A family-friendly Australian destination that’s full of adventure for all ages.
Byron Bay ticks all the boxes. From toddlers to teens and kidults to grandparents, everyone is sure to find what they’re looking for in this laid-back, slightly hippy, surf town. You can relax on the beach in the morning and hit the boutique shops in the afternoon. Take a morning yoga class and follow it up with a coastal hike. Teach the kids to surf, SUP or kayak, spotting dolphins and whales while you’re at it!
Surfers started flocking to the popular beach breaks in the 1960s and haven’t stopped coming since. Traditionally the town attracted those seeking an alternative lifestyle. While it’s gentrified significantly in the past ten years or so, the town’s focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives, eco-lifestyles and a somewhat hippy attitude definitely remain!
This is a Sassy Mama tried-and-tested destination. I’ve visited Byron many times over the years, but recently I was lucky enough to spend a week in this fabulous town with the extended family in tow; toddlers and teenagers, parents and grandparents. All of us had an absolute ball!
What To See And Things To Do With Kids In Byron Bay
Literally the shining beacon of Byron Bay, no trip to the area is complete without a visit to the iconic lighthouse which sits aloft Australia’s most easterly point. There’s a small museum (open 10am to 4pm daily) in what was once the lighthouse keeper’s residence (the light has been automatic since 1989), if you’re interested in the maritime history of the building and the bay.
You can drive up to the lighthouse (there’s a parking fee of AU $8), but for a scenic alternative, hike the Cape Byron Walking Track. Stroll through coastal rainforest, along the beach and then up to the cliffs of the cape before returning via the coastal bush track. There are some steep ascents and stairs along the way, so Nanna was left minding the stroller and having a coffee by the beach and our toddler’s little legs could only get him so far. But, anyone else with moderate fitness wouldn’t have trouble on the track.
When you reach the lighthouse, there is a great little cafe so you can rest those legs and grab a cuppa before heading back down.
Keep your eye out along the way for the resident dolphins that can almost always be seen frolicking in the waters and, in season, the humpback whales on their annual migrations. Cape Byron offers up some of the best whale watching opportunities (May to November) in Australia!
When you look out to the bay, you’ll see the little rock formation of Julian Rocks about 2.5km offshore. While not much to look at from the surface, this area forms an amazing marine eco-system. The warm tropical currents of the north (think the Great Barrier Reef) converge with the cooler temperate currents from the south. What does this mean? Well, in the summer you’ll see species like leopard sharks, sea turtles, blue tangs (aka dory) and sometimes even manta rays, while in the winter the scary-looking and highly endangered (but completely harmless) grey nurse sharks come to breed.
The scuba diving here is fantastic and should be on the list for any certified divers! Novices could use Byron Bay as an opportunity to learn to scuba, or even take a snorkelling trip to get in on the action. There are two good dive centres in town, Sun Dive and Byron Bay Dive Centre. Both offer certified scuba diving, discover dive trips (no certification or course necessary), snorkelling trips and learn to dive courses.
Another great way to hit the water is by kayak. Cape Byron Kayaks and Go Sea Kayak both offer morning and afternoon tours (weather-dependent) with the guarantee that if you don’t see dolphins, you can come back again the next day for free! No experience is necessary (minimum age is five years), lifejackets and wetsuits are provided. You’ll love seeing the dolphins up close (they can be quite inquisitive!) and, in season, you’ll often spot whales as well!
Hit The Beach
The clear calm waters around Byron Bay are perfect for some family beach time. Pack a picnic or grab some fish and chips and spend your day lazing about building sandcastles. As well as Main Beach, directly in front of the town, there is also Belongil Beach, which stretches to the north of the bay, and Clarkes Beach to the south. Wategos Beach is a sheltered little cove at the base of Cape Byron and beautiful Tallows Beach offers miles of golden sand to locals in the know.
There are surf shops all around town offering beginner surfboards for hire (the long foam boards), as well as stand up paddleboards (SUP), with good deals for longer hires. Byron Bay is also great for honing those surf skills with some lessons. There are breaks to suit all abilities and you can imagine the thrill of learning a fun new skill on holidays! Why not make a family affair of it and all give it a go?!
Check out Blackdog Surfing and Soul Surf School for both lessons and board hire. Both are locally owned and operated small businesses with expert teams to get you riding those waves! Soul Surf School has group lessons specifically for kids 5 to 12 years old, while Blackdog has some great private packages on offer.
The Farm, Byron Bay
No family trip to Byron Bay would be complete without at least one visit to The Farm. As the name suggests, this is a working farm with chickens, pigs, cattle and horses as well as a macadamia orchard, growing vegetables and keeping bees. There are also micro-businesses on-site including a wonderful cafe, Three Blue Ducks, a gelato shop and nursery, alongside a fantastic kids playground.
