If you’re anything like us, you’re due for a weekend away. You’ve suffered through rain, crowded trains and sad desk lunches for long enough and you officially deserve a break. But there’s nothing worse than getting out of the concrete jungle and heading somewhere overly touristy. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Northern Rivers Escapes to hunt down every under-the-radar town you need to visit before they get too busy.
Just a hop, skip and jump (AKA 15 minute drive) away from Byron, this chill country town sure does know how to charm.
The food options alone are enough reason to spend an entire weekend in Bangalow. Woods dishes up the best breakfast in town (and a mean spicy turmeric latte!), while the award-winning Town Restaurant & Cafe was made for an extra long, long lunch. When all you want in life is a burger, Bang Burger Bar is the place to be.
With so much delicious food on offer, it’s easy to forget about Bangalow’s killer shopping scene. From Bisque Traders and Hendrix & Harlow’s coveted interior collections to the lust-worthy linens at Rowie the Label, Enzo & Toto and Our Corner Store, your credit card is guaranteed to get a serious workout. If you’re lucky enough to be there on the fourth Sunday of the month, Bangalow Market is a must!
Bangalow is the kind of place you never want to leave, so make yourself at home at Summerhill Retreat. If you want something more rural (we’re talking an entire property), book yourself into The Bails, which is hidden away in the Byron Bay Hinterland.
Home to The Big Prawn, there’s a whole lot more to this river and beachside town than selfies with a mollusc.
Believe it or not, you can get food other than prawns in Ballina (although they are particularly delicious here and you should order them for breakfast, lunch and tea). The Belle General is made for those who are #cleaneating. Cooking up quinoa French toast, green superfood breakfast bowls and melt-in-your-mouth sticky salmon tacos, we strongly suggest you come alone so you don’t have to share a thing. If views are mandatory, treat yo’self to a mid-day bottle of vino and a seafood platter to blow your socks off at Danny's Bonefish Bar and Grill or nab front row seats at The Point or Wharf Bar & Restaurant.
If you don’t know how to surf, Ballina is a great place to start. With wide, sweeping beaches and minimal people for you to run into, the legends at Kool Katz guarantee you’ll be riding waves within four hours. When it starts to get too choppy, round up your new surfer mates and take a shot at Disc Golf (kinda like frisbee golf) or FootGolf (read: soccer golf). When you want to chill, paddle with dolphins (hit up Ballina Kayaks) or check out the whales on one of Out Of The Blue Adventures' cruises (yes, really).
Anyone who appreciates a good robe will appreciate Ramada Hotel & Suites, who offer a special pamper package including (you guessed it) a plush robe. Complete with all your fave features of #hotellife (read: a pool, obvs), you have everything you could ever need. If you want to do things your own way, pre-book Riverside Holiday Apartments or cute to boot Riversleigh Guesthouse.
The often forgotten Lennox Head is exactly what a sleepy beach town should be.
When it comes to food, Lennox Head keeps things low-key (in all the right ways). Shelter is the current hot-spot, serving up an impressive selection of eats like cuttlefish with XO and squid ink, maltagliati with mushroom and chestnuts and fresh to death line caught fish with black rice and sea greens. When you're despy for a coffee, seat yourself at the Lighthouse Beach Cafe for alllll the best sea salt feels.
Grab the keys—it’s time to go 4WD on Seven Mile Beach. All you need is a $19 permit to go fishing, swimming and exploring on this deserted beach. Make a day of it and pack your esky or order a gourmet picnic from the local Touro Beauro. Don’t forget to go for a dip in the nearby tea tree-infused waters of the Lake Ainsworth, and if you’re a bit of daredevil, take up kite surfing or go hang gliding off Lennox headland.
Weekends were made for retreating so retreat yourself at Lennox Head. From the extravagant Lennox Head Dreamer’s Retreat to the picturesque Montanna Retreat, you’re guaranteed relaxation. Go on, you deserve it.
Country towns don't get much better than this.
One word: Harvest. If you haven't heard of Harvest Newrybar, you don't know good food. Known for consistently delivering the goods in the form of slow cooked lamb with a whole array of anything but boring veggies, kangaroo loin with sweet potato, radicchio and carrot leaf green sauce PLUS the best damn grilled pork neck in the whole of Australia (big call, we know), you can't go wrong by dining here for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When you're not busy eating your body weight in one of everything at Harvest (seriously, it's that good), you should definitely spend your time cooking up a storm at Bhavana Organic Farm Cooking School. Ideal for the health-conscious, alll cooking courses revolve around what you can gather from their organic gardens and orchards, meaning what you make is tasty AF. If you're sick of food (weirdo), hunt down secret beaches (hint: White's Beach at Broken Head) or hit the road and explore country life.
If a private pool, bowling greens, house chef and massage therapists sound like your dream holiday, you'll love everything about Newrybar Downs. Set across 10 acres of lush greenery, this OTT mansion is complete with 5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, 2 dining rooms and a whole lot more. Pauls Farmhouse is also up there with the best.
You didn’t think we were serious, did you? *Never* forget about Byron.
Every time we go back to Byron Bay, there are about a million new foodie spots we’re dying to check out. The Farm by the boys from Three Blue Ducks is always a crowd favourite when it comes to brunch, but coffee addicts should head straight to the oh-so trendy (and delicious) Folk or Bayleaf. If you want cocktails, don’t look past the Insta-worthy Mez Club, and if you’re feelin’ fancy, dive head first into Rae’s on Wategos—their degustation menu is diviiine.
There’s a whole lot more to Byron than pristine beaches and all round relaxed, boho beach vibes. As soon as you’ve ticked the Cape Byron lighthouse off your list (it’s a must every single time), head to the hinterland and check out Minyon Falls. With plenty of walking tracks, an epic lookout and a waterfall you can actually swim in, it’s the perfect place to take a picnic and unwind. If you’d rather play near the beach, go horse riding with Zephyr, then reward yourself with a cocktail or gin and tonic made from local Bookies gin at Cape Byron Distillery.
The accommodation in Byron is some of Australia’s best. Take your pick from the luxe Victoria's at Wategos; countryside Byron Boutique Barn; renowned The Byron at Byron; or super hip, The Lord Byron (situated smack bang in the middle of town).
Win An OTT Winter Getaway In Byron
3 nights at the Byron At Byron Resort & Spa (including breakfast) for 2
Return economy flights from Melbourne or Sydney to Ballina Byron Gateway Airport for 2
3-day car hire from Hertz at Ballin Byron Gateway Airport
1 x Cape Byron Distillery tour and tasting for 2
1 x $150 voucher to Shelter At Lennox for 2
1 x Forest to Beach Horse Ride with Zephyr Horses for 2
1 x Hot Air Balloon Ride with Byron Bay Ballooning for 2
1 x Whale watching tour with Out of the Blue Adventures for 2
The best part?
There's a second prize for the runner-up - think 3 nights at Ramada Ballina for two, a delicious seafood platter at Bonefish in Ballina, Lovin Lennox Helicopter Flight by Air T&G, deluxe kayak tour with Ballina Kayak PLUS Hinterland Adventure and Byron and Beyond Tour with Byron Bay Adventure Tours for 2!
All you have to do is tell us in 25 words or less, what's at the top of your Byron Bay, Ballina and beyond bucket list to enter the draw. Yes, it really is that simple. Enter below NOW.
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Image credit: Destination NSW + Northern River Escapes | Design credit: Sarah Law