I travelled to Byron Bay with some friends on a road trip when I was in my early 20s. We stayed at a youth hostel somewhere, hit up Cheeky Monkeys for some shots, and drove around taking photos with every large object we could find (the big prawn in Ballina, for example).
Cut to over a decade later, and a trip to Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers region is a little different. While the landmarks and big Australian icons are still there, there has been an influx of amazing creatives and foodies that have set up shop in the area, as well as social media stars sharing every corner of town. But don’t be put off by its ‘sceney’ status, there are a still lots of places to escape to if you want to unwind.
One of my favourite things about the area is that it’s somewhere you can visit any time of the year. Whether it’s peak summer season or the middle of winter, there is plenty to do and see. The aforementioned creative scene is experiencing huge growth, with new design stores, fashion, accommodation and restaurants opening with every visit. In a year when travel was scarce, Byron has offered a plethora of new experiences and a change of pace to the usual working from home grind.
While the sleepier, more casual Byron Bay of the past has evolved, the town and surrounding area still holds many secrets. You can still explore some of the most incredible nature walks, find small cafes hidden away in country towns and take time out on spectacular drives to see where the rainforest meets the sea.
I go to Byron to get inspired, to take pause and connect with other designers. By no means am I a local, but one of the best things about Byron Bay, is that when you get there, you’re on holiday… but you still feel at home. And on the way out of town, as the sun rises and we brace for an 8 hour drive back to Sydney, I still go past the big prawn at Ballina every time, because it makes me smile and reminds me that I’ve been doing this trip for a while, and it gets better with every visit.
Here are a few of my favourite spots!
Photo – Jono Fleming.
Jono and his partner Ryan at The Top Shop – a hilltop cafe famous for its surfy burgers! Photo – Jono Fleming.
Whites Beach is a secluded surf spot surrounded by picturesque bushland. Photo – Jono Fleming.
The Eltham Pub was established in 1902 and sits on the outskirts of the hinterland! Photo – Jono Fleming.
La Casita is a low-key Mexican cantina by the same owners as Fleet. Photo – Jono Fleming.
Glorious waves rolling in to the shore. Photo – Jono Fleming.
Spanner crab scramble at Three Blue Ducks. Photo – Jono Fleming.
The Farm at Byron Bay: the setting for Three Blue Ducks. Photo – Jono Fleming.
The impressive new Tigmi Trading HQ and showroom. Photo – Alicia Taylor.
Inside Tigmi Trading’s new HQ. Photo – Alicia Taylor.
Formerly a 1990s warehouse, the store and showroom has undergone an extensive reno – complete with sculptures by denHolm! Photo – Jono Fleming.
Nikau Store is a ceramics mecca! Photo – Jono Fleming.
All the handmade wares on display at Nikau Store .Photo – Jono Fleming.
Sunseeker Motel is the newest, hottest, hippest accommodation in town! Photo – Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.
A mix of local designers and vintage finds constitute the entire 70s-inspired decorative theme. Photo – Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.
Crazy paving and Fearon Borthers furniture at Sunseeker Motel. Photo – Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.
The previously decrepit roadside motel has been given a new contemporary life, while still remaining faithful to its original character. Photo – Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.
The motel interiors are a showcase for budding Australian design talent! Photo – Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.
Comma day spa is quintessentially Byron: low-key, impeccably designed, and relaxing! Photo – Lisa Sorgini.
Left: The interiors of Comma are instantly relaxing. Photo – Lisa Sorgini. Right: The beach is incredible, no matter what time of day you’re there. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Killen Falls. Photo – Jono Fleming.
Minyon Falls rainforest walk on the edge of Whian Whian State Conservation Area. Photo – Jono Fleming.
Jono himself on the Minyon Falls rainforest walk! Photo – Jono Fleming.
Scouts Falls are closer to Coff’s Harbor than Byron, but are on the way if you are driving to and from Sydney. Photo – Jono Fleming.
The bubbly, ever-enthusiastic Jono Fleming! Photo – Jono Fleming.
Walking down the boardwalk at The Pass, Byron. Photo – Jono Fleming.