Southern summer adventures – eat your way through the best restaurants in Byron Bay and surrounds
There ain’t nothin’ like a roadtrip, especially when the destinations are this delicious. Now that the borders are open (hooray!), we’re buckling up and heading south – join us on a journey through the Northern Rivers’ must-visit venues for your eating and drinking pleasure.
Barrio, Byron Bay
Neighbourhood eatery Barrio (located in the Habitat precinct) offers relaxed all-day dining, starting with daily bakes, coffee and sandwiches, before evolving into vibrant salads, smoked fish and grilled meats. Focused on the woodfired oven and open-flame grill that are the heart of the establishment, you can expect a menu that serves up Middle Eastern-inspired bites influenced by the produce available at the time. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, while away the afternoon over a margarita, negroni or smoked pina colada. All produce is smoked, cured and pickled in-house and the menu is constantly evolving.
No. 35, Cabarita
No. 35 taking up residence in prime position along Tweed Coast Road. The exciting newcomer is bringing the coastal Italian vibes you’ve been dreaming of to Northern New South Wales, dishing up ‘new world Italian’ that modernises much-loved traditional Italian fare. To start, enjoy local snapper fish finger sandwich or arancini stuffed with garden peas and smoked parmesan custard. The share-style mains include pastas like spaghetti puttanesca, cavatelli with braised pork neck, fennel, basil and pecorino, and classics like half-roast chicken with pepperonata or sirloin with mustard butter and broad-leaf rocket. Accompanying the bites, the beverages reflect this Italian influence, including negronis and Americanos sitting pretty alongside traditional Italian wine as well as fun additions such as pet-nats and orange drops.
Eltham Hotel, Eltham
Just out of Bangalow sits the Eltham Hotel, a gem hidden in the Northern Rivers hinterland. The Eltham Hotel is a classic charmer of an old pub that has been recently renovated with care. As the sun sets, enjoy your sudsy sips below the festoon lights of the backyard beer garden. When you start to get peckish, the bistro serves up classic pub favourites with a twist, such as the steak sambo and the spiced cauliflower burger (which we 100 percent recommend trying). There is also a cracking specials list – keep an eye out for the deep-fried sandwich with mozzarella and ‘nduja in carrozza when ordering. For the vintage lovers, we recommend booking a night in one of the hotel’s five rooms, which come with different stories and are kitted out with locally thrifted finds.
Black Drop Cafe, Pottsville
The sleepy seaside town of Pottsville has more than its fair share of excellent establishments, with the newest addition being Black Drop Cafe. If you need quality caffeinating then look no further, with the team slinging Blackboard beans daily from 7:00 am. Its summer menu is fresh and delicious, with a range of breakfast and lunch bites perfect for refuelling after a day by the creek – think Coopers Shoot tomatoes with chilli scrambled eggs, Byron Bay mozzarella and basil on sourdough all the way through to crispy pork belly with red curry, charred pineapple, green mango and black rice crackers.
Roco Ramen, Brunswick Heads
Originally planned to run until September, this pop-up at the famed Fleet restaurant in Brunswick Heads has been extended until the end of the year (keep an eye on Fleet’s instagram for updates). Ramen aficionados will appreciate that the magic is in the broth, and Roco Ramen shares this focus. Complemented by the abundant fresh produce of the Northern Rivers region, the team led by Daiki Shigeta employs a range of traditional methods that lend the ramen that deep flavour that truly makes it special.
Tweed River House, Murwillumbah
Designed as a bar, bistro and exclusive wedding venue, Tweed River House offers diners a unique experience – stepping through the doors of the grand old riverside mansion is envisioned to make guests feel like they are taking a step back in time. With uninterrupted views of Wollumbin and the surrounding cane fields of Murwillumbah (not to mention the expansive waterfront vistas), you’ll have trouble deciding whether to perch outside and take in the view, or situate yourself below the oversized chandelier surrounded by that swoon-worthy wallpaper. With lunch, dinner and sunset cocktail sessions on offer, the venue is something truly great for the region.
