Travel and Leisure — February 24, 2014 at 5:00 am

6 Reasons to Head to Byron Bay, Australia

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Near-perfect weather year-round. World-renown surf breaks—and lots of them. Home to sandy beaches, to a thriving artist community, and to dolphins mingling with surfers in the warm waters of the Pacific, it’s easy to fall in love with Byron Bay, Australia.

Situated on the eastern shores of New South Wales, this coastal village is popular with die-hard surfers, nomadic backpackers, and beach-lovers alike. Less than two hours south of Brisbane, Byron Bay is a necessary stop to anyone making the pilgrimage along Australia’s East Coast. In fact, it’s a worthy destination on its own: here are 6 reasons why.

  Surf’s Up!
Simply put, Byron Bay needs to be on every surfer’s bucket list. There are several renown breaks along the coast: for instance, The Pass is a long boarder’s paradise, while The Wreck features a phenomenal right-hander that just about brushes up against an old shipwreck.

For those who aren’t already part of the surf culture, Byron Bay is the perfect place to become initiated. Warm waters, sandy bottoms, and areas with gentle waves: check, check, and check.

Surf Towns Aren’t Born Overnight
Byron Bay wasn’t always the beach-lovers’ mecca that it is today. Throughout the middle of the 20th century, Byron Bay was home to a factory that produced dairy products, bacon, and other processed meats. Whale slaughtering was an annual event, and between all of these activities, the town smelled–well, let’s just say it didn’t smell like saltwater and coconut oil.

These rather unsavory industries eventually declined, making way for other opportunities for the beachside town. Its status as a beach haven emerged in the sixties, when surfers discovered the incredible natural breaks that were just begging to be appreciated. The secret wasn’t very well-kept, leading to Byron Bay’s current popularity with surfers and backpackers.

Prefer to Enjoy the Surf From Land?
If you’re the type who prefers to stay dry, don’t write off this surf town, because there’s much more it than just playing in the water. Byron Bay is home to some incredible luxury hotels: check out The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa, the Beach Suites, and the Azabu Guesthouse. Between spa treatments, horse riding on the beach, mountain bike tours, and hot air balloon rides, being bored won’t be an option.

Or How About Whale Watching?
Every year between May and December, roughly 17,000 humpback whales migrate along the coast of Australia to establish their breeding and birthing grounds. These majestic mammals weigh more than 100,000 pounds and can measure nearly 60 feet long.

It’s believed that humpback whales use landmarks to help them navigate their way around, which explains why they stick so close to shore. Because of this, coastal towns like Byron Bay get to witness these beautiful creatures up close and personal. There are several whale watching groups in town, and you’re most likely to encounter the humpbacks between June and November.

Discover Byron Bay’s Roots
Fans of blues and roots music will want to take note of the Byron Bay Bluesfest, formally known as the East Coast International Blues & Roots Music Festival.

Though the Byron Bay Bluesfest took place in Byron Bay proper in the nineties, it’s now held roughly 15 minutes away in Tyagarah. Past performers have included Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Ben Harper, John Fogerty, John Mayer, The Roots, Bo Diddley, Gotye, Paul Simon and Santana, among many other huge names in the industry.

Behold: The Crystal Castle
In the mid eighties, what is now known as “The Crystal Castle” was the headquarters of a crystal importer and supplier, owned by a couple who were equally passionate about the business as they were about beautifying the castle’s surrounding lands.

Locals were drawn towards the curious compound, and the Crystal Castle opened to the public. The owners continued to develop the property’s lush, manicured gardens, eventually adding amenities to service the ever-increasing number of visitors.

Today, anyone can visit the gardens, explore the Labyrinth, stroll along both the Buddha Walk and Rainforest Walk, and participate in an aura or astrological reading. Crystals are still sold on-site, as is one-of-a-kind jewelry and other unique mementos.

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