Brunswick Heads is quieter and more down-to-earth than its popular sister town, Byron Bay to the south, but that’s what gives this coastal town its charm. Brunswick Heads has sweeping beaches and pristine waterways, lots of birdlife, fish, and nature reserves. The town itself sits on a bend of the river, separated from the beach by a wooden footbridge. Vegetarian food, funky little cafés, eclectic boutiques and antique stores are in a walkable cluster.
During festivals, when the campgrounds and caravan parks in Byron Bay are booked out and pricey, Brunswick offers a less crowded and more affordable alternative.
Brunswick Heads is well-placed for a host of day trips (more about that in a future blog) and is a quiet place to return to at night. But there’s so much to do in Brunswick Heads itself that you needn’t leave. I’ve put together a list of 18 things to do in Brunswick Heads, a lot of it on the water, and the land-based activities are all within an easy walk or bicycle ride from the centre of town.
Everything on the list has been mapped at the end of the article so you can easily find them.
1. A good place to start is the Visitor Information Centre. They have a book exchange so you can exchange the book you’ve read for something you haven’t. You can pick up maps for the Fairy Trail in school holidays so your kids can go on a hunt for fairy houses. There’s a second hand and antique trail map, and a walking tour map of Brunswick Heads.
2. With map in hand, take the walking tour of Brunswick Heads. Don’t miss the breakwater where you can spot dolphins and, depending on the season, migrating whales.
3. Walk up to Ocean Shores Lookout on Devine Hill. (See the map at the end of this article). You’ll need to cycle or drive to the base of the hill.
4. Brunswick Heads Markets are on the first Saturday of the month in Summer.
5. Listen to free live music at the Hotel Brunswick. They also have a good selection of veg-friendly and gluten free food. A safe enclosed playground will keep the kids happy while you sit beneath wide umbrellas at tables on the lawn, or beneath flowering poinciana trees, with a cold beer or glass of wine in hand.
6. Follow the Northern Rivers Antiques and Collectibles Trail (Google map and list of stores here or download a PDF map) for antiques, collectibles and vintage goods – everything from furniture to shoes. The trail covers the entire Byron shire region, but at least nine of these shops are right in the heart of Brunswick Heads.
7. Go whale watching with Blue Bay.
8. Scuba dive or snorkel with majestic rays, turtles, people-friendly sharks – grey nurse, leopard sharks, and the endearing mustachioed wobbegongs – as well as enormous gropers and schools of fish. Dive the cod grounds of Windarra Banks. Or dive the legendary Julian Rocks, one of Australia’s top dive sites. Here you can visit cod hole and cray cave, nursery and cleaner cave, needles, mohole, and line of smiles, and the narrow canyons in Hugo’s trench. If you like wreck diving you’ll enjoy diving the “Sea Rogue“.
Blue Bay diving can take you to all of these dive sites.
9. Swim the patrolled surf beach or the more protected beaches of Torakin Beach and Harry’s Hill Beach at low tide. (See the tidal forecast for low tide times.)
10. Hire a kayak, paddle board or boat from Brunswick Buccaneers. Kayaks and paddle boards are $20 an hour, boats start at $50 an hour, and they’re open from 9 a.m. daily.
11. Jump off Simpsons Creek footbridge at high tide (when it is good and deep). Check first that there are no kayaks or boats coming, and that no one is swimming in your drop zone. (Check for high tide times on the tidal forecast chart.)
12. Surf the breakwater at Brunswick Heads North. Wanna Surf is a handy online website that helps you find the best surf spots. Brunswick Surf will rent you a board.
13. Take a Brunswick River eco-cruise. Sunset cruises and morning cruises from $40. Cruise, kayak and paddle boarding for $80. The tour company scores 5 stars on Tripadvisor. The tour guides are knowledgeable and funny, and you can tell they love the region and its wildlife.
14. Try lawn bowls at the Brunswick Bowling Club. Mufti bowls is the last Sunday of each month. $10 includes breakfast and dress is casual. Beginners are welcome.
15. Cycle or walk to Byron Bay along the beach. It takes an hour to cycle, and 2.5 hours to walk.
15. Go bush walking on the North Head Walking Trail where you will see bird life and, if you’re lucky, an echidna waddling through the undergrowth.
16. Enjoy some authentic Italian gelato at Bernadi’s.
17. Try the local food. I’ve put together a list of veg-friendly places that offer organic and gluten free options.
18. During school holidays you can help your kids search for fairy houses by following the fairy trail. Pick up a map from the visitor information centre.