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The Essential Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Byron Bay Beach - Australia Bucket List

Tucked away in the northern coast of New South Wales, Australia, Byron Bay is a hidden gem and haven for backpackers and locals alike. This hippie surf town may seem like yet another Australian party central, but really, there is so much more than meets the eye. If you’re preparing to backpack to Byron Bay, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s absolutely worth the trip – if you follow this essential Byron Bay backpacking guide written by Cal from Mountain Leon.

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What and Where is Byron Bay?

When it was first discovered by the Arakwal, it was fondly called Cavvanbah, which means ‘The Meeting Place’.  This beautiful coastal town is in New South Wales in southeastern Australia, south of Brisbane & Gold Coast.  Today, Byron Bay is considered one of Australia’s favourite weekend escapade locations and is known for incredible beaches, surfing and scuba diving. Spend a few days in this vibrant paradise and you’ll see why so many people love backpacking in Byron Bay!

Byron Bay Lighthouse - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Byron Bay Lighthouse – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

How to Get to Byron Bay from Brisbane or Sydney?

If you’re on a budget, then a bus is your best bet.

A bus to Byron Bay can cost anywhere from 40 AUD from Brisbane which takes 2-3 hours (via Brisbane 2 Byron).  To get to Byron Bay from Sydney you can take an overnight bus from Sydney via Greyhound, which costs from 99 AUD.  You can also consider taking one of the Hop On Hop Off packages with Greyhound that lets you travel across the vast expanse of Australia’s East Coast, and stop off at several destinations on the way.

READ MORE: Top Tips for Backpacking Australia on a Budget

Flights to Byron Bay

There is an airport about 15 minutes away from Byron Bay, called Ballina Airport, so check out Skyscanner for cheap flights before you book your bus ticket – some deals actually work out cheaper than the bus!

Where to Stay in Byron Bay?

There are plenty of excellent hostels in Byron Bay that won’t drain your bank account when you are backpacking around Australia.

Byron Bay Beach - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Byron Bay Beach – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

The Best Hostels in Byron Bay for Backpackers

  • Arts Factory Lodge is well-loved by backpackers for its beautiful accommodations and many activities you can join for free.  Book Now.
  • Aquarius Backpackers is also highly acclaimed for its ideal location just 150m from the beach, and a free meal every night of the week.  Book Now.
  • A 5-minute walk from town, another good hostel is Backpackers Inn, which is located right at the beach and offers a budget-friendly price.  Book Now.
  • Wake Up! gets great reviews and offers a ton of freebies included in the cost, from free bike hire to surfboard hire, and yoga classes.  It is about 15 minutes’ walk from town or you can take their free shuttle bus.  Book Now.

TOP BACKPACKERS TIP: For really cheap accommodations, visit during a ‘low season’, such as during the winter, and you could get a dorm room for 16 AUD, much lower than the peak season price of 50 AUD.


Airbnbs in Byron Bay

Or check the options on Airbnb.   If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get $30 USD credit to use on your first trip!


Things to do in Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Aside from the usual recommendation of walking along the beach and taking in the scenery, what else is there to do in the hippest town in Australia? Many, many things, my friend – there are no shortage of things to do in this Byron Bay backpacking guide!

Surfing at Byron Bay Beach - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Surfing at Byron Bay Beach – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Wander around and enjoy the street art and buskers at every street

At almost every turn, you’re guaranteed to find something going on in the streets of Byron Bay.  Take the time to wander and appreciate the incredible busking sessions and spontaneous performances happening all over the Bay.  If you’re lucky, you might even witness an artist creating their street artwork live.

Explore the local markets

Byron Bay is known for its busy and eclectic markets. From local delicacies to beautiful handcrafted products, the Byron Bay Markets are a definite must-go.

The Community Market takes place on the first Sunday of the month, but if you’re not around then, there’s the Farmer’s Market on Thursdays and The Artisan Market every Saturday night.

Take an early morning hike

The Cape Byron walking track is highly recommended by locals. You’ll get a scenic forest view and a chance to spot wallabies, dolphins and turtles.

Learn to surf

At one of Australia’s best surf spots, there’s no excuse to not learn how to surf. Hire a personal instructor and hit the waves at one of the many great beaches Byron Bay has to offer, like Main Beach and Belongil, which is recommended for beginner surfers.

For surfboards, visit ESP Surfboards to snag a high-quality board for a good price.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Learning to Surf in Fuerteventura

Take a Walk to Byron Bay Lighthouse - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Take a Walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Watch the sunset at Cape Byron Lighthouse

While at Byron Bay, you must do the Lighthouse Walk. Starting at the Main Beach, walk to The Pass and follow the trail to Wategos Beach. Head to the most easterly point of Australia, then finally, to the famous Byron Bay lighthouse. They say this is where you can see the best sunrise or sunset in all of Australia, so don’t miss it!

Join the drum circle at the Main Beach at night

After sunset, there’s almost always a drum circle happening at the Main Beach. Grab a beer and dance to the rhythm of the drums!

