The Three Blue Ducks Ultimate Byron Bay Guide
In the last couple of decades Byron Bay has matured from a sleepy surf spot into a sophisticated town. What it may have lost in small town charm has been more than made up with some of Australia’s best food, art, music and design. And with that it’s become a perfect destination for almost every traveller.
While surf fashion still stands proud down the main streets of Johnson and Lawson, they’ve been joined and outnumbered by fashion boutiques. Some of these local designers (Spell, Thrills and Goddess of Babylon to name a few) now are now making an impact on the world stage.
The food scene has made it’s own journey. Not that long ago it was take away shops and pub grub, but now there’s a host of restaurants, with top notch chefs, serving up most of the world’s cuisines.
If you’re coming to Byron and want to see the best of it, bring your walking shoes and make sure you have a car, because while the centre of Byron swells with tourists year round, it’s the surrounding areas where the natural beauty is matched with creative offerings from some of the most talented operators in the region. Expedia’s Aussie travellers spend 2-3 nights in Byron – here’s our guide to making the most of a few days in northern NSW’s bountiful Byron Bay.
The road sign on the way into town reads “Welcome to Byron Bay – Cheer up, Slow down, Chill out” and that’s exactly what you should do. Make sure you get in before sunset, drop your bags at Atlantic Byron Bay, where every room is like the perfect beach house, and head off to view one Byron’s most spectacular sites – the sunset. Get down to Wategos Beach and walk around the headland to Little Wategos where you can sit and watch the sun setting over the water and the Byron Hinterland… more often than not you’ll be joined by dolphins surfing some of Australia’s most famous waves in the last rays of sunlight.
From there, head back in to town and make your way to the institution that is The Railway Friendly Bar (known locally as “The Rails”). This refitted train station is now better known for the eclectic mix of characters drinking there, for serving the best pub meal in town and for showcasing the best local music acts, in fact there’s live music there every night of the week. Sit back and relax or get up and dance, but make sure you sample Byron’s favourite brew – Stone & Wood Pacific Ale – and chat to some of the people that make this bar, and this town so special.
Next morning pack your swimmers and towel and head south out of town. Drive towards Broken Head, turn right just before the caravan park and follow the dirt road to the top of the track down to the Braes Beach. It’s a fifteen minute walk down a rocky track, along the coast line and down to a beach that you’ll more than likely have to yourself. Sit on the sand or among the Pandanus that encircle the beach, but make sure, swimmers or not, that you get yourself into the water – there’s no better way to wake yourself up properly than a splash of the Pacific’s finest.
From there head back towards Byron and stop in at arguably Byron’s coolest (and best) breakfast spots. The Roadhouse is the place to fuel up for the day with a healthy breakfast – if you’re every going to try an almond milk chai latte, this is the place!! Sit outside under the palm trees with a cold pressed juice as you start considering your next move.
The Northern Rivers is one of Australia’s most productive food bowls, with a huge variety of crops taking advantage of the rich soil, wet summers, cool winters and year round sunshine. The best place to see, try and buy the amazing bounty on offer is the local markets. The farmer’s market moves around the region through the week, but my pick is every Friday in Mullumbimby. There’s a great range of organic produce, local artisanal goods and ready to eat food that you can eat while listening to the local bands that play through the morning.
Grab some local cheese, cured meats, dips, bread, jams and fruit and head west for a picnic at Killen Falls in Tintenbar. This is perfect place to relax, suck in the fresh country air and read a book, cooling off every now and then with a dip under the falls in the crystal clear water.
North of Byron is another little surf town that’s quickly building a reputation for quality food offerings. Best known for “The Bruns”, the pub with one of the best beer gardens in the country (and epic Sunday night live music sessions), Brunswick Heads now also boasts the 2015 Good Food Guide’s regional restaurant of the year, Fleet. This is a must on your trip to the area. It appears as though Brunswick Heads is where Byron was 20 years ago, but when you walk into Fleet you know this is something modern and special. It’s a small, intimate place and the care and attention that you get from the incredible owners, Josh (chef) and Astrid (service) makes you feel like you’re guests in their home. Make sure you try the sweetbread schnitzel sanga and something special from their amazing wine list… the rest is up to you!!
