Byron Bay, Australia
Photograph by Gerald Haenel, laif/Redux
Best For: Families. Australia is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and Byron Bay and the rest of the country will enchant all age groups.
In an entire continent of surf towns, Byron Bay stands out as one of the spiritual and historical homes of surfing in what is, pound for pound, perhaps the greatest surfing nation in the world. Despite a tendency toward the upscale, Byron is at heart a hippie town that favors live bands, relaxed cafes that source local ingredients, and plenty of “all natural” everything. Combine that with the naturally cheerful disposition of many Aussies and you won’t find better waves in a more pleasant setting anywhere in the world.
The town’s main wave, the Pass, is a classic right-hand point break that accommodates all levels of surfers, though it can get crowded on good swells. Beginners should stay on the beach and more advanced surfers can head south to Broken Head, which has great beach breaks and other classic points.
June to September. The Southern Hemisphere winter barely touches Byron, with only a slight chill in the mornings and mild-to-warm temperatures during the day. The swell pumps the whole time.
Itinerant pro surfer and Byron resident Dion Agius recommends Bay Beach Hire & Travel as “the best surf school in town and the best way to get amongst the waves with qualified instructors.”
A contemporary restaurant called Italian at the Pacific is Agius’s favorite. “It’s great for dinner and drinks with friends,” he says. “It’s right on the beach in the heart of town, with an amazing menu and even better cocktails—especially the coconut chili martinis and the Amaretto sours.”
At the Beach Hotel, check out the surf from your room and the live music and locally brewed beers on tap.
A two-hour drive into the hinterland puts you into the heart of Queensland’s Gondwana forests, which are remnants of prehistoric rain forests that look like something out of Jurassic Park, complete with giant monitor lizards and all types of marsupials.
Surfing points comes with important rules of etiquette. All you really need to remember is to wait your turn and be patient. You won’t get as many waves as you would at a beach but can easily get the best wave of your life.