Saturday, 16 January 2016

Byron Bay Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6.1 km (3.8 miles), terrain: a couple of hills, 75-meter gain

Pictures courtesy of Google StreetView Trekker. Thanks!

Byron Bay is a relaxed, artsy village of 5,000 people perched on a point of land sticking out into the ocean on Australia's east coast. It's great location makes it popular with surfers. Beaches line the town to the north and east, and nature preserves protect natural woods and bushland beyond.
Along the Byron Bay Walking Track
The few tourists -- a mix of backpackers, campers and wealthier travelers -- wander the tiny downtown between a sprinkling of laid-back restaurants, bars and boutiques. This is a place for outdoor fun, with surf-schools, diving, whale-watching, and great hikes and runs like this! The village stretches along the water along Cape Byron, Australia's eastern-most point, and is one of the most charming places you'll ever visit. I had the good luck to camp there, right next to the main beach.

So, if your luck also brings you to this great spot, lace up your running shoes and get ready for one of the most beautiful runs you'll ever do: running along the beach sands and then take the Cape Byron Walking Track as it climbs and winds along the clifftops and secluded coves, past the Cape Byron lighthouse, and back again. There will be spectacular views at every turn and a mix of nature preserves and nice neighborhoods. And -- if you're really lucky -- you'll see some marine life: dolphins, rays, turtles. Between May and October it's also possible to sight humpback whales migrating past the cape.
Start of the run at Johnson Street: head straight to the horizon!
Start the run at the heart of town, where the main street -- Johnson Street -- hits the water at a parking lot. This is also the main beach, Clarkes Beach, and the most popular spot to surf.

NOTE: that great-looking restaurant behind you, the Pacific Dining Room, with its big outdoor terrace beneath giant fir trees is the place to go in the evening. You'll enjoy an amazing acoustic show from the squawking parrots who fill the trees, gathering each evening to scream the day's news to each other.

Now walk out onto the sand beach and look around. You can see Mt. Warning across the bay to the north.

This spot is called the Wreck, because of the sunken ship just out in the water, which you might see if the tide is right. It sank there in a cyclone almost 100 years ago, and it causes interesting waves for surfers, making this a popular surf spot.

So now turn right to run eastwards along Clarkes Beach, with the little green stripe to your right that separates the town from the sand. This is where the surf schools hold their classes. The best running is on the wet, compact sand near the water.
Fishermans Lookout
Just run along Clarkes Beach all the way until it ends at those rocks and cliffs you see in the distance, to the east. At that big rock in the water, Fishermans Lookout, you can climb the wooden stairs to get a wonderful view out along the rocks of Cape Byron.
The view from Fishermans Lookout: we'll keep running along those cliffs!
Now leave the beach by taking the paved ramp up to the parking lot to join the Cape Byron Walking Track. This is one spectacular trail! The marked trail is a popular 3.7-kilometer path through bushland and along cliffs.

Keep left in the parking lot and turn onto the brick pathway leading east through the woods. This is the walking track.

You'll head uphill, and soon find yourself at the clifftops, with great views over the rocky coastline again. We're in the Cape Byron Headlands Reserve.

The trail then heads downhill to tiny Wategos Beach, with a quiet little neighborhood nestled between the hills, along Marine Parade.
Wategos Beach
Just keep running straight after the beach ends, as the trail now heads upwards over more cliffs. You will now be heading uphill until after the lighthouse.

As the trail goes up over the hill, though natural bushland and woods, it starts curving southwards as you round Cape Byron. 
The bush on the way to Cape Byron
NOTE: Before you reach the top of the hill, there is a little side-trail that heads out past Little Wategos Beach and over the rocks to Cape Byron itself, Australia's easternmost point. I'd recommend taking that little detour, although it means heading downhill to the cape and then back uphill again.
The trail at Cape Byron: this is as far east as you can get!
The main trail then comes out of the bush to follow the clifftop, heading southwards. There are spectacular views every few steps, with mountainous shores in the distance, rocky islands and the cliffs below, with an occasional glimpse of the lighthouse.
Cliffs, heading towards the lighthouse
As you get closer to the lighthouse, there will be a lot more people on the trail, because there's a parking lot at the lighthouse.
The lighthouse
The 120-year-old lighthouse itself is beautiful, with more great views up there south to Lennox Head. Arakwal National Park begins just south of here, lined by natural Tallow Beach. Ah, life is good in Byron Bay!
View south past Tallow Beach to Lennox Head
Now the trail follows Lighthouse Road for a while, but then the brick trail veers off through the bush of the nature preserve to head downhill towards town. This preserved bushland is a great chance to experience real Australian nature. The trail soon turns into a dirt one, and you have to watch your footing, with lots of roots and steps to cause a tumble.
The bush on the way home
The trail comes out where Lee Lane enters Lighthouse Road. There's a parking lot for the Cape Byron preserve across the street, at a spot called Captain Cook Lookout. Captain Cook, during his explorations, named the spot after one of his officers, the grandfather of poet Lord Byron.

Run through the parking lot, past the lookout and down the steps to Clarkes Beach again. Now just turn left and run back to the starting spot. This run was so good, you won't want to stop. So if you want to add extra distance, just continue running westwards past the Wreck and run along Belongil Beach. Enjoy your moment in paradise!
Clarkes Beach heading back towards town

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