If your visit is during the Australian school holidays (dates vary each year and between states so contact to check), it’s worth contacting Farm Kids to see what programmes are running. They inspire and educate kids on sustainable farming practices while giving them the opportunity to get up close to the animals.
Where To Eat And Drink In Byron Bay
One thing is certain, you should never go hungry in Byron Bay! The region is home to some of the best produce in Australia and the town is filled with cafes and restaurants bursting to showcase the best offerings. This is the town that rejected McDonald’s after all! There are green juices and açaí bowls on just about every corner, you’ll have no problem getting your almond/oat/coconut/macadamia latte and your biggest problem will be wanting to try everything. These are some tried-and-tested favourites!
There’s no doubt about it, Aussies know how to do breakfast and this has got to be one of the best spots in town. Bayleaf works with local suppliers to deliver healthy brekkie, salads, sandwiches and burgers made from sustainable meats and seafood, artisan bread and even local avocados. This bustling cafe is open 7am to 2pm and gets busy, so be prepared to wait (or opt for takeaway instead). Hands down one of the best oat lattes I’ve had.
Bayleaf Cafe, 2a Marvell Street, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, www.bayleafbyronbay.com
This restaurant, cafe and produce store at The Farm needs to be on your dining list. Most of the food is sourced direct from the farm (it doesn’t get much more farm to table than that!) and is organic and sustainably farmed. The kids will have wide-open spaces to explore after the meal, not to mention the awesome playground! Don’t want to be restricted to a table? Pack a picnic blanket and order a hamper. Then you can pick your favourite spot to set up anywhere on the property (our pick is in the shade of the macadamia orchard!).
Sitting upstairs towards the beach end of the main street, Loft is a great spot to enjoy a drink and some great nibbles. Grab a table on the balcony for a bit of people-watching and views towards the beach. You’ll certainly be getting into the swing of your holiday with the breezy beach vibes of this restaurant.
Sassy Mama tip: The Lychee Chilli Coconut Martini is the perfect accompaniment for the Mixed Deli Board shared amongst friends on a lazy afternoon!
No day at the beach would be complete without a cool gelato! You’ll find this gelato shop down the beach end of Jonson Street (the main road leading to the beach), or just look for the line! All gelato and sorbets are made on the premises and you’ll find that the fruit flavours change with the season.
Bella Rosa Gelato, 1/11 Jonson Road, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, +61 2 6685 8805, www.facebook.com/bellarosagelateria
Occupying prime position opposite the beach (as the name suggests!), this is more than just a great Aussie pub and beer garden. It opens early with coffee and breakfast offerings and through the day offers pub-style meals (think burgers, parmas, steaks and wood-fired pizzas). Through the day and into the early evening this is the perfect spot for a family meal. There’s a large outdoor courtyard with room for kids to move, and it is located directly across the road from the playground.
Beach Hotel, 1 Bay Street, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, +61 2 6685 6402, www.beachhotel.com.au
If you ask me, this is the best fish and chips shop in Australia! A big call, but I also quickly convinced the rest of my family. You’ll find Fish Mongers tucked away on Bay Lane (behind the Beach Hotel). There’s a selection of fresh local fish, prawns, calamari or baby octopus, served up alongside homemade chunky chips, salad or tempura vegetables. My pick is the grilled calamari with tempura veggies. Yum!
Sassy Mama tip: Get your meal to go and enjoy down on the beach!
Another one on Bay Lane, Cyprus Tree offers wonderful Mediterranean food. There are staples like souvlaki, moussaka and lamb shanks, but the real reason to visit is for the fantastic sharing platters. Choose from a traditional or vegetarian mezzare plates, or indulge with a seafood mezzare. The restaurant is BYO so bring along a bottle of your favourite wine.
It doesn’t get more beachfront than this. Set in a cottage over the sand, this is a relaxed dining option for lovers of a great view. The menu is full of local flavours and changes with the seasons. Book ahead to get a table closest to the water, or if you are coming with a large group.
For a quick and easy takeaway, look no further than Belo Porto. Boasting the best burgers in town, as well as wraps and salads, this is a cheap and cheerful option, that doesn’t sacrifice on flavour or quality.
Belo Porto, Shop 3, 73-75 Jonson Street, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, +61 2 6680 8989, www.beloporto.com
Where To Shop In Byron Bay
As you wander the streets of Byron, the shops are sure to catch your eye. As well as the expected surf shops, you’ll also find a huge variety of fashion and lifestyle boutiques. The town is an easy grid to follow. Walk down Jonson Street towards the beach, make a right onto Lawson Street and loop back along Fletcher, popping into anywhere and everywhere that sparks your interest!
This bright and colourful children’s boutique is sure to grab your kids attention as you stroll through town. Inside you’ll find a carefully-curated selection of toys, books and clothes chosen for their unique design and quality.
The cute children’s swimwear in this store caught our eye, but it was the gorgeous wooden toys that we couldn’t resist grabbing for our toddler!
