With charming villages, hot restaurants, breathtaking national parks and more to explore, the Byron Bay hinterland has evolved from day-trip destination to a holiday spot in its own right. With a growing number of fantastic places to stay across this picturesque corner of the far North Coast, consider basing yourself in the hills for the ultimate hinterland experience. Here are the top spots to visit while you’re here.
Bangalow and Newrybar
Just a 15-minute drive southwest of Byron Bay lies the hinterland hub of Bangalow, where the pretty main street is lined with Federation-era buildings. Inside them you’ll find boutiques, cafés and galleries, with the 1939 Bangalow Hotel at the top of the street an ideal spot for a brew with the locals. Head down Station Street to find hip café Woods, which is surrounded by boutiques – check out Bisque Traders for boho-luxe fashion and homewares, and Rowie for locally designed womenswear.
Just five minutes down the road, the tiny village of Newrybar is best known for Harvest, a restaurant, deli and café specialising in local produce and underutilised native ingredients. In recent years Newrybar has welcomed a small clutch of boutiques, including the excellent Newrybar Merchants, a treasure trove of jewellery, homewares, indoor plants and more.
Federal and Nightcap National Park
Northwest of Bangalow (less than 30 minutes’ drive from Byron Bay), the tiny village of Federal is the gateway to Nightcap National Park. Stop by Moonshine Coffee Roasters for a caffeine hit before continuing on for 20 minutes to the Minyon Falls Lookout, where you can take a 13km-return hike (allow up to four hours) to the bottom of the 100m-high falls. Top off your hike with lunch at Federal’s popular modern Japanese restaurant Federal Doma Café, or perhaps a traditional Italian gelato from the Benilato cart.
Inside the national park, around 90 minutes from Byron, you’ll also find the beautiful Protestors Falls walking track, so-called for the protesters who helped save this stunning slice of subtropical rainforest from logging in the late 1970s. While you can take a dip at Minyon Falls, swimming is off-limits at Protesters Falls to help protect threatened frog species.
Eltham and Nashua
There are plenty of highlights to discover in the verdant rolling hills between Bangalow and the regional centre of Lismore, 50 minutes southwest of Byron Bay. Opened on a farm in Nashua in late 2020, Frida’s Field celebrates the paddock-to-plate ethos with weekend long-lunch menus created by Daniel Metcalf, former sous chef at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar in Sydney’s Bondi.
Nearby, in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Eltham, the Eltham Hotel is one of the hinterland’s most iconic pubs. Come for a cold beer and a bistro meal, or perhaps stay the night in one of the Eltham’s five recently reimagined guestrooms. Each one is dedicated to a grand dame from the region and includes The Delilah, named after a film star who retreated to the hinterland.
Deep in the hills, around 75 minutes’ drive west of Byron, the counterculture hub of Nimbin is worth a visit for its quirky shops and vibrant local arts and crafts scene, showcased at the likes of the Nimbin Artists Gallery, Nimbin Craft Gallery and the Nimbin Markets, held on the fourth and fifth Sunday of each month. Turning out tasty woodfired pizzas, Armonica Espresso Bar makes the perfect lunch stop.
In the region’s northwest, the alternative-lifestyle village of Mullumbimby is nestled alongside the serene Brunswick River, 25 minutes from Byron Bay. Another top spot for Federation-era architecture buffs, ‘Mullum’ is also awash with colourful murals touching on the region’s pioneer and Aboriginal history and culture.
Head here in the morning for coffee or brunch at Punch and Daisy before learning more about the town’s stories past at the Mullumbimby Museum, and checking out the vintage and modern boutiques on Burringbar Street. Or come later in the day to sample a local brew at Wandana Brewing Co., which opened a taproom on the town’s eastern fringe in 2020.