Byron Bay is a beachside town located in the far-northeastern corner of the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is located 772 kilometres (480 mi) north of Sydney and 165 kilometres (103 mi) south of Brisbane. Cape Byron, a headland adjacent to the town, is the easternmost point of mainland Australia. At the 2006 Census, the town had a permanent population of 4,981. The town is in turn the nucleus of Byron Shire, which has in excess of 28,000 residents.
The local Arakwal Aboriginal people’s name for the area is Cavvanbah, meaning “meeting place”. Lieutenant James Cook named Cape Byron after John Byron, circumnavigator of the world and grandfather of the poet Lord Byron.
The history of Europeans in Byron Bay began in 1770, when Lieutenant James Cook found a safe anchorage and named Cape Byron after John Byron. In the 1880s, when Europeans settled more permanently, streets were named for other English writers and philosophers.
The first industry in Byron was cedar logging from the Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata). The timber industry is the origin of the word “shoot” in many local names – Possum Shoot, Coopers Shoot and Skinners Shoot – where the timber-cutters would “shoot” the logs down the hills to be dragged to waiting ships.
Gold mining of the beaches was the next industry to occur.Up to 20 mining leases set up on Tallow Beach to extract gold from the black sands around the 1870s. The poet Brunton Stephens spoke of cattle grazing on the “mossy plains” of Cape Byron in a poem he penned in 1876.
Byron Bay has a history of primary industrial production (dairy factory, abattoirs, fishing, and whaling until 1963) and was a significant, but hazardous, sea port.
The first jetty was built in 1886, and the railway was connected in 1894, and Cavvanbah became Byron Bay in 1894. Dairy farmers cleared more land and settled the area. In 1895, the Norco Co-operative was formed to provide cold storage and manage the dairy industry. The introduction of paspalum improved production, and Byron Bay exported butter to the world. The Norco factory was the biggest in the southern hemisphere, expanding from dairy to bacon and other processed meat.
The lighthouse was built in 1901 at the most easterly point on the Australian mainland. In 1930, the first meatworks opened. The smell from the meat and dairy works was, by all accounts, appalling, and the annual slaughter of whales in the 1950s and 1960s made matters worse. Sand mining between the World Wars damaged the environment further, and one by one, all these industries declined.
Longboard surfers arrived in the 1960s and used natural breaks at The Pass, Wategos, and Cosy Corner. This was the beginning of Byron Bay as a tourist destination, and by 1973, when the Aquarius Festival was held in Nimbin, its reputation as a hippy, happy, alternative town was established.
Shipwrecks litter the bay and surrounding areas.
Byron Bay is part of the erosion caldera of an ancient shield volcano, the Tweed Volcano, which erupted 23 million years ago. The volcano formed as a result of the Indo-Australian Plate moving over the East Australia hotspot.
Byron Bay has a mild temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters. Winters are not cold by international standards with daily maximums usually reaching a pleasant 19.4 ºC and a minimum of 11 ºC. Summer can be hot, with a daily average of 27 ºC. Summer evenings can be wet, cooling the day down making for a comfortable overnight temperature.
Byron Bay is home to several schools and educational institutions. Schools include Byron Bay Public School, Byron Bay High School, St Finbarr’s Primary School, Byron Bay Community School, and Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School. Among these are a number of early childhood facilities including Byron Bay Preschool and Periwinkle Preschool. In the fields of adult education there are Lexis English Centres (previously Global Village English Centres) and Byron Bay English Language School (BBELS) (both organisations providing English language tuition to international students), the Byron Region Community College, which is a registered training organisation and the SAE Institute Byron Bay which is a government-accredited, degree granting institution in the fields of audio engineering, digital film making, multimedia and animation.
The town has several beaches which are popular for surfing. It is a resort popular with both domestic and international tourists, including backpackers, who travel along the Australian coast; the scenery also attracts skydivers. The area is also noted for its wildlife, with the whale watching industry a significant contributor to the local economy.