Paper Aeroplane, 3/18 Jonson Street, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, +61 401 449 259, www.facebook.com/PaperAeroplane.kids
I’d been eyeing the bold patterns and prints online and so was very excited to stumble upon the Mister Zimi boutique while waiting for my coffee (Bayleaf is right next door). This Aussie fashion label is inspired by exotic locations and cultures, modernising 70s-inspired garments like classic shift dresses and harem pants.
Sassy Mama tip: Want to keep the holiday vibes going long after you’ve returned home? Mister Zimi ships to Hong Kong! And the best bit, it’s free for orders over AU $150.
Spell And The Gypsy
This whimsical, boho collection will definitely have you dreaming of lazy days by the beach. Using sustainable fibres, promoting social advocacy and reducing its environmental footprint along the way, this is a fashion brand we have no problem getting behind. They even have a “Little Gypsies” collection so you can match your mini!
Spell And The Gypsy, 15 Browning Street, Byron Bay NSW 2481, Australia +61 2 9159 6255 www.shop.spelldesigns.com
For The Family
Mark your calendars to make sure you can visit the weekly markets in town.
The Byron Twilight Markets are held from 4pm to 9pm every Saturday over the summer (November to April) at Railway Park. There’s a great selection of stalls selling artisan products like jewellery, clothing and accessories with a focus on creativity, originality and sustainability (lots of our favourite things!). There’s always some live music and fantastic food stalls so make an evening of it!
During the week the Byron Bay Farmers Market is definitely worth a visit. It’s held every Thursday from 7am to 11am at Cavanbah Centre, just out of town (there’s a free return shuttle bus service from Jonson Street if you don’t have a car). Northern NSW is home to some of the finest fresh produce in Australia, and all is readily available at the market. You can find seasonal fruit and veg, local eggs, seafood and meat or gourmet items like handmade pasta, artisanal bread, jams and dips. The list goes on and on! If you miss out on a Thursday, the market is also held in nearby Bangalow on a Saturday morning.
There are also monthly markets held in the towns surrounding Byron Bay. If you have a car, check out this guide to see what is around and take yourself off for a little country drive.
Accommodation In Byron Bay
There are plenty of accommodation options in and around Byron Bay, but none of the big hotel chains that you’d expect to find in other cities. Instead, look to boutique hotels and guest houses, holiday apartments and houses (Airbnb is definitely your friend!).
Elements Of Byron
Barefoot luxury is the order of the day at this family-friendly eco-resort. Kick back by the lagoon-style pool or simply relax with uninterrupted views to the Lighthouse, the Bay and Julian Rocks on the sands of Belongil Beach. Accommodation is in beautifully appointed studios, one and two-bedroom villas that blend in with the environment. Make sure you make time to visit the Osprey Spa for a relaxing massage or facial.
Rae’s On Wategos
Rae’s is a small boutique hotel overlooking Wategos Beach (on the way up to the Lighthouse). It does accommodate children, but this luxurious and tranquil retreat might be best saved for a romantic getaway. The vibe is indulgent, beachfront chic and if you don’t manage to stay here yourself, it’s worth looking into the restaurant or spa!
This stunningly designed, four-bedroom holiday house is perfect for families with kids in tow. In the media room, you’ll find a pool table and a pinball machine (which we had a hard time tearing the teenagers away from), and there are thoughtful touches like a high chair and Bugaboo pram for those with younger kids. You’ll love having long lunches and lazy afternoons in the outdoor entertaining area and cooling off with a dip in the pool. If that isn’t enough, it’s just a few minutes walk to beautiful Tallows Beach and a five-minute drive into town. The owners of this property are Hong Kong-based Aussies so you’ll even see a few touches of the 852 snuck in there!
One Coral, 1 Coral Court, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, +852 5926 6609, www.onecoral.com.au
Discovery Parks – Byron Bay
This caravan park offers everything from unpowered campsites through to deluxe safari tents and one, two and three-bedroom cabins. The real draw for families is the large waterpark, swimming pool and jumping pillow. Love the look of it but not staying? It also offers day passes to use the facilities.
Getting To Byron Bay
The nearest airports to Byron Bay are in Ballina, Gold Coast and Brisbane. The closest is Ballina-Byron Gateway, about a 30-minute drive to the south, however, this is a regional airport and doesn’t have a huge selection of destinations.
Gold Coast Airport, 45 minutes to the north, offers a wide variety of destinations and carriers and is a great option if flying in from another Australian city. While there are international destinations, at this time Hong Kong is not one of them.
Cathay Pacific and Qantas both offer direct flights from Hong Kong to Brisbane International Airport. Once you arrive it’s about a two-hour drive to Byron Bay.
Skybus and Byron Bay Express both offer affordable shuttle services from the airport to the main street of Byron Bay. However, if travelling with the family you will be better off hiring a car. This will also give you the flexibility to explore the beautiful coastal towns and hinterland surrounding Byron Bay.
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