Ciao Mate, Bangalow
Snag a booth seat or a courtyard spot to enjoy the balmy summer evening while you sip on a quality vino at this laid-back Italian joint. The simple menu offers a selection of wood-fired pizzas and a pasta special – think ricotta dumplings with green garlic and fresh peppercorn sauce – along with a salad. Keep an eye out for off-menu specials like stracciatella with pickled cauliflower florets, kohlrabi and mustard greens served with wood-fired flatbread. There are also wood-fired sangas on offer if you pop by at lunch time on a weekend.
Daughter in Law, Byron Bay
This is not your typical Indian eatery – restauranteur Jessi Singh’s vibrant, ‘unauthentic’ Indian restaurant has already become ubiquitous with a riot of colour and flavour for fusing a coastal Northern Rivers influence together with traditional flavours. Whilst it may raise a few eyebrows, Jessi describes his food as ‘unauthentic’ because, in his view, there is no such thing as authentic Indian food. The fresh and inspiring menu features new spins on old favourites such as the unauthentic butter chicken or the Old Dehli vegan chana masala, alongside delights like the Hiramasa kingfish ceviche, IFC ‘Indian Fried Chicken’ and Colonel TSO’s cauliflower – an Indo-Chinese-style cauliflower dish packed with flavour.
Supernatural, Byron Bay
Tucked in along Bay Lane behind the pub, Supernatural is all about natural and organic wines, ethical produce and spirited cocktails. Expect bites like oysters with Asian finger lime vinaigrette or smoked mussels on toast with oxheart tomato, lemon and herbs, underscored by its ever-extensive collection of wine from home and across the globe, and new must-try cocktails like the native-ginger-infused bush margarita.
The Hut Byron Bay, Possum Creek
If you venture south and follow the winding road that leads from Byron Bay into the lush hinterland valleys behind it, you may stumble across a historic treasure in a little place called Possum Creek. The Hut Byron Bay is located in the Old O’Possum Creek Public School, a historic building that has been converted and modernised while still retaining many of its heritage features. the menu is inspired by long Mediterranean lunches, with a focus on Southern Italian and Greek flavours. With elements of the menu dependant on the morning’s market finds, the ever-evolving selection is guaranteed to be fresh and locally sourced where possible. Serving up lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we hear tables have a tendency to linger well into the evening – perhaps The Hut’s top-notch tipple list has something to do with it? The Mediterranean inspiration continues with a selection of spritzes, classics and signatures to wash it all down.
The Roadhouse, Byron Bay
The coffees start pouring at 7:00 am, kicking off a day of brunching and lunching in the sun at The Roadhouse. With new ownership at the helm, The Roadhouse has your morning covered with brews, breakfast, freshly baked muffins and pastries, which then flows into lunch and rotating daily specials (Reuben sanga with house sauerkraut, anyone?). After dark, a woodfired aroma billows through the air – that means it’s pizza time at The Roadhouse, featuring good wine and beers aplenty.
La Familia & Co., Mullumbimby
La Familiá & Co. is the Mexican eatery and cocktail bar bringing good vibes, live music and flavour-packed eats to Mullum. The Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar has taken up residence in a sprawling, warmly lit outdoor space, meaning there’s room for live music aplenty as the sun dips below the horizon and you indulge in a few hand-crafted cocktails. Speaking of which, we have it on good authority that the margarita selection is superb – if you can make it past the signature cocktails, which include delights such as the Rainforest Sour (Brookie’s Slow Gin, lemon, Davidson plum jam and aquafaba) and the La Familia Colada (Lord Byron Distillery Pina Rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream). With hatted chef Brett Luckens at the helm, La Familiá & Co.’s menu features considered share-plates and flavoursome tacos, slow-cooked meats and traditional spices.
Saltwater Social Club, Byron Bay
Saltwater Social Club is all about laidback coastal vibes. For sunset sips to relaxed dinners on balmy summer nights, Saltwater Social Club is the perfect place for rounding out a day spent on the sand with a refreshing beverage. The good times are fuelled by a nautical-inspired cocktail list, which includes the likes of the Tradewinds – Plantation pineapple rum, Kabosu Japanese citrus liqueur, lime and passionfruit – and the Dunebuggy, with Hendrick’s gin, St-Germain, lemon and a fresh cucumber. The laidback menu features starters such as bocconcini with olives, wonton sliders and short rib tacos, plus a selection of salads and larger fare to share.