Get up early and start the day with a surf. If you’re happy to brave the crowds and you want the “Byron experience”, then head to Wategos or The Pass. Otherwise, as with the food, the best spots are out of town. At the southern end of the stretch of sand from Tallows Beach in Byron, the swell in Broken Head may be a little smaller than other areas, but the sheltered spot can provide a perfect right-hander. If you want more remote and less people, head north, past Brunswick Heads and up to South Golden Beach or New Brighton. To be honest you’re spoilt for choice around here and on any given day, if there’s swell in the ocean, somewhere will have good waves… you may just need to drive to find them.
For breakfast head into Bangalow. For me, this quaint town is the most stylish and charming in the region with its antiques, boutiques and of course a couple of great dining options!! The most recent addition to the food scene comes from the talented girls from the homewares, clothing and gift shop Our Corner Store. This is one of those amazing stores where you just want to buy everything on the shelves. Their latest endeavour Our Corner Kitchen is a stylish, but comfortable spot just off the main street. Everything there is tasty and done beautifully. Grab the Sunday papers, get comfortable and eat your way through the morning… starting with the Kedgeree and a flat white.
If you happen to be in Bangalow on the fourth Sunday of the month then wander across the road after breakfast and head down to the markets. These markets are a mix of fresh produce, local artisan food products and gifts and the other regular market stalls. Again, as you’ll find all around the Northern Rivers, there’ll be live music providing a soundtrack to your weekend. Wander around and walk off your breakfast as you’ll want to make room for lunch.
Next stop is The Farm. Just outside Byron on 86 acres of prime agricultural land, this new agri-tourism venture includes a baker, a florist, a yoga studio and a restaurant being supplied, in part anyway, by the working farm on site. The Farm provides fresh produce, pigs, cows and eggs from the 700 laying hens and the restaurant, Three Blue Ducks, serves up some of the best, freshest food in the region – if I do say so myself.
All the produce from The Farm is also available to buy in the produce store on site. The Ducks serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, which are all worth a visit, but for something a little unusual, get in early afternoon on the weekend for the BBQ. Depending on what is available – whole pigs/lamb on the spit, fresh line caught fish, maple glazed pumpkin on the grill or just the trusty sausage sandwich (meant to be for the kids, but these house made sausage from the farms livestock work for all ages!!), you can’t really go wrong. It’s a take away style service, which means you also get to avoid the lengthy weekend queues for a table in the restaurant.
The bar has 56 taps showcasing some of the best beer and wine Australia has to offer in the most sustainable way possible (no bottles) and a cocktail list showcasing local, seasonal, native ingredients. If you like food, the Three Blue Ducks are doing it properly with everything spray free or organic, sourced locally and everything only available when it’s in season.
The Farm is also an amazing place to spend the afternoon. Walk around the grounds checking out the animals, chat to the farmers, join an organised tour… or just sit back in the sun and enjoy the sounds, tastes and smells coming from the restaurant. My tip would be to hang around and be here for the sunset. Watch the glow come up from behind Mt Warning and enjoy a last drink around the fire pit that lights up most weekend days as the light starts to fade. As darkness kicks in and your 48 hours in Byron comes to an end, my tip would be to make one last food stop.
Mullumbimby has a couple of great spots to eat. Rock n Roll café is now an establishment in the area, well known for its coffee, friendly service and fresh, Asian influenced food. They serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner and all are worth a visit, but on Sunday night, when the town is more or less asleep, the local pizza place, Milk & Honey is packed. This place is no ordinary pizzeria and their wood fired offerings and fresh salads are worth what can be a fair wait. I’m yet to have a bad pizza there, but what would never have been my first choice, the mushroom pizza, is now firmly my favourite.
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