I recently guest posted on my favourite backpacker surf spots from around the globe, but despite the many that made the list – from Montanita in Ecuador through to Bali in Indonesia – there’s one place that for me is a stand out favourite.

It’s also a place I shall be heading back to later this year hopefully.

Byron Bay, Australia.


Start of My Travels

byron bay surfing sunset

Another Classic Byron Sunset

Back in 2009 when I started my first gap year in Australia I had little clue about where I’d end up or spend the majority of my time. In a mash of coincidences and after a good stint exploring the country (both east and west coast) I landed my first backpacking job in Byron Bay just after covering Bluesfest.

This quaint little hippy town in northern NSW quickly caught my attention with its mix of local characters, charisma, nightlife and of course the surf.

Before arriving in Byron I’d struggled to find a surf spot that matched up to my expectations as a long boarder from the UK. Sure I’d had some good sessions around Torquay and Bells, and yes the beaches of Sydney gave me some good waves to play on – but Byron was the first spot that got me totally frothing!


Byron Bay Surf Spots

One of the best things about backpacking and surfing in Byron is the amount of surf sits within a relatively compact space.

Byron is actually the most easterly point of Oz and as such the headland is perfectly placed to soak up a lot of swell. And a lot of swell is what I got in Byron – and here’s some of the spots that I paddled out to enjoy;


1) The Pass – without a doubt the most famous wave in Byron, and for good reason. This sandy bottom point break is a long boarders dream – reeling into the bay. It can handle everything from 1foot to easily overhead, but if it’s firing the lineup will be packed!

byron bay surf spots

The Wreck, Byron Bay


2) Main Beach – funnily enough this is the main section of Byrons sandy beaches! It also produces a fun wave too, although on a bigger swell it can be pretty hollow and fast.


3) The Wreck – as a personal favourite it’s second only to The Pass. An old shipwreck (whose rudder is still visible above the waterline) has created a nice sand bar that’s mainly a right handed. However on a higher tide and with a good sized swell this spot throws out some beautiful lefts, with a couple cheeky cover ups if you sit deep enough.


4) Wategos – just over the hill and nestled in the shadow of the lighthouse is Wategos. This spot is a great place for everyone but can also hold its own in a good size swell, especially further out or in front of the cliffs.


5) Broken Head – if you’re looking to escape the crowds a bit or the swell isn’t lighting up Byrons main beaches then the short drive to broken head will usually pay off in uncrowned waves. There’s heaps of dolphins here too which is always fun! Both the point and the beach break are good fun in varying sized surf.


6) Tallows – a favourite for short boarders Tallows soaks up pretty much any swell heading past and 9/10 times there’s something rideable there. Just be careful of the heavy rips even on a medium swell, and it an get pretty sharky out there too!



byron bay backpacker nightlife

Goon Times!

Of course Byron Bay wouldn’t be a backpacking surfers favourite spot without a good lashing of nightlife now would it?!

As a backpacker hub Byron caters well for the nocturnal activities of travellers and there’s numerous places you can enjoy a cold beer, good company and make a few bad decisions!

By far the most infamous is Cheeky Monkeys Bar – which dishes up backpacker budget friendly food before turning into a drunken, table dancing frenzy later in the evening. If you haven’t stacked it off a table mid dance you haven’t truly experience Byron!

My favourite haunt on my latest trips back to Byron Bay though has been Woodys Surf Shack – which has some great live music events, an awesome vibe and they even give away  surfboard each week too…so get involved!

Other spots to sink a few include The Beachy (great for a more local, chilled drink), AQ Bar, Cocomangas, The Rails and The Buddha Bar.


Flat Day Fun

aquarius hostel byron bay backpackers aqOf course Byron isn’t going to be firing off 365 days a year, but luckily the town has a whole heap of things to do when the surfs flat too.

Why not stroll up to the lighthouse for a sunset or sunrise (always good bonus points for a date!), kayak around the bay to meet the local dolphins, sit around and whale watch or even jump on a day trip to the hippy Mecca of Nimbin, where ancient leather skinned hippy types will sell you pretty much any bakery goods with “space” in front of it!

Failing that you can indulge in some retail therapy splashing out the Ripcurl or FCS Shop on some new surf kit!


Do you have any must dos in Byron or checked it out yourself? If you’re looking to head there then check out my Byron Bay Mini Guide for more info.


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10 Responses

    • Chris

      awwww its a great place to start surfing! Any plans to head back then!?

  1. Jade

    Your blog is so cool! Looking to go to Byron for a week in October this year, is that good weather for sunbathing, water sports?

    • Chris

      Hey Jade – stoked you’re heading to Byron, love it there! October should be good weather wise and there’s a lot to keep you busy there with surfing, kayaking, diving, hikes, day trips…more than enough to fill a week!

  2. Justin

    Chris – Your blog is fantastic man it’s been very helpful in preparing for my 2 week surf trip down the East Coast. Living out of a sleeper van. Departing tomorrow (1/24/15)for Brisbane and making the drive South. Plan is to take a little over a week getting to Sydney, then flying back to Brisbane, train to Eumundi, and taking a 4wd to Fraser Island to camp out. A question I could use your insight on:

    – South of Byron Bay…do you recommend that I just head straight to Yamba? Limited amount of time here

    – South of Yamba – Would you suggest heading straight to Sydney, and beaches south of Sydney? I was told to avoid Newcastle and the breaks around there right now.

    Thanks Chris appreciate the insight. Safe travels.


    • Chris

      Hey Justin,
      Stoked you like the blog and you’re heading down under for some waves!
      Hmmm surf wise there’s so many spots between Byron and Yamba! Lennox Head might be a good stop off, depending on your level of surfing though as the rock jump off isn’t really a beginner break!
      From Yamba again there’s a lot of places to stop, Coffs Harbour has a nice little break at the north of the town and there’s plenty of empty waves to score.
      Hmmmm yes Newcastle has a rogue Great White at the moment so surf safe! Manly is a great place to surf in Sydney and I much prefer it to places like Bondi.
      Hope that helps! Let me know how you get on!

  3. Dan

    Hey Chris, your blog is sweet btw!

    Was just wondering a couple of things..

    1) Do you travel with your own board or do you rent ones at the different beaches? How much on average are boards to rent?

    2) I’m thinking about exploring the east coast with my girlfriend and we love the idea of renting a camper van to do so. Is there many campsites along the east coast for camper vans? Do you have to be in a campsite to sleep?

    Thanks bro.

    • Chris

      Hey Dan – nice to meet you!
      Ok in answer to your questions;
      1) I did for a bit but as a longboarder its a pain in the ass to lug it around heaps, so I tend to rent or buy and sell if I’m in a place for longer (which I usually am these days!)
      2) Indeed there are heaps of campsites along the East Coast, in some places they’re the only legal option for campers, but further north you can also free camp in a lot of places too. Just keep in mind it’s not the cheapest option nd it’s a looming drive. Heaps of fun though if it fits into your time and budget!


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