If you haven’t already, take a road trip along the Northern New South Wales Coast and find delight among its pristine coastline, lush and ever-changing terrain and the welcoming demeanour of hospitable locals. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to pin-point the best way to get around to seeing everything. Among the surplus of adventures and activities to be had, one could almost forget the abundance of amazing produce to be admired in this region, if not for the roadside fruit stalls and vibrant rolling landscapes.
While the coastline offers fresh caught fish, the hinterland is full of farmlands owned by passionate people who believe in wholesome living, producing organic harvests and free-range, grass-fed livestock. While the township tempts holidayers with a cheery ambiance, street side ice-cream parlours, crowds hanging out at rooftop bars and the draw of convenient fish and chip eateries, those after a little inside knowledge can see a touch more of what’s available with the venues mentioned below. In the event that you should be fortunate enough to find yourself in this breath-taking region, take a look at our guide for experiencing the various facets of dining in the Byron Bay region.
Start your morning early with a kick of caffeine from Espressohead Café, found on the corner of Middleton and Byron Street. The smell of aromatic beans sourced from some of the world’s most prominent coffee bean growing regions are intoxicating and it’s worth a short stay if only to observe eclectic foot traffic. Soak up some of Byron Bay’s laidback atmosphere over a slice of organic, wood-fired fruit toast, served with local macadamia honey and butter. With a second take-away coffee in hand, crafted from the coffee bean of the month, (perhaps Guatemala’s Santa Felisa Estate beans) it’s time to head off to explore nearby tourist destinations.
With a final, vertical tip of the cup, the last few drops of what could well be the elixir of life are finished and a walk around the Byron Bay Lighthouse is first up on a short-but-sweet checklist of sights to see. After some happy snaps standing on the tip of Australia’s most eastern point, schedule in a visit to Harvest café, perched up in the Byron Bay hinterland. This multi-functional venue offers visitors the rustic charm of a time gone by, homed in an early 1900s historic cottage. The menu has been awarded a Chef Hat of 12, showcasing the region’s fresh, organic local produce, much of which is sourced within a 2km radius and supplemented by what is grown in the onsite garden. After gorging on a feast, tasting the in-house brewed ginger beer and indulging in a tastebud tingling dessert, choose to ease digestion with a stroll along the famous Byron Bay beach.
If the main drag is too crowded, sneak around to Tallows Beach for a long and leisurely walk. With toes in the sand, waves roll in, fresh sea breezes blow and surfers catch big barrels further out. Once you’ve walked far enough to work up an appetite, slowly make your way back, freshen up at your accommodation and attend the dinner booking you made earlier in the day.
Decadent Italian indulgence is also available in the Northern Rivers region, and can be experienced at restaurant Cicchetti Byron Bay. Not far from where coffee was enjoyed earlier in the day, Cicchetti is a hit with locals and tourists, winning the Readers’ Choice Award 2016 for Italian cuisine in the region. While Cicchetti translates from Italian to mean tapas, and there are certainly plenty to share over a bottle of wine, one may prefer to delve into dishes of roasted Borrowdale free range pork belly or Byron Bay hinterland grass fed Angus yearling. If a romantic occasion is to be celebrated, or you have trouble making decisions, opt for the degustation menu and include wine pairings to have all aspects covered without you needing to lift a finger.
After a solid night’s sleep, make an easy pace towards The Pass Café and settle in for breakfast, nestled among the greenery of Palm Valley forestry. While delighting in the scenic beach views from the deck, dive into The Pass Big Breakfast, or opt for a lighter dish like the Brookfarm Macadamia Muesli with berry compote and a side of coconut yoghurt to fuel you up for another day of touring.
The day is now yours to do with as you wish. Perhaps spend a day in Byron Bay, exploring the boutique shops for one-off items, trinkets and all sorts of knick-knacks and lock in an afternoon sea kayaking tour, or alternately, head out to the hinterland again for a morning of peace and tranquillity wandering the Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens, detouring on the way back through Bangalow’s quaint main street for lunch, perhaps at Helix Café Deli Wine Bar and travelling further down the coast to Broken Head.
The afternoon could be enjoyed walking among the rainforest of Broken Head Nature Reserve to eventually emerge at a spectacular setting overlooking Kings Beach. If time permits, stay awhile to soak up the panorama of rough coastal terrain, peering into the distance to spot whales frolicking as they travel along their yearly migration routes. Learn about the Aboriginal story behind the three rock formations known as the Three Sisters, and watch on as all sorts of bird life effortlessly dip and weave around the rocky outcrops.
Make tracks back to the car as the sun begins to sink on yet another awe-inspiring day filled with breath-taking scenery and crisp sea breezes. Should a craving arise for delicious Indian cuisine while making a beeline for Byron, stop into Suffolk Park and take to Yellow Flower on Clifford Street. Yellow Flower has flourished since opening in 2000, with a steady following of locals and tourists returning for tandoori chicken wings, spicy beef vindaloo and lamb korma with sweet potato and almonds. Let Yellow Flower do the dishes for you, or pre-order your favourite curries to pick up and take back to enjoy in the comfort of your hotel.
However, if you can hold hunger pains at bay long enough to reach the township again and wish to finish off a road trip with an ambient dining experience, save your stomach for rustic European cuisine at Targa on Marvell Street. Just a few streets back from the beach, Targa offers both alfresco dining for balmy evenings and a stylish, contemporary setting indoors. Graze over antipasto boards with Lismore prosciutto, house made focaccia, aged balsamic and more before moving onto generous mains such as confit duck leg with sherry braised forest mushrooms, kale and potatoes. Complete an evening of culinary decadence with an affogato with hazelnut ice-cream, a nip of Pedro Ximenez and honeycomb and a mouth-watering cheeseboard selection.
Compiled by Annabel Rainsford, photography courtesy of establishments and words by the AGFG Foodies.