Byron Bay – The Beach Life

October 25, 2017

Byron Bay

About one hour’s drive south of Brisbane, Byron Bay is mainly a surfer town, with a slightly hippie vibe to it. We drove here from Brisbane and it’s our first real beach town experience in Australia. (Not counting Cairns, since the weather was so bad that it didn’t even come into question to enjoy the beach.)

I found Byron Bay interesting from many points of view. Its center is very touristic, full of restaurants, cafes and (surprisingly) good shopping. But it’s not purely touristic and, from what I can tell, it has managed to maintain some of its soul and charm in the face of the incoming waves of tourists. Its beaches are beautiful and left in their natural state: there are no sun chairs, no umbrellas, no bars directly on the beach, no showers, no toilets, etc. You can find all those in other places – the beach remains in its naturally beautiful state. The buildings in the city are all low rise, and there are youth hostels next to beautiful villas and low key camping grounds.

There are many expats living here. There are the backpacker tourists, exploring the area on a shoestring budget. There are the foreigners trying to learn how to surf. There are the older couples, retired and affluent, looking just for sun, good food and relaxation. And there are of course the locals, so proud to call Byron Bay home, many of them surfing like they were born on the surf board. They all come together in Byron Bay and they all seem to find what they’re looking for in it.

Newrybar and Bangalow

On the recommendation of a local, we drove inland from Byron Bay to the small towns of Newrybar and Bangalow. They’re really, really small towns, but have the nicest little shops and a few good cafes and restaurants. The drive there was beautiful too, and the scenery reminded us of California.

Highs and Lows


  • The BEAUTIFUL beaches. White sand, perfect blue sky for most of the time, waves. Seeing that these beaches are kept in their natural state, instead of being filled with sun deck chairs and music blasting out of loud speakers. A lot of places in Europe (and in other parts of the world) could learn from this.
  • Sitting on the rocks in a secluded beach close to the lighthouse in Byron Bay, looking out at the sea in its dozens of shades of green and blue, and just… enjoying it. Daniel was getting a surf lesson, so I was on my own, except a few seagulls and 3 other tourists hanging out at that beach. The sea has this calming and meditative quality, and you just feel like the luckiest person in the world when you’re sitting on an empty beach with nothing to do but enjoy it.
  • The insider tips of Newrybar and Bangalow. This was a tip that our Airbnb hosts from Brisbane gave us, and it was a great one! It was a beautiful drive from Byron Bay to get to them, and these small towns are just so pretty. It also allowed us to do something off the beaten tourist path, so we could feel a bit more like locals and less like tourists going to the same places that all other tourists go to.


  • People here are very much into healthy food trends. When you order a coffee with milk, you are asked (with a slightly disapproving look) whether you want cow milk. The alternatives offered in most places are soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk. So you order one of the substitutes for cow milk, because you don’t want to shock the waitress by choosing the seemingly unhealthy cow milk. That’s what I did, and ended up with very weird tasting coffee… For someone who loves her coffee with milk so much, this was definitely a “low”… Anyway, it was worth a try, but in the future I’m sticking with the “unhealthy” cow milk.
  • This may be hard to believe, but in a beach town with perfect beaches, I somehow managed to not go swimming in the sea. And I love swimming in the sea! I guess I kept waiting for the perfect moment for it to arrive, and that just didn’t happen: on the day we arrived in Byron Bay, it was raining; on the second day, the weather was perfect, but somehow the whole day went by with other activities; on the third day, I planned to go swimming in the afternoon, but it got very windy and a bit cold and I ended up going for a drink with Daniel and his colleagues from his surf lesson. And that was it, on the next day we had to leave. No but really, who doesn’t go swimming in the sea in the perfect beach town?!? Me, clearly…Note to self: next time you’re at the perfect beach, forget about things you can do somewhere else, like shopping and yoga and getting coffee, and instead focus on the important things and JUST GO SWIM IN THE SEA!

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