4 ways to get the most out of Northern New South Wales

Downtown Byron Bay may no longer be quite the laidback, hippy-dippy enclave it once was, but all the backpackers in the world can’t spoil the natural beauty of this part of the coast and its hinterland. Unlike the neighboring Gold Coast, you’re never far from stunning ocean views, rolling countryside, sleepy townships and some ridiculously good meals. 

, 4 ways to get the most out of Northern New South Walesbreakfast at The Roadhouse

Freakishly good food

Byron is the epitome of the health-conscious, outdoors Aussie lifestyle, with even the gnarliest old surfers knocking back gluten-free pancakes and kombucha tea after their pre-dawn patrol. But the sheer enthusiasm for living well means that what could come off as preachy is in fact all rather fun. Case in point: The Roadhouse, whose hipster crew of fermenters and foragers “dedicate their lives to sourcing the highest grade, naturally grown local produce” but also stock the largest whisky collection in the country and turn the place into a serious bar after dark. We had a lot of good meals across Byron (with Harvest in Newrybar deserving of special mention), but nothing that came close to dinner here. The coffee—from a list that includes their own take on Bulletproof coffee—might well be the best in town, too, though Marvell Street Roasters is great, too, if you happen to be downtown.

Fantastic farmers markets

You can’t bring it home with you, but there’s nothing to stop you gorging on fresh produce straight from the source. Byron hosts its own farmers market on Butler Street every Thursday morning, but the real action is out in the townships of Bangalow (every Saturday morning on Byron Street) and Mullimbimby (every Friday morning at the Show Grounds). Bangalow is a charming—and now rather chi chi—hamlet 20 minutes by car, so popular that you’ll have to fight for a brunch table at Utopia Cafe. Mullimbimby, with a counter-culture reputation to rival Byron, is even more sedate. Milk and Honey serves some of the country’s best pizzas. 

Multiple music festivals

Aside from the sheer frequency with which festivals take place, the setting and the acts they draw are remarkable. Highlights include Byron Bay Bluesfest in April, this year headlined by Lenny Kravitz and The Black Keys; the three-day Splendour in the Grass in July, which last year hosted Outkast (AC/DC is rumored to be up this year); and the smaller, alternative Mullum Music Festival in Mullimbimby in November. 

Amazing wildlife

Byron is Australia’s easternmost point (it’s open ocean all the way from here to Chile) and the waters around here teem with marine life. Humpback whales migrate right past the Cape Byron headland, and Whale Watching Byron Bay offers guaranteed sightings on 12-person boat expeditions from June to November (89AUD ($94) per person). Even just walking around Cape Byron, you have a decent chance of seeing something special: we watched a pod of dolphins playing close to shore for at least half an hour. 

To get even closer to the action, join a scuba or snorkel trip out to the nearby Julian Rocks, rated one of the top five dive spots in all of Australia and home to more than 1,000 species of fish, including leopard sharks and nurse sharks, as well as three species of turtle. Sundive heads out there daily, with dives starting at 95AUD ($100), including equipment hire.

, 4 ways to get the most out of Northern New South WalesScoot 

Getting there

Scoot is the only airline to fly direct from Singapore to the Gold Coast, with overnight flights every Friday and Saturday. It’s a 7.5 hour flight and Gold Coast is two hours ahead of Singapore, from where it’s an easy 45-minute drive along the Pacific Motorway to Byron (which is a further hour ahead). In other words, you can leave work on a Friday night and be there in time for brunch. Return flights start from around $425 including taxes. We recommend the ScootinSilence seats, which come with extra legroom and a promise that kids under 12 will be seated elsewhere. 

, 4 ways to get the most out of Northern New South WalesArcadia House

Where to stay

Book ahead, as Byron gets very full at weekends. We really liked Arcadia House, a beautiful, whitewashed old Queenslander (the raised timber bungalows characteristic of NSW) in Old Byron, a 10- minute walk from the beach and from town. Rates start from 135AUD ($142)/night. There is no breakfast but Top Shop cafe is only five minutes away. 

More upmarket, and only a short stroll from the stunning sunsets of Tallow Beach, is the rainforest-encircled The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa, where rates start from $318 excluding tax. Their 4:30-6pm happy hour (Sun-Thu) is one of the most popular in town, too. 


Visitors from most countries need to apply for a visa before their trip. Europeans are eligible for the free eVisitor pass, while Singaporeans, Americans and certain other nationalities can apply for an ETA. Find out more here.

Exchange Rate

1AUD = $1.05