As the cold begins to creep in here in Melbourne, the draw of escaping somewhere tropical gets all the more enticing. Back in April, Olivia and I finally decided it was time to travel North and chase the sun. Byron Bay had been on my bucket list long before I arrived in Australia, so I couldn’t wait to dust off my Birkenstocks and get myself to the beach. I’ve compiled a list of my favourite things to do, places to see and of course, where to get that gooooood vegan food.
Where to Stay
Whenever I travel now, I tend to use Airbnb. Especially with the ridiculous cost of hostels here in Australia, Airbnb provides a more homely stay for similar, and sometimes cheaper prices, than that of your average hostel. Granted, if you can slum it in the most basic of accommodation, you can probably find a hostel to suit a shoestring budget, but I’m the first to admit I’m way too high maintenance for anything less than a 6-bed dorm with properly functioning air-con. We stayed in this cute little house about fifteen minutes walk from the centre of Byron; it was close enough to make everything accessible by foot but offered the peace and quiet we were looking for when it came to bedtime. Ya’ girl needs her beauty sleep.
Things to Do
Byron Bay isn’t just about the beach – but it’s a good place to start. Main Beach is the closest to the town centre and is just as beautiful as you’d imagine; white sand, glassy ocean and plenty of activities to keep you busy if sun baking isn’t your thing. We spent a lazy day enjoying the sunshine but also tried our hand at a surf lesson. Unsurprisingly, I hadn’t improved since I last surfed around 8 years ago, but it was good fun all the same. We both managed to stand up, but this was mostly followed by a series of epic wipe outs. It’s harder than it looks. If we had more time I would’ve loved to try stand up paddle boarding or kayaking too.
Back on dry land, Byron is home to a number of unique shops and markets, so indulging in a spot of retail therapy is a must. The laid-back beach vibe lends itself perfectly to effortless boho style, and you will find no shortage of boutiques to kit out your wardrobe. Some of my favourites include Dreamers and Drifters, ROWIE The Label and Spell & The Gypsy Collective. Not only are the clothes beautiful, but the shops themselves feel as if you’ve walked into the dreamiest of ‘Interior Goals’ boards pulled straight from Pinterest.
Another must-do activity is walking the Cape Byron track up to the lighthouse. The trail takes you through beaches, rainforest and grassland, up to the clifftops. We left bright and early before the heat became too intense and packed a brunch to eat at the top, while we enjoyed the view. To follow the trail, we began at Main Beach, but there are several other points along the way that you can enter the trail if you don’t want to walk the entire length. If you visit in winter, it’s also the perfect spot to see humpback whales migrating, as Cape Byron is the most easterly point of mainland Australia. Definitely not one to be missed.
If you’re willing to travel a little further afield, there are also several day trips you can take to the surrounding areas. We decided to head into the colourful little hippie town of Nimbin, jumping aboard a psychedelic bus and heading to the hinterlands. On the way, we stopped at the beautiful and secluded Killen Falls and our tour guide told us all about the local area, before we reached our final destination. Driving into Nimbin was like going back in time; the majority of the residents arrived in the 70s for the Aquarius Festival and never left. Today, this small town has become synonymous with cannabis culture which explains it’s popularity with many of the tourists, but looking past this, it’s also is a hub for some very progressive views towards medical marijuana legalisation and the sustainable farming of hemp. It’s easy to see why it’s been named Australia’s alternative lifestyle capital, and although it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s unlike any other place I’ve been.
Places to Eat + Drink
We’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants, cafes and bars in Melbourne, but I was definitely excited to see what Byron Bay had to offer. Vegan or not, there is definitely a stronger focus on health food and using local sustainable produce, which I love.
Located about a five minutes walk from our Airbnb was Byron General Store – a rustic style cafe filled with sunlight and plants. This is a beautiful little spot to stop for morning coffee (especially if you can nab the table with the swing outside) and the Magic Mushie Roll with vegan aioli was totally worth the impossible-to-disguise-in-a-bikini food baby it gave me.
Another great place to visit for brunch is the always-Instagrammable, Combi. We shared the vegan toastie and a tempeh bowl washed down with a creamy iced soy chai. It was tough to make a decision when the menu had so many delicious things on offer, but these two dishes were definitely good choices. If I had room for dessert, I would’ve sampled one of their decadent looking raw desserts. Yum.
Elixiba was one of the places I was most excited to visit, as the menu is entirely plant-based. You can order everything from burgers and nachos and ‘raw-chiladas’ to a vegan keto bowl, so they cater to all kinds of diets. We opted for the Living Bruschetta, with the creamiest vegan feta I’ve ever tasted, the Coco-Mari, a play on calamari made from coconut flesh and a rich herbed aioli and The Julius, a plant-based Caesar style salad with flavoursome BBQ jackfruit on top. The food felt simultaneously decadent yet light, and did not compromise on taste. I could quite happily eat that Coco-Mari every day and never get bored. So crisp, so delicious.
The final restaurant on my list has to be Miss Margarita; a lively Mexican restaurant with delicious food and cocktails to match. The Coconut Margarita was the perfect tropical tipple for a toast to our time in Byron and the mushroom and green bean fajitas were an interesting change up to the usual veg you’d expect. It’s easy to find vegan options here and anywhere that serves good guac automatically wins my love.
Now, when you’re well and truly stuffed, the perfect ending to the night is a cold beer at Railway; a charming local spot with live music and performers. It’s one of those great places where people of every age and all walks of life come together and have a fun, and without doubt one of my favourite places in Byron Bay.
Have you visited Byron Bay before? What are your favourite spots/things to do?