Much like the rest of Australia, we’re itching to get out and explore our own backyard. And while international travel might be off the cards for a while, Australia's natural splendour is among the world's best with far north New South Wales undoubtedly a stunning gem among our nation's trove of treasures.
So, whether you're looking for a short sojourn or an extended vacation in place of that overseas trip, we've teamed up with Ballina Byron Gateway Airport to fill you in on all of the dreamy coastal locations awaiting you, from Byron Bay and beyond.
Plus, with direct flights from Sydney making this tropical paradise only a short trip away, you’d be crazy not to forge an early summer break with their relaxed coastal atmosphere, 22-degree temps, beautiful nature experiences, amazing local produce, restaurants, villages to explore and accommodation to suit all styles and budgets.
Enjoy A Bit Of Everything In Byron
If you’ve never experienced the bliss that is Byron Bay, we suggest you place this firmly at the top of your coastal hit list. When it comes to tucking into a decent feed and a drink, hit up The Farm Byron Bay for delicious paddock to plate-style eating, The Mez Club for Mediterranean-style cantina and cocktails, The Beach Hotel for the ultimate Sunday sesh and The Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. for a Hamptons-inspired dining experience with a menu full of delicious feeds. If you're keen to devour Byron’s best breakkie, make a beeline for The Byron General Store filled with organic and healthy treats, Combi for an elite acai bowl and Treehouse on Belongil for a tranquil dining experience.
Looking to dabble in a little retail therapy? Byron is brimming with plenty of boutiques to choose from. Lovers of boho-style clothing can head to Miley Cyrus’ favourite, Spell & The Gypsy Collective, and those looking for iconic Byron homewares, Hope & May will have you sorted. Make sure to also pay a visit to Habitat for all kinds of treasures from clothing to homewares and designer wares.
If you’re keen to explore further, the Stone & Wood Brewery is a must-visit for any beer enthusiast while health nuts should pop into the Dirty Bucha for an endless supply of freshly brewed ‘buch. If you’re still keen to sample a few more local brews, Cape Byron Distillery is for you, with gin, whisky and liqueur on offer. For those wanting to err on the fitspo side of life, make sure to conquer the lighthouse walk or enjoy a swim and a picnic at the stunning Watego’s beach. When it comes to resting your head at the end of a long day, there are plenty of options to suit every budget and every traveller, with hostels, Airbnbs and resorts aplenty. But if we had to pick favourites, we can’t go past the lush Byron at Byron, the perfectly positioned and Instagram-worthy Atlantic and of course, the extremely boujee Elements at Byron.
Image credit: Valeriia Miller
Explore Lennox Head
Bryon is a popular spot, so if you’d prefer a few fewer people but just as much of Mother Nature’s beauty, then Lennox Head is the sleepy beach town for you, located just 25 minutes from Byron Bay. Pick your dip with stunning Boulder Beach, Seven Mile Beach and Skennars Beach all within close range and boasting crystal clear waters and plenty of soft sand to lounge on. There is an abundance of pristine bodies of water around Lennox, but our pick would be Lake Ainsworth, otherwise known as ‘Coca-Cola Lake’ by the locals where you can swim, kayak, canoe, paddleboard or settle in for a barbeque.
With all that swimming and exploring, you'll be undoubtedly famished, but the good news is, there’s plenty of cute nooks to dine in. Shelter is one of our favourites, serving up delicious seafood in a homely setting, while Quattro has us drooling over their unbeatable Italian cuisine, in a killer beachside set up. Williams Street is your go-to for all things breakfast, serving up an unbeatable all-day breakfast menu with special mention going to Lennox Gelato Coffee Co who scoop up some of the finest handmade Italian Artisan gelato. Is there any better combo in life than a swim at the beach followed by gelato? When it comes to the best accommodation, you can’t beat the tranquil Montanna Retreat, Lennox Head Dreamer’s Retreat and the Lennox Beach Resort complete with heated lap pool, lagoon pool, jacuzzi, steam room, tennis court and onsite restaurant.
