Byron Bay & Ballina: As Told by Hertz Staff

The best kind of perspective is the local perspective. Our local staff in Byron Bay and Ballina on New South Wales' central and north coast, have compiled a recommended list of where and what travellers and customers should explore. Byron Bay and Ballina areas are known for their surfing, beaches, and scuba diving - and if you're lucky, you can spot a humpback whale or two. Get the inside scoop on the best spots to chill out or appease your inner Captain Cook:

Must Dos

Lennox Head
Surfers appreciate this space for its internationally renowned right-hand point break, and locals love it for its quaint coastal atmosphere. The beach runs parallel to heaps of shops and cafes and offers top notch snorkelling in the 'moat' at the southern end of the elongated beach. Fishing enthusiasts also launch their boats on the south end and troll along the coast to catch a fresh dinner.

Pat Morgan Lookout & Lake Ainsworth
At the top of Lennox Point within Lennox Head is the scenic Pat Morgan Lookout. Hang-gliders frequently take off from this launch point to better observe marine wildlife and picturesque views. Just a 5-minute drive north of Lennox Head is Lake Ainsworth. This body of freshwater is known for its vibrant colours and aquatic activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding. The water is a dark reddish brown, dyed by the natural oils from the nearby tea tree plants. If you're keen on skincare, this remedial setting will work wonders.

Julian Rocks Marine Reserve
Give in to your inner Nemo by exploring the natural wildlife and habitats the Byron Bay Marine Park has to offer. Home to more than 1000 species including turtles, stingrays, fish, shark, seals, whales, and more, the reserve is where warm and cool waters meet (aka biodiversity central). To start your adventure, take a quick boat ride out to the marine reserve just off the main beach, to dive and snorkel the day away.

Drive one hour and fifteen minutes inland from Byron Bay, and discover the peaceful vibes of one of Australia's first and most enduring 'hippie' towns - Nimbin and surrounding 'Rainbow Region.' Discover fresh produce weekly at the Nimbin Farmer's Market and get in touch with your earthy roots with the alternative arts community - think gardens, ceramics, festivals, clothing, food, meditation, tribal drumming, sweat lodges and more. The stunning World Heritage rainforest that surrounds Nimbin is easily accessible and a must see.

Byron Lighthouse
Venture the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Take a guided tour to uncover shipwrecks, learn of the land's history, and absorb the views. Along the Cape Byron walking track (and a short distance away) visit Fisherman's Lookout, the tip of Cape Byron, and charming cafés to quench your need for caffeine. And of course, get your photo taken by the sign 'Mainland Australia's most easterly point.'

Big Prawn
This is one of Ballina's "big" things to see - literally. Built in 1989, The Big Prawn is an iconic sight one should see on their way to the beach. Towering 9 metres high and weighing 35 tonnes, grab a photo with the massive crustacean before devouring a fresh catch in one of the local seafood stores across the road. Bon Appetit.

Macadamia Castle
Fun for the whole family. Cuddle up to a native furry friend (or keep your distance from a not-so-cuddly reptile), challenge your companions to mini golf, check out the playgrounds, barbecues, train rides, and much more. Local coffee and good eats are served for breakfast or lunch if you get a mid-afternoon snack craving. If you have a hankering for sweets, you won't have to search very far to satiate your sweet tooth with Macadamia nuts or macadamia baked cheesecake.

Best Restaurants

Harvest Newrybar
Up for a casual drive? Just 20 minutes southwest of Byron Bay is Harvest, a restaurant/deli/café filled to the brim with organic foods and produce. Their recipes are fused to feature the diverse tastes of the local region in a country chic atmosphere (when you first catch a glimpse of the early 20th century cottage, you'll appreciate being transported back in time).

Quattro, Lennox Head
Australian Vogue Travel featured this spot as the "most stylish beachfront restaurant" because of its chill atmosphere and traditional Italian cuisine. A fan favourite is the wood-fired pizza from a brickwood oven - no wonder this is the case, since Quattro has won 'Best Traditional Pizza' in NSW. This venue emphasises quality food and superior dining experiences.

