Noosa and Byron Bay
They say that it’s a good idea to save the best for last, and without even trying, we did just that. Byron Bay and Noosa were our last two stops on our East Coast roadie, and they’ve left me feeling like I could easily stay in Australia for quite a bit longer. On the one hand you have Noosa, the vacationers dream with beautiful homes and apartments, a quaint town, stunning beaches, and lots of places to swim, eat, and drink. Then there’s Byron—the tropical rainforest equivalent to Tofino in BC. Chilled out, laid back, and boasting some of the best shopping and night life we’ve experienced during our road trip so far. The two make a great pair if you ask me.
Watch the sunset at Laguna Lookout:
Grab some beers and drive (or walk) up to Laguna Lookout for the sunset.
It doesn’t matter if you like beer and tacos or not, because you will after visiting this cozy and quaint indoor/outdoor bar/restaurant. Tacos are 3 for $15, appies are $5-6 and beer is anywhere between $6 and $10. Their seating is limited, so arrive early for dinner if you want a decent spot in the house.
Noosa National Park:
Take the morning to walk through the National Park and stop for a swim along the way. Choose the blue walking trail on the map, and you’ll meander along the coast until you reach Alexandria Bay. There are a few great beaches before this point in the park; our favourite was Tea Tree Bay (Side Note: Thankfully, sharks aren’t common here at all). If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, you should try to find the Fairy Pools, which are natural rock pools located about halfway along the walk. Google how to get there and the directions should be fairly simple to follow. We never had the chance to go ourselves because we found out about them too late, but I’d love to hear if you get the opportunity to go!
Hike Mt. Coolum:
Although this is definitely more of a “hike” than others in Australia, it is quite short. Don’t let the steep elevation deter you: getting to the top will take no longer than 30 min if you’re a regular hiker. Once at the top, you’ll have spectacular 180 degree views of the endless coastline.
Grab a drink at Noosa Heads Surf Club:
This is the perfect bar to visit for an après beach beer. Ask for their lower priced beers if you’re on a budget, or opt for their $6.50 glass of bubbly. The balcony overlooks the beach, which makes for prefect people watching.
Visit Sunshine Beach:
The waves are a bit bigger here, but the beach itself is stunning. For those who are comfortable in the water and waves, this is a fun place to swim and body surf.
Where to stay:
I really enjoyed Cape Byron YHA. The location was convenient, they had free boogie board and bike rentals, it was clean, the beds were comfortable, and it was a fantastic place to socialize and meet people (bonus, it has a pool!). There are other good hostels in the area, but I highly recommend staying here if you’re unsure.
Walk and shop around the town:
Judging by the size of the town itself, you wouldn’t expect Byron Bay to have good shopping, but oh boy does it ever. You can find everything from high end swimwear and casual summer attire to repurposed denim and boutique dress shops. Forget window shopping, Byron is one place along the East Coast where you might want to spend a bit more of your hard earned cash.
Visit the main beach:
Just a stone’s throw from the main town, this beach is an awesome place to swim and tan if you’re looking for somewhere close and convenient. It’s not necessarily the bluest or nicest beach, but it’s a safe bet if you want to avoid big rip currents and unwanted sea predators (aka sharks).
Spend a night out at the Beach Hotel:
We went out two nights in a row in Byron, and somehow, we ended up here both nights despite our willingness to branch out. On Saturdays they have a DJ, which means the dance floor is packed, and so is the rest of the bar. If you’re like me and you like to go out relatively early, this is your best bet on a weekend. It will be busy from 8 or 9 p.m. onwards and has fantastic indoor and outdoor seating if you need a break from busting moves on the d-floor.
La La Land:
This bar has a bit more of a corporate or conservative vibe, but the venue itself is really unique and it’s a great second choice after the Beach Hotel closes.
Eat cheap lunch at Asia Joe’s:
Just to give you an idea of how stoked we were about this place, we ate here twice for lunch while we were in Byron. Think causal Asian food like curries, Pad Thai, Nasi Goreng (vegan option available), and Mi Goreng for only $10-12 dollars. Add a Stone & Wood beer for only $5.
Have late night food at Bay Kebabs:
Seldom when I go out do I stay out past 1am, but when I do, I usually end up needing some sort of late night grub. This joint is open until 2am and will be your saving grace when you’re craving a substantial food at the early hours of the morning. Kebabs are $11, and they have vegan falafel options too. If you need something after 2am, then head to either Legend Pizza or the kebab place right across the street—both are open until later.
Go for a swim at Wategos Beach:
This beach is only one bay over from the main beach and is a bit more tucked away and green in colour. This means less wind and a better tanning spot. Park your towel closer to the water and not as close to the bushes. We saw a brown snake creeping its way through the greenery while we were there. Lesson learned: No matter where you are or how populated an area is, be cautious of wildlife.
Visit the infamous Byron Light House:
The walk up will definitely wake you up if you’re hungover (hint: there’s many, many stairs involved), but it’s a must-do while you’re in Byron. This lighthouse is one of the nicest I’ve seen in a while and you can walk right up to it unlike many others I’ve tried visiting while travelling. Visit at sunrise or sunset for a completely different experience.
Hike to Minyon Falls:
Plug Minyon Falls into your GPS and park at the picnic area. The hike in is 4.5km one way, but isn’t overly challenging. You’ll walk through dense rainforest along the way, and you can take a dip in the base of the falls when you finally get to the bottom approximately an hour of walking. This may not be the strongest flowing waterfall I’ve ever seen, but the surrounding rock cliffs make it the most magnificent. Side note: As mentioned above, always be on the lookout for brown snakes. They are known to frequent these kinds of areas and hikes, and we did end up seeing one on our way to the falls. If you do run into a snake, stop where you are and give it lots of space. They won’t bite you if you don’t threaten them.
Hike Mt. Warning:
This hike is located on Indigenous land, and it’s rumoured that women aren’t suppose to hike it. This is slightly false, however, and it’s really only specified that Indigenous women aren’t suppose to hike it. Locals informed us that tourists can do it, so long as they’re respectful about it. Despite not doing this hike ourselves, we heard great things from others. It’s 8.8 km return, and is pretty far out of Byron Bay, but it’s one of those activities that is worth the effort if you have the time. Its nickname is Mt. Morning, as most people hike to the summit for sunrise.
Do a Brewery Tour at Stone & Wood:
A brewery tour is only $20 at Stone & Wood and considering it’s Australia’s second largest independently owned brewery, it’s a great place to learn about amazing quality, hand crafted beer. Included in the price of the tour is two schooners and a tasting paddle with a decent sized glass of all five of their beers. You’ll feel like a beer expert after and you can purchase awesome swag from their shop, too.
Have Lunch at The Farm:
The Farm is a restaurant and farm all in one and serves up tasty breakfast and lunch (the restaurant is called The Three Blue Ducks). Expect higher prices for food, but if you’re just wanting to visit the farm and spend less money, you can always just order a drink or coffee instead. Wander the farm afterward and visit their animals and beautiful orchards. Alternatively you can pack your own picnic lunch and eat at one of the picnic tables located throughout the property.
Yoga by donation at Red Tent Yoga:
While on our brewery tour at Stone & Wood, our tour leader mentioned that she teaches a yoga class in the industrial area of Byron, as the locals call it. She teaches a couple of times per week, and the class is always by donation. I’m not much of a yoga person, but I have to say I genuinely enjoyed her class.