Escape the crowds in the popular vacation destination with a little local knowledge...by Bec 11 January 2021
Byron Bay is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. Even more so now with International borders shut tight. It attracts an eclectic mix of backpackers, foreign travellers, families on summer vacation, hippies, celebrities and haute-boho creatives.
Prices sky rocket in the heat of summer, accommodation and restaurants book out months in advance with beachfront camping booked a year in advance. There can be up to a 2 hour wait for dinner ‘walk ins’ and traffic is similar to a large city.
Here are 8 adventures off the beaten track to help you escape the hustle and bustle of Byron Bay.
Hike to Minyon Falls
Minyon Falls is a spectacular waterfall plunging 100 metres over the huge rhyolite cliffs. It is especially impressive after a good downpour so make sure you head there after rain.
The drive to Minyon Falls is through beautiful hinterland and the historical town of Federal. If you’re after lunch, visit Doma Cafe for rustic, home-style Japanese dishes in a relaxed outdoor setting.
Park at the top of the falls. You can view the falls from above via the lookout but the real beauty is from below so put on your running or hiking shoes and start making the descent down! It is 4.5km one way, which does take a good hour. Walk under huge rainforest canopies, cross creeks, and finish off scrambling over boulders to get to the pool and the spectacular view of the falls. We swam in the summer months and the water was still ICY! Would still recommend it though, as we felt very refreshed and ready for the hike back up. Bring plenty of water!
Swim in Brunswick River
Just 10 minutes north of Byron Bay, there is sleepy little beach town called Ocean Shores, often overlooked by the popularity of her southern sister. If you decide to head to Byron last minute, try an Airbnb in Ocean Shores. It’s relaxed and more quiet than her hustling southern neighbour, yet still close enough to everything, yet far enough away from it all. Nearby Brunswick River, an estuary running through the Northern Rivers Region, is a great place for a little dip. You’ll find kayakers, canoes and kids on flotation devices, drifting down the river. With it’s sandy bottom and clear water, it’s the perfect place for a dip to cool off. Opposite the river, you can enjoy come delicious food at Yum Yum Cafe.
Discover Killen Falls
Killen Falls is an easy drive and easy walk so it really should be on your to do list. If you can, visit during a week day to avoid it being too crowded. Wear your running shoes and swimmers and enjoy a dip in the swimming hole. Be cautious when entering, it can be shallow and slippery in some areas with sharp rocks. Enjoy a packed lunch or head to nearby Lennox and enjoy lunch at Shelter Cafe.
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Cool off at Lennox Tea Tree Lake
While in Lennox, rejuvenate at the tea tree lake at Lake Ainsworth, which has easy access.
Tea tree lakes have healing power. The lake is infused with oils from the surrounding tea trees, which boosts your immune system, relieves aches and pains and cleanses your skin.
These lakes hold a spiritual significance as Indigenous women came here to bathe and give birth. You can really feel the energy of the place and the water is so soft against your skin.
Visit Suffolk Tea Tree Lake
Another tea tree lake closer to Byron is Suffolk Tea Tree Lake. It’s not easy to find. Hence it’s more off the beaten track than Lennox Tea Tree Lake. The best suggestion is to park at Broken Head and walk 1km North along the beach. You’ll come across a huge river mouth that will be dry or full (depending on the recent rainfall). If it’s dry, walk along it and you’ll soon find the lake.
When we arrived, we enjoyed a picnic by the bank amongst the trees. It was so quiet with hardly anyone else about. When we swam in the lake, it started sprinkling. As I watched the storm clouds roll in, and felt the soft rain on my face, and the oil in the water against my skin, I took in my surrounds. I felt so small in the expansive lake. It was peaceful and rejuvenating.
It wasn’t long until the lightening started and the rain became heavier, which was a pretty surreal experience! We thought we better get back to safety and ran all the way back to the car!
