From pristine beaches and near-perfect weather to a paddock-to-plate food philosophy and a luxe boho culture, Byron Bay has a magnetic pull. This seaside town used to be a lot sleepier than it is now, but with an influx of hipsters, sustainably-bent folks and passionate foodies, things are changing — and fast. Forget tourist traps, here’s where the locals dine.
Sustainably-produced Australian wine is the focus at Fleet and though the restaurant is small (just 22 seats) and the bar is tiny (there isn't even room for a cool room) this place is delivering on both atmosphere and quality. This Brunswick Heads destination has a menu that keeps up with the pizzaz of the drinks, with clean, simple Modern Australian tasting plates created with whatever's fresh at the farmer's markets that week.
Don’t be perturbed by its unusual location. On the fringe of Byron, on Ewingsdale Road at the entrance to a caravan park, this weatherboard cottage delivers a wholesome, organic, plant-based menu with each dish presented so prettily, you won’t want to eat it. Almost. Beyond health-conscious fare, Folk also makes a mean coffee.
About a 20 minute drive South West of Byron Bay is Harvest, a restaurant, deli and café that oozes country charm and is brimming with creative, perfectly executed fare. Housed in a 1900’s weatherboard cottage, in the quaint town of Newrybar, Harvest is more upmarket than most Byron Bay offerings. The kitchen turns out Modern Australian cuisine using organic produce from the surrounding Byron Bay hinterland.
This café-by-day and restaurant-by-night epitomises everything I love about Byron Bay – it’s friendly, chockers full of locals and serves nutritious, satisfying and delicious food every meal of the day. There is more to this Byron Bay favourite than quality food and booze – you won’t find a menu anywhere because it changes daily, and all ingredients are not only organic but sourced from local farmers. It’s primarily a sugar-free zone with coconut sugar available only when requested. Despite this holier-than-thou approach to the sweet stuff, The Roadhouse doesn’t feel preachy – it’s more like dining at your mate’s house, if only your mate was this healthy.
Set away from Byron Bay’s main drag, Topshop is where barefooted surfers and bikini-clad locals congregate over acai breakfast bowls and green smoothies. It’s not all kale and chia seeds though, Top Shop is where you’ll find the best burger in town and a great steak sanga. Perch on a cushion street-side, sip a smoothie and soak up Byron’s perfect weather.
I’m putting it out there: Bay Leaf serves the best coffee in Byron Bay. Like most cafes in the area, Bay Leaf sources ingredients from local suppliers with beans from Marvel Street Coffee Roasters, which is literally just across the road, and bread is sourced from The Bread Social. Lunchtime salads are a standout with combinations such as flaked ocean trout, shredded kale and wakame or seared sesame tuna with honeyed carrots and brown rice. Dishes take time, so just make sure you’re on Byron Bay time.
You may be more familiar with their chic boutique clothing and homewares store on the main drag in Bangalow but the style and class of the store has been translated into a beautiful café, just next door. Peruse the shop and then retreat to the café’s balcony where creative, produce-driven dishes shine on the menu.
While Byron Bay itself can sometimes seem overrun with souvenir stores and snorkelling tour shops, a short drive to surrounding towns such as Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby (or Mullum, as the locals call it) will offer a taste of the sleepy, hippy vibe that this area was once famous for. Milk and Honey is a popular pizza joint, favoured by locals. Their wood fired oven churns out pizza that rivals the biggest Italian restaurants in the city.
One of Byron’s best kept secrets, 100 Mile Table is a collaboration between two talented individuals – Sarah Swan and Jeremy Burn. Located in Byron’s Arts and Industrial Estate, the duo have created a café, dynamic pop-up dining space and a catering company that all adhere to their locavore philosophy – as their moniker suggests, sourcing all produce within 100 miles. The edgy café was designed by a local architect with long, wooden communal tables and an industrial chic vibe.