Attend a music festival

If you’re a fan of music festivals, then you’re in luck. Three popular Australian music festivals, Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival and Bluesfest take place nearby.

If not, check out the festival dates anyway, as hostels in Byron Bay tend to fill up fairly quickly during festival season.

Go Scuba Diving or Snorkelling

Julian Rock Marine Reserve was voted one of the top dive sites in Australia, and Lonely Planet likened it to a ‘mini Galapagos.  Diving and snorkelling here is incredible, there is no doubt about that! Check out Sundive and Byron Bay Dive Centre to go scuba diving in Byron Bay.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Cenote Diving in Tulum Mexico

Scuba Diving at Byron Bay - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Scuba Diving at Byron Bay – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Kayak with Dolphins

Head out to sea in a kayak to get up close to the marine life from the surface.  Dolphins are common in Byron Bay, so much so that most tour companies offer a ‘dolphin guarantee’ where if you don’t see any dolphins you can go again for free.  You might also spot turtles and whales, and get to see the coastline & lighthouse from the water.  Book Now.


Not the most budget activity I admit, but if you can afford to splash the cash while you’re backpacking in Byron Bay, then skydiving is a fantastic, adrenaline pumping adventure not to be missed.  Book Now.

The Best Places to Eat in Byron Bay for Backpackers

  • Get Toasted  – Great food to start off your day.
  • Sparrow Coffee Co. – A ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cafe with incredible coffee.
  • Orgasmic – Middle-Eastern food that is to die for.
  • Chihuahua – 6 AUD tacos? Yes please.
  • BayGer – The best burgers in town. Watch out for the 10 AUD meal deal on Tuesdays!
  • BalconyEvery Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm, you can enjoy oysters for a dollar!
Oysters for 1 AUD at Balcony - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Oysters for 1 AUD at Balcony – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Nightlife in Byron Bay

Byron Bay may seem magical in the day, but it’s at night when the whole town really comes to life.

  • The Rails – Live music and good drinks every night.
  • Cheeky Monkeys – Known as a backpacker bar, Cheek Monkeys offers cheap drinks (3 AUD cocktails) and meals for just 5 AUD.
  • Byron Bay Brewery – If you’re looking for a more relaxed bar, this is the one for you. Buy one take one 10 AUD meals every night and good beer. What more could you ask for?
  • The Mez Club – Grab a 10 AUD cocktail and 5 AUD beer during their late afternoon happy hour to get the buzz going.
  • AQ – The bar at Aquarius Backpackers Resort is said to sell the cheapest and strongest drinks in town!

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Top Tips for Backpacking in Byron Bay

  • September to October are the best months to go whale watching.
  • Kings Beach, Brays Beach and White Beach are absolute hidden gems just around Broken Head that are must-sees.
  • Little Wategos Beach is Byron Bay’s best-kept secret. You can only reach it by foot, but it’s next to Wategos Beach, so it shouldn’t be hard to find.
  • Swimming in Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head nourishes your hair and skin with all the essential oils in the water.
Sea Kayaking at Byron Bay - Byron Bay Backpacking Guide
Sea Kayaking at Byron Bay – Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

Should I go Backpacking to Byron Bay?

Yes, solid yes!

Byron Bay casts a spell on everyone who sets foot in it – you’ll never want to leave.  With something always happening and visitors coming from all corners of the world, Byron Bay possesses its own kind of magic that can’t be found or replicated anywhere else.

Here, you might find yourself doing some relaxing, some soul-searching, some exploring or some roof-raising partying. Whatever you are in to, you’ll find that moments in Byron Bay are truly like none other.

Have you been to backpacking in Byron Bay?  I’d love to hear your tips, or if there is anything we missed.  Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Australia, get a quote now from World Nomads.

About The Author

Cal Bailey runs Mountain Leon – a travel blog he started after two years backpacking around the world. If you want to learn more about life on the road or his blogging, check out his latest posts.

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Last updated: February 15, 2020

4 thoughts on “The Essential Byron Bay Backpacking Guide

  1. Paige says:

    This is a great guide to Byron Bay! I’ve not visited Australia, but Bryon Bay is such an iconic must-visit stop! Great tips on place to eat – Cheeky Monkeys sounds like the ultimate backpacker location.

  2. Kirstie Saldo says:

    I have always wanted to visit Byron Bay. I love beaches and Australia has a lot of great beaches, I heard. This, however, is that one beach that my cousin would always tell me about. Really beautiful. Who would say no to kayaks with dolphins! Can’t wait to visit!

  3. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Byron Bay looks so beautiful. I was wondering if there is any connection to the English poet Lord Byron. The place seems to epitomize the great outdoors of Australia. The sunset at the Byron Bay Lighthouse sounds like a great experience.

  4. sherianne says:

    Australia is such a great destination. I have been to Brisbane but not Byron bay. I would love to kayak with dolphins and how awesome that there is a guarantee!

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