous. An original modern Australian menu with Mediterranean influences is served in the intimate al fresco dining room. Enjoy relaxed bohemian vibes, whilst enjoying delicious food with scenic views.
Byron Bay is a charming spot well worth checking out. You don’t need to cave much time out of your itinerary to experience it, and a few days will suffice. Prepare to be seduced by the irresistible rustic charms of this Australian beachside town, where you can truly unwind and take in some of the most scenic landscapes that the country has to offer.
Until next time, safe travels.
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