An oceanway runs from the centre of town to the Cape Byron lighthouse. This allows visitors to walk and cycle to the lighthouse.
Temperate and tropical waters merge at Byron Bay, making it a popular area for scuba diving and snorkelling. Most diving is done at Julian Rocks which is part of the recently established Cape Byron Marine Park and only a few minutes boat ride from Main Beach.
Byron Bay also lies close to subtropical rainforests, and areas such as the Nightcap National Park with the Minyon Falls are all within easy reach of the town.
Byron Bay is now also a popular destination for Schoolies week during late November and early December.
The following places are listed on the Register of the National Estate:
- Cape Byron Light, built in 1901
- Broken Head Nature Reserve (south of Byron Bay)
- Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve (north of Byron Bay)
- Julian Rocks Nature Reserve
- Two Sisters Rocks, located on Broken Head
Events held at Byron Bay include yoga retreats, pagan gatherings, music festivals such as the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival at Easter and Splendour in the Grass, the Byron Bay Writers Festival, the Byron Bay Film Festival and the Byron Underwater Festival. The vibrant musical community has produced internationally renowned bands such as Blue King Brown, Parkway Drive and 50 Lions.
Byron Bay also has a number of regular markets including a weekly farmers’ market at the Butler Street Reserve every Thursday with over 70 local farmers selling fresh produce. There is also a craft market held on the same site on the first Sunday of each month and an artisan market held on Saturday evenings at Railway Park.
The Byron Bay Triathlon is held on the second Saturday in May every year. 1,300 competitors from many different countries enter this Olympic Distance event.
The Byron Bay area has a number of newspapers:
- The Byron Shire Echo (Independent weekly A3)
- The Byron Shire News (APN weekly A3)
- The Northern Star (APN daily)
- The Saturday Star (Independent A5 monthly)
- The Bagg (Independent weekly A3 gig guide)
Radio stations in Byron area:
- 2LM 900 AM (commercial)
- Triple Z FM 100.9 (commercial)
- Triple J 96.1 FM
- ABC Radio National 96.9 FM
- ABC Classic FM 95.3 FM
- ABC Northern Rivers 94.5 FM
- Bay FM 99.9 FM (community)
All major television channels are available in Byron Bay and the wider Northern Rivers region. The networks and the channels they broadcast are listed as follows:
- Prime Television, 7Two on PRIME, (Seven Network affiliated channels).
- NBN Television, Go! (Australian TV channel) channel, (Nine Network Australia).
- Southern Cross Ten and One HD, (Network Ten Australia).
- (ABC Television) including ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3, part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Special Broadcasting Service, SBS ONE and SBS Two.
East of Everything is an ABC television drama series filmed in Byron Bay and released on 30 March 2008. The program is broadcast from Melbourne and Sydney.
Sport and recreation
A number of well-known sporting teams represent the local area. The Byron Bay Surf Club is the longest standing of any of the current clubs, it has been one of Australia’s leading surf club’s and has been in continuous operation for more than 105 years. The well known rugby league club named the Byron Bay Red Devils and the Australian rules football team Byron Magpies. Byron Bay FC has won the Football Far North Coast Premier league 3 times the latest being 2013. Other clubs include Byron Bay Golf Club, Byron Bay Cricket Club, Byron Bay Rugby Union Club, Byron Bay Gliding Club, and the Byron Bay Bowling Club.
- Renee Bargh, TV presenter
- The Space Cowboy, a record-breaking “sword swallower” and street performer who hails from Byron Bay
- Parkway Drive, a metalcore band formed in 2002 that have toured around the world several times
- Scott Owen, bassist for The Living End
- Daevid Allen, musician
- John Butler, guitarist, founder of the John Butler Trio
- Eka Darville, actor
- Toni Childs, musician
- Delvene Delaney, actress and co-host of Australian Sale of the Century
- The Jezabels’ lead singer Hayley Mary and keyboardist Heather Shannon.
- In Hearts Wake, metalcore band