byron bay

48 Hours in Byron Bay, Australia

This laidback town offers surfer vibes and healthy eats.

Vintage VW buses, denim jumpers, and ubiquitous fermented veggie bowls give the sleepy, coastal town of Byron Bay, in southeast Australia, a decidedly retro feel. In the last couple of years, the mellow surfer's hub has begun to attract a younger generation looking to settle down in a place that operates at a slower pace. Here, a guide to an ideal weekend down under.                

GETTING THERE: Two airports serve the area: Ballina Byron and Gold Coast. From there, it’s best to rent a car and drive a short 30 or 45 minutes, respectively.

WHERE TO STAY: For a boutique feel, consider The Atlantic, a Surf Lodge-esque abode composed of four luxe homes right in town. Or try Flamingo, which new owners refurbished into a series of chic properties including suites, a cottage, and a separate house. Those keen on a full-service property with a gym and spa may like Elements of Byron, a resort that debuted last year along the coast, composed of 103 free-standing villas.

Day 1

Thanks to its rich volcanic soil, Byron Bay is one of the country's most fertile areas to grow excellent produce. Start your day at Folk, a two-year-old organic, plant-based eatery that feels like a time warp into 1970. You'll find wellness-centered breakfast (think flower-topped turmeric lattes) and lunch fare presented on vintage tableware.

Animal lovers will want to stop at The Farm, an 80-acre working farm that also houses an outpost of Sydney’s Three Blue Ducks café, a small retail shop, The Bread Social bakery, and a florist. For a few dollars, schedule a tour and check out the property’s pigs, cows, and chickens. While its menu changes on the regular, grab an outdoor seat at the café to try excellent house-made bread with local cultured butter, and a richly-flavored off-the-bone ribeye.

Head to the functioning lighthouse (the most powerfully lit in all of Australia), which sits overlooking the ocean. If you have about two hours to spare, take a walk along the tract, which spans about two miles and winds through the rainforest and along cliffs. From there, visit one of the area’s prettiest beaches: Cape Wategos. It's home to bluenose dolphins.

For an afternoon energy boost, head back into town and grab a Unicorn Smoothie from Naked Treaties, a raw-vegan café (open until 4 p.m.) known for its colored drinks and passion fruit-topped brekkie bowls.

Many of Byron’s hipper, upscale businesses have all debuted within the last two years. And that holds true for The Mez Club, the whitewashed, boho-designed Mediterranean eatery and bar outfitted with Moroccan sitting poofs and rustic-chic straw furniture. Here, mezze boards and tapas plates of lamb balls and crispy haloumi cheese are great to share with a group.

Day 2

Begin your day at Barefoot Brew Room, a small coffee shop tucked into a side street. While typical espresso-based beverages are available, in-the-know locals order an off-menu special, the Cacao Chai, a hot tea-based drink made from a mix of chocolate powder and chai.

Have breakfast at The Top Shop, a neighborhood surfer hangout and one of the area’s older cafés. Grab a house-made watermelon-mint-pine juice and a requisite smashed avocado toast and enjoy the people watching.

You’ll definitely want to spend some time perusing Byron’s collection of boutiques and furniture stores in town. Hit up Mister Zimi, the Bali-based clothing line known for its vibrant prints, and Ahoy Trader, a trendy homeware and clothing shop.

From there, drive about 25 minutes over to Crystal Castle in Mullumbimby, an outdoor garden that touts the largest crystals in the world.

Cap off your trip with a meal at Fleet, the tiny 12-seat Brunswick Heads restaurant operated by husband-and-wife team Josh Lewis and Astrid McCormack. Arguably the area’s best restaurant, it serves natural wines alongside chef Lewis’ modern Australian plates (both a la carte and via tasting menu), all made with locally-sourced ingredients like pine mushrooms and bonito. Pro tip: Fleet operates on a six week wait list, so make sure to book in advance.