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; www.contemporaryhotels.com.au; $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.