Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have stop day tripping. Check the forecast for rain, and if the skies are clear, head out and enjoy the cool weather.
1. Clarkes Beach/Byron Bay Lighthouse Trail – Byron Bay
If you start at the Clarkes Beach car park, you’ll have a few options for walks and cafes. Beach Byron Bay is an excellent dine-in restaurant (overlooking Clarkes Beach) for a full brekkie or take-away juice, coffee, ice cream, or sandwiches. There’s a sandpit nearby for kids to play in while you wait. Beach Byron Bay is open 7 days for breakfast and lunch, and Tuesday to Saturday for dinner (6 pm – 10 pm).
There is free street parking in Byron Bay, but you will have to walk a little further to the beach and cafes. If you buy a national parks pass, you’ll have more options—you can park right at the Byron Bay Lighthouse, at Captain Cook car park (the next one up Lighthouse Rd from Clarkes Beach), The Pass, or Tallow Beach (Cosy Corner).
Another note for day trippers, especially families: there are amenities blocks at both Clarkes Beach and Captain Cook car parks, and at The Pass and Wategos Beach. There’s also parking at the Lighthouse itself, but it’s limited, so arrive early.
Besides the gorgeous scenery (in any season), the Byron Bay Lighthouse Walk is fun for its versatility. You can pick it up at a number of points and thus, choose shorter walks depending on your ability. There’s a boardwalk for strollers and people who need a level walking surface and a bushland path beyond the boardwalk.
The lighthouse opens at 10 am. On the ground floor is a Maritime Museum full of historical marginalia. Get your hand stamped with a whale or a lighthouse—where else can you do that? Daily tours up to the top of the lighthouse start at 10am. Volunteers lead the tours (which are weather dependant), but they usually run every half hour until 3 pm. 10 people allowed up at a time and for reasons of safety this tour is only for ages 5+. From the top, you can walk outside and view spectacular panoramas.
After the tour, stop at the Cape Byron Lighthouse Café for tea and pastries. The Cape Byron Lighthouse Café is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm for coffee, cakes, pastries, ice creams and fresh rolls. And when you’re walking along the ocean or eating at an outdoor café in winter, bring a jumper and a scarf.
Begin this day trip at either end of the trail—or somewhere along the way. Instead of the Clarkes Beach entrance, you could start at the skate park and playground end and walk to Lighthouse Beach (or the walking/cycle trail from Shelly to Sharpes Beach, which connects midway). Which brings us to…
2. Sharpes to Shelly Beach Pathway – Ballina
This is a pretty flat pathway with a bit of a hill near the Shelly Beach end, so go slow on the scooters/bikes at that point. The rest of the trail is easy but winding—look out for other travellers.
At the other end, Sharpes Beach is a low key beach that’s great for lying about. Bring your own refreshments to this beach—there are no shops or kiosks nearby. Also note: dogs are allowed but required to wear a leash at all times.
Another great stop on this day trip is the Ballina Lighthouse Cafe. It’s at 65 Lighthouse Parade in East Ballina and open Monday to Friday from 7.30 am to 3 pm (breakfast until 11 am, lunch until 2.30 pm), and Saturday and Sunday from 7.30am to 4pm. The Lighthouse Cafe has a sweet view of the beach and, in winter, you will might see some whales playing as they migrate north. If you have children and need to entertain them, the café offers a colouring pad and pencils pack ($2). This café has GF and Vegetarian options, along with a kids menu. You can also order just a hot drink or a quick meal at the Kiosk below the café—it opens at 7 am for your takeaway coffee on the beach.
You’ll find free parking in the car park for the Surf Life Saving Club or free street parking if the car park is full. About 500m from the Shelly Beach Drive car park there is a great restaurant, The Belle General Café. See our review of this healthy, delicious café—they’re big on local produce and complex tastes and textures.
And the Sharpes to Shelly Beach Pathway? It’s great in any season but you’re more likely to have it to yourself in winter. It’s suitable for walkers, joggers, runners, scooters, bicycles, trikes, pushers, and strollers. This is a wide, winding pathway about 5km in length. Walking casually, it might take you an hour to go one-way (photo-ops included).
The walkway is part bitumen and part grated mesh, with many intersections for beach access (like Angels Beach and Flat Rock). There are lookouts, access points with showers, a separate heritage walkway, ample seating along the sides, and large signs describing local aboriginal history and culture.
Back at your car, drive up Hill St and across Missingham Bridge to the skate park and playground (or walk another 2.5km along Lighthouse Parade and North Wall until you reach Shaws Bay—if you’ve still got the energy). You’ve reached…
3. Missingham Park – Ballina
First, rest at the large covered seating area and take in the views of the skate park and the river beyond. Ballina Skate Park, located on the south side of Missingham Bridge, has rails, ledges, a manual pad, stairs, a succession of half pipes and a nice full bowl (6-8 ft.)—it’s got something for skaters of many abilities. Right by the skate park is an amenities block.
Missingham Park is next to the skate park and it’s got a fun playground and a sizeable amphitheatre. There’s a stroller and bike-friendly beachfront pathway with picnic tables and barbecues here and there on the grass (plus a wide grassy expanse behind the amphitheatre that’s great for picnics). This is a perfect place for a winter picnic.
Want to experience a luxury beach holiday?
Ocean Blue holiday rental is only a 5-minute walk from the beach and has gorgeous river and coastal views. Located just a short drive from Ballina Airport and 30 minutes from Byron Bay, this is the perfect location for your next beach holiday. Visit our contact page to make an inquiry or booking.