Cape Byron

There are many lighthouses along the coasts of Australia, but none are as well known as the lighthouse at Cape Byron. The lighthouse is situated on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Because of this, its a great location for viewing sunrise, and you will be the first person in Australia to see the sunrise when you are here.

I had the opportunity to visit Cape Byron Lighthouse in December last year. To get here, you would have to first get to the small town of Byron Bay. The nearest major city is Brisbane which is a 2-3 hours drive away. If you are coming from Sydney, its going to be an 8-10 hours drive. Because of the distance from major cities, you won’t find that many international tourists here. Its mostly local tourists on road trips and backpackers who are travelling between the east coast cities.

Byron Bay exudes the typical Australian small town vibe. Quaint buildings line the narrow streets. But here they have been given over to commercialism with shops, bars, and restaurants catering to the tourists.
One of the more well known establishments is the Balcony. This restaurant is at one of the main street corners and offers balcony sitting while you eat. Get here early if you want the balcony seats with street views, or make a reservation.
I could see the lighthouse from the beach at Byron Bay. As you can see, the lighthouse is quite a distance away (2 km in a straight line and 3.6 km by hiking)

There are 2 ways to get to the lighthouse from Byron Bay. The first is by hiking the nature trail, and the second is to drive. The road leads to the lighthouse, and there a couple of parking zones near the lighthouse. However, parking lots are limited and parking fees apply.

I parked at the first carpark below the lighthouse. Its a short walk to the lighthouse and you do get some spectacular views of the east coast along the way. The parking fee is actually $4/hr at this lower carpark. The $8/hr fee applies to the carpark at the lighthouse itself.
Incredible view of the east coast of Australia as I walked to the lighthouse.
This is the final carpark at the lighthouse itself. There’s very few parking spaces and it costs $8/hr. This carpark is also closed before 8am and after sunset.
The view of Cape Byron Lighthouse as I walked up from the carpark.

Cape Byron Lighthouse was completed in 1901 and is still operational today. In the beginning the light was generated by kerosene lamps, but it has been upgraded to an electric lamp with one of the brightest light beams in Australia. The running of the lighthouse is also automated now and the lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been turned into holiday accommodations which you can book to stay at.

View of the lighthouse from visitors’ center. It was perfect weather that day.
I wonder if anyone mails letters from this postbox.
From the lighthouse you can follow the nature trail which will take you to Cape Byron.
Viewing Cape Byron from the top of the trail. The huge waves pounding on the rocks is just incredible.
Zooming in on the guy fishing from the rocks on Cape Byron.
Dolphins can be seen sheltering in the calmer waters of the bay. During the whale migration season, you can also see humpback whales.
In the distance is Julian Rocks which are a nature reserve and also a great spot for diving and snorkeling. You can see sharks and stingrays here.

If you want to see sunrise from the lighthouse, you will have to get here pretty early. Sunrise occurs between 5.30am and 7.00am depending on the time of the year. If you are driving, you will have to park at the lower carpark and walk up to the lighthouse as the carpark at the lighthouse won’t be opened. During October to March, Byron Bay implements daylight savings and clocks will move up 1 hour earlier during this time, so check your watch before finding out that you missed sunrise.

My original plan was to go to the lighthouse early and try to catch the Milky Way before sunrise, But nature decided that it will rain that morning. So it was too cloudy for astrophotography and sunrise would prove to be a wet affair.
Looking through the condensation of morning mist as the sun started rising.
Here is the lighthouse with the sun rising behind it. The rain had passed by now, but it was still very overcast.
I still managed to see the sunrise briefly before it was covered by the low hanging rain clouds.
I presumed I was among the first people who saw the sunrise on the Australian continent that day.
These are the lighthouse keepers’ houses which have been turned into holiday accommodations. You can book them through the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services website.
Here are 2 photos taken at the same spot. One was taken in the afternoon and the other was taken during the sunrise.

You could visit Cape Byron Lighthouse as a day trip from Brisbane, but if you want to catch the sunrise here, then it would be better to spend a night in Byron Bay. The town is quite small and accommodation is limited. Do note that lodgings can get fully booked and expensive during peak periods like national holidays.

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