Here’s what’s new and cool in Australia’s buzziest beachside town.
Byron’s allure has never been more prolific than during the pandemic. Its near-deserted coastline, flourishing hinterland and wide-open spaces have made it one of our most coveted holiday-at-home spots, and the crowds (not to mention remote workers looking for a sea-change), have certainly followed.
But now that lockdowns have ceased and travelers are getting back out into the regions, there’s never a been a better time to visit, with a litany of new and lesser-known stays, eats and adventures to fill your Byron cup.
And with international travel finally back on this card this month, it may be a good time to secure otherwise booked-out accommodation and restaurants, with pressure hopefully easing in the hippy-bougie-hybrid NSW beachside town (but we can’t promise anything).
Here’s what’s cool and new in the Byron Shire since you were last there.
Where to stay in Byron Bay
Big resorts have their place in the world, but smaller, detailed luxury stays and cabins are having a moment in Byron. The latest is this just-launched Airbnb located next to the Byron’s Industrial Estate and a short stroll to Belongil Beach, complete with a generous stone bath under the stars and stylish white interiors.
This 80s-era Byron motel underwent a fresh, eco-friendly transformation early this year and was the only Aussie hotel to be listed in Conde Nast Traveller’s Host List 2021 of Best New Hotels worldwide. Along with 12 guest rooms and nine bungalows, the motel boats a mineral heated pool, a tiki bar, and an onsite coffee cart and library.
The first time we attempted to stay at tiny cabin Pana, the road there was flooded, that’s how remote it is. (Thankfully the Unyoked team informed us prior). Pana and Ashi are an hour inland from Byron and these wild immersions are ideal for road-trippers who want to explore the hinterland or venture into town. Hike in, drop your bags and crank up the wood-fired bath. (Pictured at the top.)
Best places to eat in Byron Bay
Justin Hemmes may have briefly stolen the limelight with his purchase of a block of land in central Byron, but chef-owner Jessi Singh’s new ‘unauthentic Indian’ restaurant on Fletcher Street has tongues wagging, too. Eat Indian fried chicken with mustard seed mayo and scallop Crudo with curry coconut, lime, and chili in a bold, bright space with neon lights and bursts of orange and pink.
A new tapas-style concept from the Three Blue Ducks team, this moody wine bar hosts a chef pop-up series every month (past takeovers include the head’s chef from Tetsuya’s) and they specialize in natural, biodynamic wines and seasonal eats. Think rich flavor sensations of spicy salami with walnuts and honey and a whopper 450g sirloin steak with elephant garlic and anchovy butter.
It may have opened late 2020 in the revamped Crystalbrook Byron, but this leafy hotel restaurant is one of Byron’s best-kept secrets. Chef Etienne Karner, formerly of Park Hyatt Sydney, sources 80 percent of the ingredients locally. Sip finger lime margaritas and explore seasonal eats such as pan-roasted Iluka squid with gremolata and lemon and fettuicine carbonara with crunchy smoked pork cheek guanciale.
Renowned Melbourne chef Nick Stanton has relocated to the Northern Rivers and now heads up this neighborhood eatery in the hip hinterland town of Bangalow, just outside Byron. The pillowy wood-fired pizzas are loaded, refined versions of classics (venison salami with tomato, mozzarella and hot habanero honey), paired with Italian natural wines and beer in a cozy space.
Set on a regenerative farm in Nashua, just 10 minutes from Bangalow, this farm-to-table dining experience opened last year with a long lunch format, held every weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Former Harvest chef Alastair Waddell heads up the kitchen and is currently dishing up a late spring menu of eats, such as Coopers Shoot heirloom tomato with Ballina prawns and parsley pollen.
Things to do in Byron Bay
Vino and art come together with a treat at this new concept in the center of Byron. BYO your favorite wine, kick back to the chilled beats, and enjoy the catharsis of using your hands to get creative. The art space offers almost daily themed sessions, including hand clay ceramics workshops and painting Van Gogh sunflowers or Monet’s Garden.
How many times have you seen a platypus in the wild? It may not be new, but this is one of the most magical things you can do in the Byron area, and it’s still very much a secret. Go Fish offers non-fishing dawn or dusk guided kayaking experiences to spot native platypus paddle about in a Rosebank creek that’s teeming with birdlife.
This new cocoon-like spa opened late last year at Crystalbrook Byron and focuses on contemporary treatments that are grounded in the region’s healing properties. The 90-minute ‘Well-tuned Chakra Healing’ starts with a ritual to help define which of your chakras need aligning and uses essential oils, massage, and healing crystals to create a meditative experience. Meanwhile, for couples, the ‘Signature Rainforest Retreat’ is an indulgent three-hour treatment based on the Japanese practice of shirin-yoku (forest bathing).
This article originally appeared on Escape