Byron Bay Makes Waves
Published: April 2009
By James Patrick Herman
The boho beach town of Byron Bay, Australia—long known for its pristine sands, stunning
headlands, and laid-back roots—is trading hippie for hip with a clutch of stylish new
hotels and restaurants.
DESTINATION Byron Bay, Australia. GO FROM Sydney, Melbourne
TRAVEL TIME 90 minutes by air from Sydney; two hours from Melbourne STAY At least two or three nights WHEN TO VISIT Surfers are in the water year-round,
but the best weather is from December through March DON'T MISS An afternoon
sea-kayak with the dolphins
WHERE TO STAY The poshest place in town is the new 92-room, $33 million
Byron at Byron Resort & Spa (7797 Broken Head Rd.; 61-2/6639-2000; www.thebyronatbyron.com.au;
doubles from $325), a Balinese-style eco-resort that opened last year in a beachfront rain
forest. The alfresco restaurant, Wild at Byron, serves mod-Oz delicacies with a French twist
(dinner for two $100). Those who value privacy as much as 800-thread-count sheets should look
to the new four-bedroom Byron Bay Villa (Watego's Beach; 61-2/9331-2881;
$3,625 for five nights), a modern oceanfront rental from the owners of Sydney's hip Medusa
hotel. The town's original glam hotel, the Mediterranean-meets-Moroccan Rae's on Watego's (8 Marine Parade; 61-2/6685-5366; www.raes.com.au;
doubles from $325), opens in August after getting a makeover that includes a new suite. Visitors
can still have a taste of its restaurant's famed Australian cuisine (dinner for two $100);
try the Tasmanian salmon confit with shellfish risotto.
WHERE TO EAT With its all-white décor and sexy, often shoeless, patrons,
Dish (Jonson and Marvel Sts.; 61-2/6685-7320; dinner for two $100) evokes
South Beach style—but not, fortunately, the diet. Diners are treated to more decadent
fare, such as smoked salmonstuffed peppers with a creamy romesco sauce. Fins at the
Beach Hotel (Jonson and Bay Sts.; 61-2/6685-5029; dinner for two $90), as its name
suggests, specializes in fresh fish, seasoned with African, Asian, and Portuguese flavors.
WHAT TO DO At least one of the seven nearby beaches always has good breaks
for surfers. For smoother seas, head to the tranquil Belongil Bay, just west of town. The
dramatic coastline views along the winding path to the century-old Cape Byron Lighthouse (61-2/6685-8565; www.byron-bay.com)
are worth the hike. (Go early to catch the sunrise.) In June and July, and again in September
and November, the headlands are also ideal for whale-watching as breaching humpbacks fill
the surrounding waters.