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Escape: Backpacker style!

Written by Alison Bone

Famed for its laidback vibe, social atmosphere and heavenly beaches, Byron Bay has long been a lure for international backpackers and Aussie travellers on a shoestring. As well as being a great place to make connections, there’s endless cool things to do in nature, like whale watching, kayaking with dolphins, bushwalking, cycling and surfing. Here’s what you need to know about cheap and cheerful budget digs in the bay and beyond.

The one with a surf camp

Set in tropical gardens with direct access to the beach via a sandy track, Backpackers Inn on the beach is quite the Byron Bay oasis. Play beach volleyball, laze by the pool, hang in the courtyard garden in the shade of a giant fig tree, catch a movie in the open-air cinema, or wander along the beach to the pub. Surf Camp Byron Bay is also based here, so if surfing is on your agenda, why not sign up for Surf ‘n’ Stay packages like the Wipeout Weekender or 10-day Soul Surfer, which include daily lessons, accommodation and meals.

The one with the rooftop bar

Just moments from Main Beach, The Surf House occupies the heritage-listed former Byron Bay Council Chambers and has recently had a stylish, surf-inspired refit. Innovative communal spaces include the atmospheric rooftop bar, perfect for a Byron brew, Brookies cocktail and cheap pizza. Don’t miss the daily $5 cocktail happy hour. You can also join a lighthouse walk, beer pong tournament and arrange a reduced rate for longer stays.

The one with the cool cafe

Just a stone’s throw from the beach and bars, Aquarius Byron Bay is a fun social hub, with a pool, rooftop terrace, and buzzing bar and grill. Join free yoga classes, relax in a hammock on the sun deck, or play pool, ping pong or an arcade game. The Rocks Cafe overlooks the sidewalk and is a lively spot to enjoy locally roasted coffee, cool cocktails, smoothies, and a seasonal menu of modern Australian cuisine, including tasty share dishes like Wild Mushroom Arancini, Cauliflower Popcorn and Mango Ceviche.

The one on beautiful Belongil Beach

Nestled into a palm grove at the quieter end of the bay, Wake Up! Byron Bay, is right across the road from tantalising white sands of Belongil, and has a complimentary shuttle bus into town. Recently refurbished, expect boho chic decor, free yoga classes, onsite restaurant and a resort-style tropical swimming pool. The atmospheric pool bar sets the scene for happy hour, barbecues, pizza nights, and cheese and wine nights. Plus, there’s DJs on the weekends, while Saturday's $10 Margaritas always go down a treat.

The one with the groovy vibe

Keeping the spirit of the counterculture alive, the Arts Factory Lodge has been around since the 70s and sprawls across five acres of sub-tropical rainforest, a 15-minute walk from town. From daily yoga to bushwalks, women’s circles, weekly Flea Market and fire twirling workshops, there’s plenty to get involved in at this bohemian hangout where accommodation includes teepees. Music has always been part of the experience here, and the onsite brewery (sadly closed during the Pandemic,) hosted the first ever Blues Festival in 1990. The music lives on through regular DJ nights, and Talent Nights every Monday. The older-style accommodation and barefoot hippy vibe may not be for everyone, so come with an open mind.

Beyond the Bay


For a more off-the-beaten-track destination and a chance to explore a typical Australian town with fabulous art deco buildings, great pubs and epic national parks, rainforest and waterfalls, head inland to Murwillumbah.

Riverside Backpackers

With a fabulous location right on the Tweed River, Riverside Backpackers (Murwillumbah) is housed in a former river boat captain’s cottage that dates to 1910. Expect serene river views, quirky décor, pretty gardens and an outlook to Wollumbin.


Just across the border and minutes from the airport, Coolangatta also has several backpacker stays ideal for exploring both the Northern Rivers and the Gold Coast with its fun club scene, surf breaks, theme parks, vibrant night markets and endless sandy beaches.

YHA Coolangatta

Only 500 meters from the airport, the YHA Coolangatta has a distinct tropical vibe, swimming pool and assortment of bright and spacious private and co-living rooms.

Coolangatta Sands

Popular with surfers for its close proximity to Kirra Point and Snapper Rocks, the iconic Coolangatta Sands has budget-priced dorm and private rooms. You can also enjoy a hearty meal, including nightly $16 specials, in the retro-style pub downstairs.


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