Sunset swim and picnic at the Pass
In the height of summer, the sun doesn’t say goodbye until 8:30pm. Pair this late departure with 30°C + and it becomes the perfect concoction to visit the beach in the evening, when the crowds are leaving and there is an abundance of parking! The Pass is a popular beach during the day, but when the metre parking switches off, head down to find only a few scramblers, and enjoy a sunset swim amongst a breathtaking sky!
Take some wine and a picnic for dinner, to top it off!
Surf at Wategos
Wategos beach is not really off the beaten track. However, it is in someways because it’s inaccessible for those without a car, which generally rules out backpackers and overseas travellers (unless they’ve rented a car, of course). Instead, they are likely to flock to Byron Main Beach, which makes the Wategos’ vibe still secluded and exclusive.
For those with a car, parking is up to 4 hours, so make sure you’re prepared for the day with an umbrella, eskie (or ‘chilly bin’) and surfboard. The surf was small when we were there, but enough of a ripple to have a great ol’ time on a large piece of foam!
Rejuvenate at Buddha Gardens Day Spa
On our last day of Byron, we treated ourselves to a spa treatment at Buddha Gardens Day Spa. It is a peaceful sanctuary amid tropical, Balinese-inspired gardens, complete with waterfall, heated plunge pool and sauna.
Our friends gave us a voucher for the Divine Discovery, and it was nothing short of divine! A 2 hour treatment consisted firstly of a turmeric body scrub, followed by a private warm rose bud bath. A full body Swedish Massage continues this deluxe couples treatment, followed by a refreshing fruit platter and a glass of chilled champagne! It was probably the most indulgent thing I’ve ever done! But it was the perfect way to end a trip to Byron Bay.
I don’t have many photos of our experience (for obvious reasons!), but I did snap one of Dan, enjoying the heated plunge pool, moments before our treatment.
Where to Stay
Elements of Byron Bay: A typical resort feel with lush tropical gardens dotted with 2 pools, being both family friendly and a place to escape. We particularly enjoyed the large private cabins, and the Adults Only Pool where we splurged on Frozen Margarita cocktails and the Mexican street food served alongside.
Cape Byron Retreat – Adults Only Accommodation Tucked a little further out of town, this is a very different vibe to Elements. Much more private and quiet with a bed and breakfast feel. We enjoyed a couples massage, which you can book direct through the retreat, followed by a plunge in the hot tub, overlooking the country hillside. Breakfast is included and cooked to order by the inhouse staff and served with a view.
Blackbird Byron Bay Luxury Accommodation: Designed as a country escape for stressed out, tired city people, Blackbird offers luxury accommodation in the Byron Bay Hinterland. Read more of our review here.
Where to Eat
Byron Bay is spoilt with good restaurants and becoming quite the food scene. You must book all your restaurants in advance, otherwise walk ins may be waiting up to 2 hours for a table. There are lots to choose from, but these make our list.
Beach Byron Bay: Overlooked by the popular Rae’s Dining. We couldn’t get into Rae’s (booked out 2-3 months in advanced) so we tried Beach Restaurant for a long lunch and we weren’t disappointed with the food, or the view! Definitely add it to your dining list.
Harvest Newrybar: (Chef Hat) Lunch Wed – Sun or Dinner Wed – Sat – An absolute must while in Byron.
Bang Bang: Delicious menu of Southeast Asian bites and lively vibe. Recommend for dinner. Try the beef cheek Pad Si Ew.
Fleet: Hatted dining experience in Brunswick Heads. Seating only 14 so must book in early!
Chupacabra: Down in a little back street of Suffolk park you’ll find the true tastes of coastal Mexico. Relaxed vibe, great value for money, finger-licking Mexican goodness and proper margaritas. Recommend if you want a break from the hustle and bustle.
Bayleaf Cafe: In the centre of Byron Bay, healthy breakfast and lunch. All ingredients are sourced fresh from local farmers and growers.