At the end of a long sweeping bay, the vibrant township of BYRON BAY boasts 30km of almost unbroken sandy beaches and is high on most travellers' lists. Once a favourite with barefoot hippies, Byron's small-community feel and bohemian atmosphere has been disappearing over the past years, and it now has stylish hotels, restaurants and bars, lively pubs and chic boutiques. There's plenty of opportunity to soak up the atmosphere – and the fascinating mix of subcultures as surfie meets soap starlet meets hippie – simply by wandering the streets. If you want to explore, one of the first places to visit is the lighthouse on the rocky promontory of Cape Byron. The cape is the easternmost point of the Australian mainland and is a popular spot to greet the dawn; with a bit of luck you'll see dolphins, who like to sport in the surf off the headland, or humpback whales, which pass this way heading north in June or July and again on their return south in September or October.
Main Beach in town is as good as any to swim from, and usually has relatively gentle surf. One reason why Byron Bay is so popular with surfers is because its beaches face in all directions, so there's almost always one with a good swell; conversely, you can usually find somewhere for a calmer swim. West of Main Beach, you can always find a spot to yourself on Belongil Beach, from where there's sand virtually all the way to Brunswick Heads.
To the east, Main Beach curves round towards Cape Byron to become Clarke's Beach; The Pass, a famous surfing spot, is at its eastern end. This and neighbouring Watego's Beach – beautifully framed between two rocky spurs – face north, and usually have the best surfing. On the far side of the cape, Tallow Beach extends towards the Broken Head Nature Reserve, 6km south of the town centre at Suffolk Park; there's good surf at Tallow just around the cape at Cosy Corner, and also at Broken Head. A short stroll through rainforest leads to the secluded, nudist Kings Beach.