Taking the time to get up early to watch the sunrise is a pretty special experience, no matter where you are in the world. And one of the most beloved Aussie destinations to welcome a new day, it would have to be Byron Bay.
But what time is sunrise in Byron Bay, exactly? Anywhere between 5 and 6am, which means you’ll need to set your alarm, lay out your clothes and get a good night’s sleep, because there’s a plethora of extraordinary sunrise locations to discover. We promise the views will be worth it though.
Cape Byron Lighthouse
If we’re going to talk about the best place to watch daybreak unfold in Byron Bay, Cape Byron Lighthouse, the most easterly point in Australia, is the unrivalled destination to do so. The setting is spectacular – the sheer coastal cliffs offer 360-degree views of the Byron landscape, and the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse acts as the perfect backdrop for that classic first-light photo. Getting there is easy too, and you can either drive or join the early morning throng who embark on the Byron Bay lighthouse walk just before sunrise. It’s no easy feat to get up in absolute darkness and trudge the steep hills of the Cape, but once you catch a glimpse of that gorgeous orange hue on the horizon, the struggle of the pre-dawn wake-up call will disappear.
Welcome the morning sun with a couple of feathered friends when you watch the sunrise from the Belongil Estuary. This protected nature reserve, just a 2.5-kilometre walk north of the main Byron hub, is comprised of saltmarsh, mangroves and sandy dunes that together create a rich, diverse ecosystem. The estuary is home to a number of threatened or endangered plant and bird species, including the little tern, but avid birdwatchers will also want to look out for osprey, egrets, cormorants and sacred kingfisher – all of which are especially active during the morning. And when you’re done at the estuary, the beach route back to town is one of the loveliest Byron Bay walks. So if it’s a serene, back-to-nature experience you’re after from your sunrise sojourn, the estuary delivers in spades.
While the high vantage point that Cape Byron offers makes for a wonderful spot to watch the sunrise at Byron Bay, the view from ground level is just as breathtaking – and Wategos Beach is a prime shoreline location. Sheltered and calm, Wategos is a 600-metre curved stretch of sand popular with families and backpackers. Accessible via one of the Byron Bay walking tracks from the Cape, you’d be forgiven for thinking Wategos would be a busy meeting place for sunrise chasers, but it’s actually much quieter than the nearby lighthouse and there’s generally only a handful of people around. To best enjoy this lovely little Byron Bay sunrise point, pack a blanket and a thermos of hot tea and settle down in the sand to watch as a new day reveals itself.
Fisherman’s Lookout / The Pass Lookout
With panoramic views that extend east out across The Pass (one of Byron’s busiest surf breaks), Main Beach and the wider township, Fisherman’s Lookout is a great option come sunrise time in Byron Bay. And the outlook from the other direction certainly isn’t bad either, as the timber viewing platform is also perfectly positioned to catch the morning light as it breaks on the Cape Byron Lighthouse. With vistas this good, this Byron Bay lookout is a photographer’s dream – so make sure you bring along your camera gear and keep an eye out for dolphins and whales. And don’t get confused if you hear Fisherman’s Lookout referred to as The Pass Lookout either – its close proximity to the renowned surf spot means it often goes by that name as well.
Eric Wright Lookout / Paterson Hill Lookout
Here’s another lookout that goes by two different names; although formally renamed the Eric Wright Lookout in 2002 (after the local Byron historian, Eric Wright), it’s still pretty common to hear this sunrise spot referred to by its original name, Paterson Hill Lookout. Whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying it’s a cracking location to watch the sun come up. The hill is located on Paterson Street, and from the top you can see all the way across Arakawal National Park, Tallows Beach down to Broken Head, the Cape Byron Lighthouse, and even as far as Mount Warning – which is easy to spot thanks to its distinct crooked peak. You’ll also notice a plaque erected in Eric Wright’s honour – he saved Paterson Hill from being turned into a residential area. How’s that for a slice of history with your sunrise?
So Mount Warning may not share the same postcode as Byron Bay (it’s roughly an hours’ drive away), but with jaw-dropping views that encompass the entire Byron hinterland and coast, it’s too good to leave off this list. Standing between you and a heavenly sunrise though, is a challenging hike to the 1159-metre summit. You thought the Byron Bay Lighthouse sunrise walk was hard? This journey is a nine-kilometre trek through lush rainforest and up steep rocky inclines, and can take more than two hours to complete, which means a start time of 3:30am is not unusual. Don’t let that scare you off though – the track is well signposted and the relief you’ll feel at the top far outweighs any hesitation you may have had before. Give it a crack and you won’t regret it.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Prepare to take to the skies for what has to be the ultimate Byron Bay sunrise experience: hot air ballooning. That’s right, the best has been saved for last and while the lookouts, lighthouses and gorgeous beaches are all worthy sunrise-viewing contenders, there’s just something special about soaring high above the ground while the rest of the world is still waking up. Considered Australia’s ballooning paradise, a sunrise flight over Byron kicks off at 5am, with a departure time of 6am, weather depending. Once you’re in the air, champagne flute in hand, you’ll soar serenely over the region’s most picturesque areas, taking in the famous Byron beaches, the hills of the hinterland and the volcano caldera surrounding Mount Warning. And all the while you’ll have front row seats as the rising sun puts on a dazzling light show.
And if you want to see sunset in Byron Bay…
The only thing more beautiful than a Byron Bay sunrise? A Byron Bay sunset, of course. And the best part is you don’t need to wake up before the crack of dawn. Sundown in Byron is a glorious thing to witness; the horizon erupts in a blaze of orange, pink, peach and yellow, casting a golden glow across the entire township. There’s no better place to watch this spectacle transpire than Main Beach. Every afternoon, a crowd descends on the sandy shores to catch the last light, and there’s a real buzz in the air as people wait in anticipation to see what kind of performance Mother Nature puts on. And they’re rarely disappointed, as the gentle waves of the ocean are the perfect stage for an unforgettable nightly sunset show.