THE BYRON BAY LIGHTHOUSE WALK
Sometimes in life you’ve got to follow the lead of the Hemsworth brothers and get yourself to Byron Bay.
Really, for your own wellbeing you should drop what you’re doing right now and go if that’s at all possible. In fact, I hereby volunteer to drive. Archer can DJ the trip with her typical uplifting and predominately hip-hop based playlist.
Byron has all the things we love – great beaches (and plenty of them), amazing natural surrounds for hiking and exploring, great cafes and bars and some pretty incredible places to stay.
And it’s also home to one of the most beautiful walks in Australia – the Cape Byron Lighthouse Walk.
Here’s our how-to guide for one of our all-time-favourite walks.
OK. First things first for this Virgo, let’s talk details!
How long does it take?
The Loop is about 3.7km all up. If you walk at a pretty reasonable pace, even allowing time to stop for photos and a bit of a breather you can finish the walk in a bit over an hour and a half.
If you plan to stop at the beaches, or have a decent look around at the lighthouse when you get to the top – you could easily spend a good few hours.
How hard is it?
National Parks & Wildlife officially rate this as a Grade 3 walk. Most people with a basic fitness level could do this. Many people even do it in flip-flops and swimmers (as have we, on occasion) although running shoes are definitely preferable!
The track has some reasonably steep sections and plenty of stairs and even if you are pretty fit, this will get your heart going a little bit. It all adds up to great exercise for a holiday.
So, where to begin?
The trail starts at the very pretty Clarkes Beach. You can even start right in town if you like, just follow main beach towards the lighthouse – it becomes Clarkes Beach. When you get near the end of the beach, head up near the road, where the walk officially begins.
On the way up, start by following the blue trail.
As you pass Clarkes, the path becomes a boardwalk between the road and the beach as you head towards the popular surfing break known as The Pass.
This little corner looking back at Clarkes is one of my all time favourite views. There’s something special about how the gorgeous native trees come right up to the stunning sandy beach.
As you walk this part of the track, you’ll get the amazing fresh scent of all the native trees mixed with the beautiful salty air. It’s nature at its finest.
See that little cottage down on the beach? It’s one of 5 properties on this trail that you can rent directly from National Parks & Wildlife.
They are in seriously amazing positions! You can even stay in the old light-keepers cottage up beside the lighthouse. Check out all the properties and book your stay online here.
At the end of the boardwalk, the path heads downhill through a nice bush area. Keep a look out for brush-turkeys and some pretty big lizards.
Once you get to The Pass, cross over the car-park and you’ll hit the first run of stairs. At the top of these, you’ll be at a secret little strip of coast that you can’t see or access by road.
Here it is –
Pretty pretty right?
If you’re here mid-morning you might even see the amazing ocean swimmers in action. They meet at the Surf Club in town, walk out here on the lighthouse trail and then swim back to main beach. Some of these champions have been doing this for decades!
If you see people in their swimmers, walking with flippers and goggles on the trail – this is them. What a way to spend your morning! I’d love to join them one day.
That rocky formation on the horizon above is Julian Rocks – a popular dive site for humans and a popular area for endangered Grey Nurse sharks.
The trail winds around the cliff and before you know it, you’ll get your first glimpse of the lighthouse.
Then it’s down these stairs and you’re at one of the best beaches in Australia, Wategos.
Side note – it was on these very stairs that I was almost bowled over by Alicia Vikander, who was running the track around New Years a few years ago.
I was keeping to the left, she was being European and keeping to her right and we almost collided at the bottom of the stairs. For the record, she was a graceful runner, very light on her feet. And I can happily report, no fluro active-wear in sight. What a relief.
Now you’ve made it to the splendour that is Wategos –
Wategos is also home to a famous little boutique hotel – Rae’s on Wategos. They have a great restaurant which is open to the public.
Continue on the path behind the beach, weaving your way through the lovely hippies in their vans cooking road-side breakfasts with perhaps the greatest view ever.
The trail now becomes a boardwalk that weaves its way up the headland beneath a low tree canopy. Picture the Lost Boys set up in Hook. Rufio might cruise around the corner any second now.
Oh no it’s just some joggers.
This part of the track is great for getting some beautiful, beach-though-the trees shots.
Wategos is super popular with longboarders, so it’s also a great spot for watching the surfers.
Now the real stairs begin.
OK they are a little steep – but get to the top and you’ll be at the most easterly point of the whole of Australia! Pretty impressive right?
Up here you might even spot some whales. Migaloo (Australia’s famous white whale) literally swam by here on his annual migration a few days ago!
Here’s Little Wategos beach. It’s a great little add on to the walk if you’re feeling it.
From here, you’re very close to the top! There are a few little lookout areas to the side of the track – perfect for dolphin spotting.
Keep your eye out for land-based wildlife also. There are the cutest little wallabies around here too.
One final run of stairs and there she is!
The Lighthouse dates back to 1901. It’s still in operation today.
It’s really pretty to see the light whirling around, when you drive into the Byron area at night. It’s even prettier to spot it when you’re up in the hinterland.
Now it’s time to just enjoy the gorgeous view.
On a clear day, the water up here is amazing. There’s a great chance you’ll see dolphins, sharks and plenty of fish.
There’s a small café at the top, which now has a nice shaded seating area. And ice-cream. It also has ice-cream.
On the other side of the headland you’ll see the stunning long beach that is Tallows Beach.
To finish the walk, head through the carpark at the lighthouse – the footpath eventually becomes a track heading though a bushland area known as Tallow Ridge. The trail is largely unsealed here and can be a bit muddy. But it is easy going downhill.
This bushland part of the loop is fantastic if you’d like to see more Australian native trees. There’s coastal banksia and brush box forest near Lee Lane, where the loop ends.
We completed this part of the track after some rain recently, and the native tress were so incredibly fragrant – it was gorgeous and fresh.
If it’s views you’re after though, then you might like to just turn around at the top and go back the way you came up.
There’s lots of bathrooms along the part of the trail heading up towards the lighthouse (not on the bushwalk section) – these include at Clarkes Beach, The Pass and Wategos and up at the lighthouse itself.
There’s a Maritime Museum open at the lighthouse 10am-4pm daily. And you can even take a guided tour inside the lighthouse at various times during the day.
If you want to drive up to the lighthouse parking is $8, but it can be near impossible to get a park in peak-season.
There are plenty of cafes along the trail – including Beach Cafe at Clarkes, The Pass cafe and a cute coffee van that seems to always be at Wategos. Some of my favourite mornings have been spent sitting on Wategos with a long black in hand thanks to this van.
And if you’re on the other side of the world and can’t make it to Byron right now – you can still have a look at this beautiful walk thanks to Google Trekker.