We’re kicking the series off with a classic. A place with a reputation for natural beauty and alternative living. Where white linen ensembles and dairy-free milk options reign supreme, and A-list celebrities and hippies now peacefully coexist.
We are of course talking about Byron Bay.
Located on Bundjalung country on Australia’s east coast, Byron Bay is a world-famous coastal town. Backpackers, worldly travellers, food enthusiasts and surfers have been seduced by the bay’s allure. And me, a WFH writer who likes living in a small town that is close to nature.
There are probably hundreds of guides to Byron Bay out there already, but this one will be a little different. It will tell you how to enjoy your time here if you’re environmentally inclined. Short of attending a climate protest (which, to be fair, isn’t out of the question), we’re bringing you restaurants that celebrate locally sourced produce, stores with a focus on sustainability and places to go to experience the region’s natural beauty.
Is it cliche to say we can’t start the day until we’ve had our morning coffee? Yes. But we can’t start the day until we’ve had our morning coffee. Assuming you’re absolutely useless until you’ve put caffeine in your bloodstream, make a coffee stop the first point of order for the day. There are plenty of places to score a decent cup of joe in this town, but I think Espressohead Cafe is better than most. Aside from serving up good coffee, it has an all-day menu that uses locally sourced and organic produce, and it’s located in a quieter, less chaotic part of town.
The Cape Byron walking track is one of the nicest things you can do while visiting Byron. I’m going to suggest two options for how to do it. If you’re after a bit of a workout, start walking from either Main Beach or the corner of Massinger and Lawson streets. Stay oceanside the whole way along so you can see all of Byron’s most famous beaches: Clarkes Beach, The Pass, Wategos Beach and Little Wategos. If you’re time-poor or not down for strenuous exercise on vacation, drive somewhere closer (like Wategos) or right to the top of the lighthouse. FYI, you are pretty much guaranteed to spot whales (during season) and dolphins on this walk or from the lookout at the top.
Three of my favourite words to hear: all-day breakfast. If you walked the lighthouse, you’re probably hungry by now. But maybe the kind of hungry that is starting to affect your mood and has rendered you too impatient for a sit-down meal. That’s where Sunday Sustainable Bakery can save the day. I know I’m supposed to tell you the secret spots that only the locals go to, but the fact that this place is constantly packed with tourists and residents alike should point to one thing: it’s really good. Most of the food is certified organic and locally sourced, and fellow vegetarians should know this is one of the best places for a spinach and feta roll or meat-free quiche. If you’re the type to finish strong with something sweet, please get around the baked cheesecake and peanut butter spelt cookies too.
Sunday Sustainable Bakery is pretty much in the centre of town, so if you fancy a little peruse of Byron’s retailers, go by foot from here. Obviously, there’s no need to shop and buy for the sake of it. But I do have a few considered recommendations. Big readers should call in on second-hand bookshop The Byron Bay Book Exchange or The Book Room at Byron. If you love vintage clothes, check out Miss Brown Vintage and Trash Vintage. Local clothing brand Afends will help you put more hemp and organic cotton in your wardrobe and, if you like circular fashion as much as we do, definitely visit new kids on the block CHIA. It sells second-hand and sustainably made garments and offers a clothing rental service with a bunch of cool brands, including Arnsdorf.
Not fussed about shopping? Spend those precious, sunny hours at the beach. You could literally set up on any stretch of sand around here and have a nice time. But go treat yourself to a swim at Wategos Beach if you have the means to get there and enough luck to find a park (tip: try the backstreets behind the beachfront car park). If you want somewhere a bit different and off the beaten track, there’s a popular swimming spot at the mouth of Tallow Creek, just behind Tallow Beach. Park at Ironbark Avenue and walk the bush track towards the beach to find it.
Sunday Sustainable Bakery
I get that a trip to a town’s industrial estate sounds a bit perplexing, but Byron’s is actually worth the stop. For starters, the Stone & Wood Brewery is there – excellent for an easy lunch and brew in the sun. Not only will you be experiencing a born-and-raised Byron Bay fixture, but Stone & Wood also does a lot of environmental good (something we can all drink to).
The other reason for luring you to the industrial estate is the great sustainable shopping opportunities. If you fancy yourself a bit of an op shopper, Global Ripple, Mr Vintage and The Salvation Army are local favourites. A few RIISE friends have storefronts in the area too, including Del Rainbow Store, St. Agni and Nagnata. And if you’re after something shiny to remember Byron Bay by, detour to Temple of the Sun for responsible, handmade jewellery.
(If you’d prefer to keep things central and stay in town for lunch, Karkalla serves up amazing locally sourced, seasonal produce with native ingredients and is a beautiful venue to dine in at. Orgasmic Falafel has the best falafel pitas and plates in town, and Hare Krishna vegetarian eatery The Cardamom Pod and vegan coffee shop Little No Bones are good options if you want to grab and go.)
OK, so you’ve walked, shopped, swum and lunched by this point. If you don’t need an afternoon nap, now is the time to squeeze in one more nature-based activity before happy hour/dinner. This calls for a swim at one of the Northern Rivers waterfalls. Killen Falls is my top pick because it’s close to Byron’s CBD (about a 30-minute drive), the track from the car park to the base of the falls is very short (5–10 minutes’ walk) and it’s good for swimming. If you want to level up your watering hole game, bring a flotation device. It’s a bit of a power move and will save you the awkward crawl in and out over slippery rocks.
Not to turn your day in Byron into a big pub crawl, but stop by the Cape Byron Distillery for a gin on your way back from Killen Falls. Located on a huge property split by macadamia trees and subtropical rainforest, the distillery is only 15 minutes from the centre of town, so it’s a perfect halfway pit stop. The most well known product to come out of this operation is Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin, distilled with 25 native botanicals (many of which are foraged from the rainforest). Not sure about you but sipping gin cocktails with ingredients from a regenerated rainforest sounds utterly ideal.
Do I love The Roadhouse because it’s a five-minute walk from my house? Yes. But I also love it for the cocktails, woodfired pizzas (with locally sourced ingredients) and evening vibe. I recommend getting there in time to make the most out of happy hour (4–6pm) and requesting a table outside so you can enjoy your sundowners under the fairy lights. I don’t know you well enough to tell you exactly which pizza to order, but I can recommend the Purple Haze if you’re a cheese and mushroom loving vegetarian like me.
If you’re not in the mood for pizza, honourable dinner mentions go to Bang Bang (which has an excellent vegetarian or pescetarian banquet menu), Daughter In Law (for “unauthentic Australian Indian”) and Treehouse on Belongil (a quintessentially-Byron venue by the beach).
You’ve had a big day, haven’t you? If there’s still fuel in the tank, finish strong with a glass of natural wine at Supernatural Byron Bay. If you’re not already on the natural wine bandwagon, this is your chance to get clued up on all things organically farmed and biodynamically made. Because who wouldn’t want to say they ended their dream day in Byron Bay at a venue that “feels like the lovechild of a Parisian jazz club + a Melbourne laneway bar”?