Masa Byron Bay
On your way into town you’ll find Masa, a bakery located in the Byron Bay industrial estate. Starting your morning with a coffee and a croissant pulled fresh from the oven is a ritual we would definitely recommend, particularly when the pastry selection is this good. If you prefer something other than the classic buttery croissant, Masa’s offering includes both sweet and savoury delights. The eclectic selection of the day is displayed along a polished-concrete benchtop and includes treats such as the lemon-myrtle and lemon curd cruffin with a toasted meringue swirl. Staples with a twist are also on offer, like the charcoal olive-oil sourdough.
Chupacabra, Suffolk Park
Tacos with freshly pressed corn tortillas, punchy snacks, finger-licking share plates and proper margaritas – Suffolk Park’s Chupacabra is where you’ll find the true tastes of coastal Mexico. There are snacks like chicharron (pork rinds) and street-style corn on the cob with hot sauce, a raft of tacos to choose from, plus vibrant mains like grilled watermelon with pepita and coriander salsa, Mexican-style surf and turf, and reef-fish wings in agave and jalapeno butter.
Bottle & Hoop, Brunswick Heads
If you’re visiting Brunswick Heads, we suggest packing a picnic and whiling away an afternoon by the Brunswick River. Rather than lukewarm cheese and crushed crackers that are slightly worse for wear after the drive, Bottle & Hoop is here to deliver local and imported artisan cheeses, charcuterie and all of the extras. Located close to the centre of town, Bottle & Hoop offers quality small-batch goods with a story – think Barossa Valley goats milk camembert, perfect pet nats and pickled figs with caperberries. If you can’t make it to the bricks-and-mortar shop then we recommend jumping online and drooling over its range, which, luckily for us, is also available for delivery.
Bang Bang, Byron Bay
Craving an Asian-food fix? Bang Bang’s lively vibe and menu of Southeast Asian bites will curb that, quick smart. Starters (known as ‘little bangs’) like prawn toast with XO mayo and Moreton Bay bug buns act as a moreish prelude to mains like crispy, sticky pork belly with master-stock caramel, wok-tossed pad seeuw, Bangkok-style fried rice and fragrant curries. Keen sippers can pair their bites with Asian-inspired cocktails and ice-cold beers.
Honour Espresso and Salumi Bar, Brunswick Heads
Combining all of the best things in life (in our humble opinion), Honour Espresso & Salumi Bar in Brunswick Heads provides the ideal spot for afternoon sundowners in the middle of town. Opening for brunch, lunch and its weekend wine and salumi bar session from 3:00 pm, Honour is the perfect place to while away a summer afternoon. Honour’s salumi bar selection is focused on natural wines and antipasti, with its constantly changing small-plate selection including house-made capicola, pickles, tomatoes, ricotta and Ortiz anchovies. We love that Honour has committed to ensuring its produce is only sourced from nearby farmers markets, ensuring everything is locally grown.
di Vino, Byron Bay
You should definitely start your di Vino journey with the house-made focaccia (and thank us later). The Italian diner, which you’ll find on Fletcher Street, celebrates the best of the land and sea with a menu of small plates (think Ballina king prawns with spicy ‘nduja) and handmade pastas like tagliolini verdi with spanner crab, cherry tomatoes, smoked butter and saffron. Sip your way through Italy’s best drops by the glass or bottle while you’re at it.
Cadeau, Brunswick Heads
Brunswick Heads is blessed with some of the best eateries in the Northern Rivers – and Cadeau is no exception. With a top-notch wine list and a menu to match, Cadeau is like a little slice of Europe on the Australian coastline. The French-inspired fare is also complemented by a delicious snack menu and a Sunday roast. Cadeau has quickly become a favourite for locals and visitors alike – and we can see why!
