Byron Bay Info
Byron Bay is located south of Brisbane in Northern New South Wales. It is 2 to 2.5 hour drive along the main Brisbane to Sydney Highway. You can visit it for a day by catching the Brisbane2Byron Express transfer buses but an overnight stay would be better.
Today Byron Bay is a vibrant, colourful seaside town that is a mecca for surfers and tourists. But its beginnings were much more humble.
Byron Bay is a beachside town located on the north coast of New South Wales. 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. The town had a permanent population of 4,981 (the Shire of Byron in excess of 28,000 residents).
The local aboriginal name for the area is Cavvanbah. Captain james Cook named Cape Byron after John Byron, circumnavigator of the world and grandfather of the poet, Lord Byron. See all the beaches and lighthouse on our Byron Bay day tour.
The history of Europeans in Byron Bay began in 1770, when Captain James Cook found a safe anchorage and named Cape 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. 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. Byron Bay has a history of primary industrial production (dairy factory, abattoirs, whaling until 1963 and fishing) 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.
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.
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, and the scenery attracts sky divers. 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. Visitors on our Byron Bay day tours are encouraged to use sustainable options for moving around town like walking and cycling.