The Surfer Town Of Byron Bay: A Swell Place To Hang Out

28 July 2015
Read Time: 2.8 mins

Australian surfing legend Stephanie Gilmore, six-time women's world champion, shares her knowledge and experiences of Byron Bay, one of Australia's most popular destinations. Of course there's great surfing to be had, she says, but Byron offers much more from the beach scene to fashion to favourite eateries and places to hear great music.

Here's what she has to say:

When I was a kid, Byron was all about packing the tent and surfboards into our VW Combi vans and setting up at First Sun Caravan Park right on the beach at the Wreck. I absolutely loved those trips. Byron has changed a lot since then. The population has grown rapidly, which some people have objected to, but it’s still very relaxed.

And, of course, the beaches are just as beautiful as ever.

My dad would take my sisters and I surfing all day at The Pass – it’s a great beginners’ point-break wave. This kind of wave slowly breaks on one side so the surfer can ride the open face as it runs down the point.

The ride is longer and better for a longer-length learner’s board. Even as an advanced surfer, point breaks are my favourite waves.

Steph Gilmore Stephanie Gilmore

Women’s presence in surfing is growing rapidly. I see more and more girls, of all ages, in what were formerly male-dominated line-ups.

In the past, we weren’t welcomed but I’ve seen guys’ attitudes change and now I find them to be far more encouraging. I actually think they enjoy seeing how fast we’re progressing.

Wategos beach is my favourite. When the swell is bigger, the crowds aren’t too big and the sun is out, it’s one of the most magical places in the world. Set up a blanket on the beach, take a range of boards and you won’t want to leave until sunset. And, if you need somewhere to stay, try Rae’s.

Whites beach has to be one of the most beautiful and deserted in the area. Sunrise at Belongil beach is the perfect time and place for yoga.

Restore body and mind at Byron. Body & Board: Yoga & Surfing In Beautiful Byron Bay

Make the most of two days in Byron. How To Spend 48 Hours In Byron Bay

My favourite spot in Bryon isn’t actually a beach – it’s a restaurant called The Balcony. It’s great for sitting outdoors, people-watching. The town has a really good foodie scene. The Roadhouse is my go-to lunch spot at the moment. Have the fish tacos with a nice gin spritzer.

My favourite place for dinner is The Italian at the Byron Beach Hotel. It makes a mean negroni and great lamb-shank lasagne.

Coffee is a big deal in Byron. The Top Shop cafe is on a corner block just off the main street; it’s a great spot to hang out on the grass in the sun.

Evening mood with surfers at Watego Beach near Cape Byron, New South Wales Surfers at Watego Beach near Cape Byron, New South Wales. Photograph: Alamy

Surfing Has Its Fashion Side Too

I love the fashion side of surfing, the balance of sport and lifestyle. Pompidou has great contemporary Australian brands, Spell is a local designer with a style that is very “Byron bohemian”, and Ahoy Trader is perfect for house-styling pieces.

Every visitor should take a walk up to the lighthouse at Tallow beach to enjoy the view and watch the dolphins play in the ocean below.

Byron has a great music scene and hosts two of Australia’s best music festivals: Bluesfest and Splendour in the Grass. We also have the Falls Festival – I play guitar and joined the band Spiderbait on stage at the latter. A lot of big musicians hang out here – some have bought homes. A good place to watch bands in town is The Northern bar.

The Roadhouse, Byron Bay, Australia The Roadhouse. Photograph: Kirra Pendergast/PR

Mount Warning is the first bit of Australia that Captain Cook spotted. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Byron and a two-hour hike up and down, but the view and rainforest vibe are worth it.

It’s always fun to stand-up paddle at The Pass, if the waves are flat. When there is no swell, paddle out around the headland or up the coast to Main Beach.

Of course, there’ll always be a few people who are way too aggressive but they obviously can’t see how lucky they are to be riding waves in the ocean for fun, so I try to steer clear of them. Having more girls in the line-up definitely brings a nice balance to the atmosphere.

The ArtPark Gallery is an awesome local Byron crew who put on great exhibitions.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Byron Bay.

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This article was written by Interview by Sam Haddad from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Sam Haddad

Sam Haddad writes for Guardian Travel and the Guardian Bike Blog, and is the brand editor of Cooler Magazine, a sport and lifestyle title for women.