Piccolo Mondo, Pottsville
With an ethos focused on the use of local, natural and (where possible) organic ingredients, Piccolo Mondo gelato is truly something special. The creamy flavours like honeycomb and hazelnut use Barambah Organics milk as a base, while the fruit-based flavours are all seasonal. If you’re a true gelato connoisseur, you’ll know that there’s nothing like a top-notch scoop – forget the flouro artificial colourings and sickly sweet flavours, and think quality ingredients that actually taste like the real thing (and don’t give you a splitting sugar headache). Piccolo Mondo in Pottsville is serving up some of the best gelato around and trust us, it’s worth the drive.
Pottsville’s Pipit is the acclaimed solo venture from awarded chef Ben Devlin (ex-Paper Daisy) and his partner Yen Trinh. Pipit celebrates the best seasonal produce from the Northern Rivers area, with local native ingredients brought to life through woodfired cooking. The open-plan space allows you to observe the seasonal menu preparation unfolding, which constantly changes depending on produce availability. The tasting menu is based on a concept of smaller plates, with offerings such as sour potato pastry with mullet roe and finger lime, jackfruit with duck ‘nduja, and bamboo shoot with mud crab and preserved yuzu. The wine pairings are carefully selected with a focus on Australian and natural drops.
Kouzina, Byron Bay
In true Byron style, this list effortlessly flips from high-end fine diners to a hidden gem tucked away in an industrial estate. Authentic Greek eatery Kouzina, a hidden gem tucked away on Acacia Street in the industrial estate, is a local favourite for big, fat Greek dinner feasts (Thursday to Saturday) and casual lunches (Thursdays and Fridays). Start with mezedes like dolmades, dips and kolokithokeftedes, then work through mains like village pie, papoutsakia, chicken souvlaki and lamb stifado. Save room for coffee and Greek sweets.
Image credit: Jess Kearney
Harvest Newrybar, Newrybar
A non-negotiable must-do when in the Byron Bay region. Experience Harvest properly with a (very) long lunch or dreamy dinner and feast your way through the kitchen’s inventive expression of the region’s bounty, which highlights produce from local artisans, Harvest’s own gardens, and foraged, native and wild ingredients from the local area. To the left sits Harvest Deli, a wonderland of charcuterie, cheese, wine, deli favourites, condiments, pantry essentials, pastries and fresh daily bread (baked in Harvest’s own historic 118-year-old bakery), and the Wild Harvest line of products, produced by resident forager and wild-food researcher, Peter Hardwick. There’s plenty to see, eat and explore while you’re there.
Frida’s Field, Nashua
Opened in September 2020, Frida’s Field – located on a working cattle farm in the quaint hinterland township on Nashua – is a destination dining spot serving the property’s own sustainably grown ingredients for long lunches from Thursday to Saturday. The contemporary, country-style dining concept is a joint project between Edward and Jeanie Rawlings, owners of the Frida’s Field farm property, and award-winning chef Alastair Waddell. On Frida’s menu, you can expect to see wagyu-Angus raised in surrounding paddocks and fresh produce plucked from its on-site gardens and orchards. Diners have to pre-book tickets to each sitting via the website.
Need a coffee hit? There are a couple of newbies in town – plant-based cafe Vagabond (from the owners of the ever-popular Combi on Byron’s Fletcher Street) is the most recent arrival to the Habitat hub, serving coffee, smoothies, breakfast, lunch and almost-too-pretty-to-eat cakes. There’s also Daily Counter Byron Bay, a sleek new caffeine spot in the industrial precinct (sibling to the venue of the same name in Brunswick) armed with Allpress Espresso, bagels, jaffles and baked sweets.
Want more? You’ll find arguably the best karaage and temaki outside of Japan at unassuming eatery Japonaise Kitchen, while if you prefer a little bit of (literal) elevation, find the staircases to Balcony Bar & Oyster Co. and Loft Byron Bay. For a bite and a beer (straight from the source), the Stone & Wood Canteen at its Byron Bay brewery is open daily – it’s run by the 100 Mile Table crew and slings beer-friendly eats like beef-brisket burgers, mustard-chicken terrine with pickled zucchini, relish and sourdough, and crispy pork belly.
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