Things to Do in Byron Bay
As Australia's easternmost and strongest lighthouse, Cape Byron Light is a main attraction for both the historical aspect of the building itself as well as the spectacular views it provides from the edge of Cape Byron. Opened for operation in 1901, the lighthouse provides Byron Bay visitors with a glimpse into the marine industry from years past when lighthouses had to be manned by live-in keepers so passing ships remained safe along the coast. Still active today, Cape Byron Light changed to a fully automated system in 1989, making a live-in keeper obsolete.
The eastern coast of Australia sees humpback whale migrations each year, and the lighthouse platform acts as the perfect vantage point for its 500,000 annual visitors, as well as the Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre, which is located on the premises.
The lighthouse itself stands 74 feet tall (22.5 meters); an internal spiral staircase reaches from the lobby to its viewing platform. Onsite still stands the original lighthouse keeper's residence next to the assistant keepers' duplex. The original, kerosene-based light source has been upgraded over the years with a switch to electric in 1956. This is also the time when the light became the most powerful in all of Australia's lighthouses with an intensity of 2,200,000 cd.
With sun-blushed golden sands, surf-worthy waves, and a backdrop of forested hills; Main Beach is Byron Bay’s flagship beach. Stretching along the town’s seafront promenade, it’s a favorite among locals and draws sunseekers from all around the country to swim, surf, and scuba dive.
The sheltered, picturesque Wategos Beach is popular on Cape Byron for surfing and relaxing. Numerous picnic tables and electric barbecues allow visitors to enjoy the pristine surrounds over lunch. The nearby Cape Byron Walking Track passes behind the beach, calling for an afternoon stroll. Lifeguard patrols provide a safer beach environment during the busier summer months.
Little Wategos Beach offers a more secluded vibe given the fact it can only be reached by foot from the neighboring Wategos Beach. Little Wategos sits on the tip of Cape Byron, making it the easternmost beach on Australia's mainland. Although usually inviting, swimmers are encouraged to practice caution as strong currents can form even on mild days.
Besides swimming and surfing (longboarding does well here), the Wategos Beach area sees its fair share of fishing, particularly for flathead and whiting.
Australia mainland's easternmost point of Cape Byron possesses a number of reasons to pay it a visit: the Cape Byron Light, the Cape Byron Marine Park, and the Cape Byron walking track. Set about 1.9 miles (3 km) northeast of the quaint Byron Bay, Cape Byron lies in the Cape Byron State Conservation Area.
A day trip from Byron Bay can be spent first at the Cape Byron Light – a lighthouse that was opened in 1901 and is still in use today. A climb to the top, through the internal spiral staircase, brings visitors to a glorious viewing platform looking out across the Pacific Ocean, which is a prime place to catch whales, sea turtles, dolphins and other passing wildlife.
Wildlife lovers will enjoy the many sheltered beaches and protected reefs that encompass the 54,000 acre Cape Byron Marine Park. Swimming, fishing (in some areas), kayaking and diving are all possible around Cape Byron, the latter of which is good for getting up close and personal with the likes of sea turtles, fish, rays and sharks. But getting in or on the water isn't always necessary; whale watching and dolphin spotting are popular from the shore.
Catch a bit of fresh air and exercise by hitting Cape Byron's 2.3 mile (3.7 km) walking track. This track takes walkers and cyclists to top attractions such as the Captain Cook Lookout, Palm Valley, Wategos Beach and the Cape Byron Lighthouse.
From the lookout at Minyon Falls, visitors will hear the roar of cascading, rushing water as it falls over the rock formations and gathers in a natural swimming pool down below. In addition to the waterfall, travelers can also catch coastal views and let the surrounding rain forest engulf their senses. Whether visiting the falls while passing through on a hiking trek or a cycling adventure, stop and enjoy this World-Heritage-listed wonder at Nightcap National Park.
Provided picnic tables and barbecue pits make the falls an excellent place to rest and refuel for the journey back out of the park. Take a dip in the freshwater pool beneath the falls before heading off!
The coastal village of Lennox Head, located conveniently between Ballina and Byron Bay, has grown in popularity for holiday-goers because of its sleepy seaside feel and luscious surrounds. The beach area around Lennox Point is well-known for its right-hand break, so surfers flock from far and wide to test the waters. In fact, Lennox Head is now considered a National Surfing Reserve.
Adventure seekers will find an outlet in the actual headland (Lennox Point), using it as a base for hang-gliding launches. Grounded adventurous souls will be happy to know that kite surfing and sailboarding are also on the table.
More relaxed outdoor activities at Lennox Head include wildlife spotting (the whale migrations each year are popular), beach walking, and hanging out at Lake Ainsworth – a lake that is permanently stained by surrounding tea-tree tannins and said to contain rejuvenating properties. Here, visitors swim, stand-up paddle board, kayak and enjoy the picnic and barbecue facilities onsite. Near the lake, on the 2nd and 5th Sundays of the month, it is possible to peruse the Lennox Head Markets at a leisurely weekend pace.
Known for having several diverse sections – a dog-friendly beach area, an area containing great surf thanks to The Wreck, and a nude-friendly area – Belongil Beach satisfies the needs of many beach goers in Byron Bay. The popular coastline stretches for 2.5km to the north of Byron Bay's Main Beach, all the way up to the Belongil Creek mouth.
Dog owners are free to take their four-footed friends in the section of Belongil Beach spanning from the Main Beach car park to Manfred Street, which is great for exercise, for both man and beast.
On the opposite end of the beach, up north near the Belongil Creek mouth, gathers individuals who prefer to take their beach experience in the nude. Although not officially legal, this area of Belongil is well-known for naturist spirits to run free, so be aware.
On the southern end of the beach lies The Wreck. The SS Wollongbar sunk here in a cyclone back in 1922 and continues to sit just 30 meters off-shore. While The Wreck makes for a perfect snorkel exploration in calmer waters, the main benefit of this sunken ship would be the surf break it creates.
Visitors that just prefer a good swim will do better in the beach's southern shores.
The Pass beach, better known simply as The Pass, attracts visitors mainly of a surfing or fishing crowd, the latter thanks to Fisherman's Lookout. With world-class swells, locals flock to The Pass, ready and waiting for a great wave.
For surfers, the special draw would be the waves that break in tubing right-handers; busy days see the waters full of longboarders. Just be aware that locals take their surf seriously, so take turns and don't steal anyone's wave.
Dive boats take off from The Pass; surfers and swimmers are told to keep an eye out to avoid getting in their way – and possibly getting injured.
Swimming appears to be the less common activity at The Pass beach given the longshore currents that make the task more difficult. Regardless, the beaches are beautiful along the cape and deserve to be enjoyed even if that doesn't involve getting wet.
Plentiful beaches surround Byron Bay as well as the expanded region. For those that wish to get out of the city and away from typical surfing and swimming beaches, expansive Seven Mile Beach calls. This peaceful track of sand presents itself for other activities, such as horseback riding, 4WD excursions and fishing.
Seven Mile Beach stretches from Lennox Head to Broken Head, and the area near Lennox Head gives access also to Lake Ainsworth. This special tea-tree infused, freshwater lake makes for a delightful summer getaway where swimming, stand-up paddle boarding and picnicking are the norm.
Being further away from Byron Bay, Seven Mile Beach is an escape for travelers looking for a quieter destination. From the calming sounds of the ocean waves to the extra space between beach-goers on the sand, it's a peaceful retreat near Byron Bay.
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