It is not easy to try and pinpoint the appeal of Byron Bay, or to explain in a few words why this quaint and rustic little town has exploded onto the international tourist scene in such a big way, and is now the third most popular place in Australia to visit. Many similar towns exist, peacefully located in exotic surrounds with perfect climate conditions, but none carry off the charm, atmosphere and general funky vibe quite like Byron does.
What is it that places this little town with a population of 9000 head and shoulders above other tourist destinations in Australia? The answer lies in the richness of diversity, not only within the tourist attractions on offer, but also within the town itself and within the Byron shire as a whole. The rich variety of flora and fauna is complemented by an equally rich variety of different types of people that have taken up residence in Byron. Famed as one of the leading alternative lifestyle regions in Australia, the bohemian feel of the area is enhanced by colourful locals that include artists, surfers, musicians and of course the traveller types that just never felt the need to move on. Throw into this mix established farmers, businessmen and young professionals trying to escape the city life and you start to form a true impression of Byron.
Diversity also exists in the landscape and geographical features of the Byron Shire. The lush, green hinterland is seperated from the deep turquoise blue of the Pacific Ocean by over thirty kilometres of sparkling beaches. The numerous national parks in the area are home to large hills and mountains which provide the outdoor types with an abundance of opportunities for camping and walking. The rainforests are interspersed with macadamia farms, state forests and undulating fields, and throughout the region are dotted small towns and communities where you can purchase local arts and crafts or produce, or stop and meet some very interesting people.
For many the absolute highlight of Byron Bay is the beaches. Clean and unsullied, they are devoid of any building development, which allows you to fully appreciate their natural tranquility. The horse shoe shaped beach surrounding the bay itself is normally the most popular due to its ease of accessibility from the town. The flat waters of the bay make it perfect for swimming, and when the tide is in the large areas of shallow water mean this is the ideal playground for little kids. On the other side of Cape Byron is Tallows Beach, which is long and straight and popular amongst surfers, kite boarders and kayakers. Unprotected by the headland, the waves on this beach are bigger and more challenging, making for more adventurous swimming or watersports.
Dominating the Byron skyline is the tall headland which marks the most easterly point of Australia. It is topped by the infamous lighthouse that is the subject of many a postcard and kodak moment and known as one of the most powerful beacons in the country. A short drive up a windy road will get you to the lighthouse, and you are rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the bay on one side and Tallows Beach on the other, with the Pacific Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see in front of you. Behind you lies the dark green forests of the hinterland, with the higher hills and mountains of the region silhouetted against the skyline.
While watching the waves swell, rise and then crash into the rocks a hundred metres below you are likely to see pods of dolphins glide their way through the azure water, or the dark outline of a sea turtle or manta ray coming up to the surface. This spot is recognised as the best land based whale watching in the country, so if the seasons are right you may be lucky enough to see some of these graceful mammals breaking the surface. In July and August they are moving north to the warmer waters, and in September and October they are migrating back down south with their new offspring.
When looking out to sea from the lighthouse, you can't help but notice Julian Rocks rising out of the water a few kilometres from the coast. Part of the Cape Byron Marine Park, these rocks mark the point where warm and cold waters meet and these conditions have encouraged a multitude of marine species, nearly 900 in total, to reside in the rocks under the surface. Julian rocks cater to all levels of diver, from snorkelers through to experienced scuba dives.
These places just scratch the surface of the myriad of attractions and activities in Byron Bay. If fishing is what rocks your boat then you can head out on a deep sea charter and see if you are any match for the ferocious kingfish, or else stick to the coast and fish the secluded coves and inlets that are found up the shore. Take a surfing lesson, or hire a kayak and head out to deeper waters where you may bump into a friendly pod of dolphins. If you're tired of the ocean then head inland for a bushwalk or a guided rainforest tour. Horse riding excursions are also available. Tandem skydiving will appeal to the extremely adventurous who want to get the best possible view of Byron and its surrounds, and if this doesn't satisfy your desire for excitement then you can enrol in Australia's only flying trapeze college!
Only two hours south of Brisbane and forty minutes south of the Gold Coast and Coolangatta airport, the town is easily accessible via a pleasant drive through rolling countryside. The ultimate place for relaxation, any age group will feel welcome and find something that appealsn. This is why it is such a recommended
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit New South Wales Car Hire