Byron Bay Surfing & Beaches
Byron Bay is a world-renowned surfing destination – and rightly so. It also boasts some of Australia's most spectacular beaches with warm, tropical waters, rivalling many of the world's greatest spots. Cape Byron's unique geography means that there's nearly always a beautiful beach to sit on and waves to be surfed, whichever way the wind is blowing. But it pays to have some local knowledge, so here we've put together some useful information on Byron Bay surfing and beaches.
Byron's main stretch of sand begins at the north-east facing Belongil Beach and curves around to the north and north-west facing Clarkes, The Pass and Wategos beaches. While a number of these beaches are a continuation of the one stretch of sand, each offers something different and has its own unique conditions.
Beginning at the north-west end of Byron's main beach, Belongil Beach is one of the quieter stretches of sand in the bay. Here you'll find mostly locals on their ritual morning walk or a few visitors who prefer some space and peace from the busiest parts of main beach. For surfers, Belongil is popular with those who prefer to avoid the crowds. The waves tend to be full and spilling, and it works best with a south-westerly breeze. Belongil Beach is not patrolled, so it's best suited to those with some experience. Moderate rips can also form along the beach so less experienced swimmers and surfers should be cautious.
Continue east along Belongil Beach towards town and you'll come to The Wreck. The Wreck, as it's known locally, is a popular surf spot at the north-west corner of the main beach car park. This iconic spot is characterised by the protruding wreck of the old steamer that sank in a notorious cycline in the 1920s. A sand bar has built up around the wreck and provides some quality left and right hand waves. The wreck can get quite busy during peak periods, so is best suited to intermediate to experienced surfers who can avoid running into others.
The west end of The Wreck is also patrolled by surf life savers so can be a slightly quieter alternative for families than Main Beach.
Main Beach – West
Main Beach is the busiest beach in town. It's now patrolled by surf life savers all year round and is a popular spot for swimming and sun baking visitors. Main Beach is directly opposite the surf life saving club. Best suited to those who enjoy being where the action is, sun baking, playing beach games and messing about in the water, the west end of Main Beach is usually avoided by surfers due to the large number of people in the water.
Main Beach – East
While still popular with families and sun bakers, the eastern end of Main Beach is not patrolled by surf life savers and so the water is generally quieter. The waves here however are among the most challenging in the bay. When the swell is up, the east end of Main Beach provides some of the fastest rides and most punishing barrels and is best suited to experienced short boarders. The east end of Main Beach works best with moderate offshore winds from the south.
Continue along the sand past Main Beach and you'll reach Clarkes Beach. Clarkes is a beautiful stretch of sand that looks out to the protruding rocks of The Pass and to the famous dive site and marine park of Julian Rocks. Clarkes is not patrolled by surf life savers, however it is still popular with families. When the waves are small, Clarkes is quite a safe and sheltered beach. Rips can form here though and on low tide there are some protruding rocks, so children should be watched carefully.
The surfing conditions at Clarkes can vary greatly depending on the swell and weather. It can range from gentle, glassy and tiny waves ideal for kids, beginers and long boarders, to bigger, heavier waves and even barrels. Clarkes can be a good spot to check out when conditions at other beaches are poor or have onshore winds. The Cape Byron headland often shelters Clarkes beach from some of the undesirable onshore north-easterly winds.
Past Clarkes Beach the coastline curves north towards the cape. Here you'll find The Pass which is a hugely popular spot for long boarders, short boarders, swimmers and families alike. The Pass has a number of unique spots for surfers, depending on what you're after and what your skill level.
Closest to the beach, The Pass can offer some of the most fun, safe and rolling waves in the bay. Popular with chilled out long boarders, families and beginners, The Pass has a laid back, friendly vibe. Best with south to south-easterly offshore winds, The Pass can provide some incredibly long and fun rides, all the way from the rocky point, right down to Clarkes Beach. When the wind is blowing east to north-east and other beaches are not an option, The Pass can often still be very surfable as it's largely sheltered by the cape.
If you're a short boarder or looking for something a bit more challenging, paddle a little further out past the shallows and around the rocks to the ‘outside' Pass. Bigger waves break here and can provide a faster, more challenging ride.
Around the first headland at The Pass and along the paved coastal track, you'll come to Wategos. Wategos is a small, but breathtakingly beautiful cove nestled amongst rocky headlands and some of Byron's most exclusive beachfront properties. Wategos has a grassy foreshore behind the beach with a toilet block, picnic tables and barbecues, making it a popular spot for locals on weekends.
Wategos is most popular with long boarders as the waves here are usually full and spilling. On a good day, Wategos can provide long, fun rides and the waves are generally bigger than the inside waves of The Pass.
Wategos is generally much quieter than the other main beaches. You can get here by either walking along the paved coastal track from The Pass car park or drive your car down to the beach – there is no car park at Wategos however, so finding a spot can sometimes be difficult.
On the east-facing side of Cape Byron around the headland, you'll find the 7km stretch of Tallow Beach. Tallow Beach is rugged and spectacular and is overlooked by the Cape Byron light house and hang glider's launch platform.
Tallow's, as the locals call it, is the most exposed of Byron's beaches and is more affected by adverse weather. For surfers, it's at its best when westerly offshore winds are blowing. If the wind is blowing from the north, ‘Cosy Corner', the northern end of the beach nestled under the cliffs can offer some protection from the wind.