Image credit: Shelter
Set Up Base In Ballina
While Ballina might be home to The Big Prawn, we can assure you there’s plenty more to see and do in this river and beachside town, along with loads more to eat. Among our favourites is The Belle General which serves up fresh, clean and wholesome meals for breakfast and lunch, The Point for the perfect waterfront meal and Wharf Bar and restaurant for a feed of epic proportions (you can’t go wrong with the shared seafood platter). After you’ve digested, make sure to journey to Lighthouse Beach or Shelly Beach for a dip of epic proportions, with sandy open stretches, giant surf breaks and quiet coves.
Around these areas, surfing and water sports is kind of a given, so if you’re keen to continue playing out on the water, you can learn to surf with Kool Katz—they guarantee you’ll be riding waves by the time your session is out (we’ll take their word for it). But if balancing out in the surf isn’t your thing you can try your luck at Kayaking or hit up an ocean and river cruise to check out whales, dolphins and other majestic marine life. If you’re planning on spending a night (or few), be sure to book in at Ramada Hotel & Suites for the ultimate fluffy robe experience, Riverside Holiday Apartments for a spacious pad or Riversleigh Guesthouse for a charming Victorian-style bed and breakfast stay.
Image credit: Visit NSW (Lighthouse Beach)
Relax In Scenic Bangalow
A 20-minute drive inland from Byron Bay lies beautiful Bangalow. This charming country town offers a slower pace, plenty of lush greenery, an epic array of food and great shopping. When it comes to prioritising your stomach space, we recommend leaving plenty of room for Butcher Baker, with cabinets packed to the brim with fresh bread, delicious pastries and decadent sweets, the hardest part will be deciding what to order. For something more substantial, The Italian Diner serves up the ultimate carb-loaded feast, with the Spanner Crab Lasagne a must-try. For the brunch of your dreams, make sure to head to Woods on Station Street. It’s the sister venue to Byron’s Folk, so you know it’s going to be good.
Shopping in Bangalow is nothing short of a treat, with boutiques like Island Luxe and Wax Jambu boasting a unique array of stunning homewares, clothing and other hidden treasures, while local designer Jessica Johansen Bell crafts elegant pieces made from quality fabrics, all available from her Johansen boutique on Byron Street. Accommodation-wise, you’ll be pleased to know Bangalow is full of great options with the stunning Mahalo House, a stunning Queenslander perfect for large groups with five bedrooms and Bangalow Guesthouse perfect for couples in search of a little luxury.
Image credit: Mahalo House
Kick Back In Newryrbar
When it comes to country towns, it doesn’t get much better than Newrybar, just 15 minutes from Byron Bay. Being huge foodies, Harvest is without a doubt, our most favourite thing about this place. Spanning across a restaurant, historic bakery and delicatessen, Harvest is all about sustainable practices, sourcing their food locally and seasonally. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, brunch, a snack or a grocery shop, it’s easy to see why Harvest has become an icon in the area. Once you’re done filling up, head across the road to Newrybar Merchants, an adorable converted homestead that houses a curated collection of brands from Byron and beyond. Think of it like a hybrid between a shopping precinct and weekend market, filled with endless homewares, lifestyle products and everyday essentials. We’re already sold.
Once you’re done eating and shopping, be sure to schedule in some time at Bhavana Organic Farm Cooking School to put your skills to the test while learning a thing or two along the way. With classes revolving around what can be picked and foraged from their organic gardens and orchards, you’ll garner a true appreciation for the ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy. If you’re eager to keep the cute country vibes rolling into your accommodation, the Newrybar Downs mansion is the perfect place for large groups, set across 10 acres of lush greenery and sleeping up to ten guests. If you’re after something a little more lowkey, Paul’s Farmhouse is a little more affordable while being just as easy on the eyes.
Image credit: Chasing Arrows
Stinging for a sun-drenched weekend getaway? It’s time to get packing for an unforgettable escape to Ballina and discover all its surrounding regional gems. With direct Jetstar and Qantas flights from Sydney to Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, you’re only a short trip away from pure paradise. Click here to scope out Jetstar flights and here for Qantas flights.
Image credit: Max Ravier
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