Everybody loves Fleurs (if you don't believe us, just take a look at their Facebook or Trip Advisor reviews). Fleurs is within the Comfort Inn All Seasons in Ballina, providing a hearty menu of European cuisine with a French twist. The best part about this place is that it's adaptable and appropriate for any occasion or group size.

The Farm
Searching for a refreshing, educating experience in a rustic setting? Look no further. The Farm is home to the Three Blue Ducks restaurant and produce store, creating chemical-free, organic dishes to your liking. With BBQs and live music on weekends, the atmosphere is suitable for a family outing or a day session with mates. This venue also features workshops for all ages to learn about ethical farming, bee keeping, permaculture design, natural building, and more. Their motto, "Grow, Feed, Educate" leaves customers feeling inspired after a visit.

Bay Leaf Cafe
In the heart of town, stop by this café to indulge in fresh, local seasonal cuisine. Their breakfasts are hearty, healthy, and filling. Not to mention, they serve up some truly 'yum' coffee and offer an offshoot bakery next door which has takeaway options.

Taste of Melaka
Your taste buds will dance once you introduce your palate to the burst of flavours Melaka has to offer. If you're into traditional Malaysian food (and even if you're not) the authentic dishes are prepared from scratch on site. With a (mainly) dinner only menu on weekdays and lunch/dinner on weekends, BYO to make it a party.

Hidden Gems

Cosy Corner
At the northern end of Tallow Beach, this secluded pocket of bliss is ideal for relaxation or for a good surf. You can travel there on foot (it's close to Cape Byron walking track) or by car ($6.00 for parking). With some of the best waves the Byron Bay area has to offer, surfers will cherish the large swells. Swimmers should beware of the rip tide, but visitors are normally able to enjoy the tranquillity (and less touristy) coastland without fail.

Crystal Castle
Just a 25-minute drive inland, take a trek to Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens to channel your inner zen. As the name suggests, this spiritual abode is home to the largest crystals in the world. Touch the World Peace Stupa, which is a project blessed by the Dalai Lama (and the only Kalachakra World Peace Stupa in the southern hemisphere), take a stroll through the labyrinth to absorb the natural environment, join a workshop, or explore the Enchanted Cave for a mystical experience.

Minyon Falls
Within Nightcap National park (a 45-minute drive inland), a walking trail winds its way through the rainforest to open up at a picturesque waterfall. This track will take you on a journey through a range of vegetation, creeks, and lush scenery. The hike takes about 3-4 hours to complete and is 13km return. There's also a lookout which, on a clear, sunny day, you can see all the way out to the coast. Don't forget your swimmers, since the falls perfectly crafted a natural pool for taking a dip.

Kiva Spa
Take a 20-minute drive northwest to Mullumbimby, where through a shaded glen and bamboo grove you'll discover a serene dwelling to reenergise. Kiva Spa combines healing bathing practices from around the globe to nourish your body and mind. Connect with the Spirit of Earth and take in the therapeutic atmosphere with a massage, bathing ritual, or body treatments.

Whites Beach at Broken Head
Australian Traveller named this location #1 on its list of 100 Incredible Travel Secrets of Australia. Just a 25- minute drive south of Byron Bay, walk through a tunnel of forest and sunshine to your destination (which seems like a beachside retreat). The black rocks, clear seafoam green waters, and graceful palms that dance in the breeze make you feel like you feel like Tom Hanks from Castaway on an uninhabited tropical island - minus the problematic escape.

Local Events

Being popular beachside towns, Byron Bay, Ballina and surrounds are home to a variety of events for every type of traveller. Whether you're a foodie, outdoorsman/woman, music enthusiast, or looking for family fun, rest assured you'll find an event that suits your requirements:

• Blues Festival (March/April)
• Food and Wine Expo (June/July)
• Splendour in the Grass (July)
• Writers Festival (August)
• The Nimbin Roots Festival (September)
• Prawn Festival Ballina (November)
• Ballina Boxing Day Races (December)