13 laid back places like Byron Bay to unwind

Searching for beach and laidback vibes? Here are alternative paradises to Byron Byron for surfing enthusiasts and beach lovers.

Byron Bay is a testament to Australia’s laidback lifestyle,with its sunny beaches, great surf spots and fresh seafood. But during the holiday seasons, when people flock to this coastal hotspot, the traffic and people can drive you mad.

If you are looking for alternative places to sit back, relax and leave the crazy crowds behind, read on.

We have 13 equally beautiful beach towns within and beyond Australia that offer as much as Byron Bay in their own unique ways.

13 places like Byron Bay

Mission Beach

Image: Tourism Australia

1. Mission Beach, Queensland

Mission Beach is one of the closest mainland access points to the Great Barrier Reef, sitting halfway between Cairns and Townsville on the map. The quiet beachside village is home to an excellent reef, rainforests and untouched beaches. Mission Beach is also home to the endangered cassowary.

  • Best for: Beaches
  • Top 5 beaches: South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, Mission Beach Village, Bingil Bay, North Mission Beach.
  • Must see and do: Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics Rainforest, look for wild cassowaries, skydive over the beach.
  • Stay: Castaways Resort & Spa. This modern beachfront resort is metres away from the white sands of Mission Beach and is set amongst rainforest gardens. Rooms with a beachfront view start at $225.

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Image: Tourism Australia

2. Broome, Western Australia

This town in Western Australia was known for its pearling industry. Today, the pristine waters, wide empty beaches and unique camel rides at sunset make it one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations.

  • Best for: An escape from the ordinary.
  • Top 5 beaches: Cable Beach, Riddell Beach, Middle Lagoon, Town Beach, Gantheaume Point.
  • Must see and do: Camel rides on Cable Beach, Matso’s Brewery, dinosaur footprints, Horizontal Falls, pearl farm tours, Courthouse Markets.
  • Stay at: Ramada Eco Beach: The award-winning environmentally friendly resort is about an hour’s drive south of Broome and is surrounded by the beautiful, untouched Western Australia coastline. The resort offers activities like fishing, indigenous tours, whale watching and yoga. Eco Tents start at $190 per night.

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Image: Destination New South Wales

3. Merimbula, New South Wales

Merimbula is a mecca for all water activities with its wide range of lakes and beaches. Known as the Jewel of the Sapphire Coast, it draws visitors from all over with its breathtaking natural beauty. Be sure to visit the local wineries and taste locally grown oysters that showcase the fresh seafood of the region.

  • Best for: Fresh seafood.
  • Top 5 beaches: Middle Beach, Merimbula Main Beach, Short Point, Tathra, Barmouth Beach, Spencer Park Beach.
  • Must see and do: Kayaking the inlets, explore nearby national parks, try the local oysters.
  • Stay: Sails Luxury Apartments Merimbula: Features a private balcony that overlooks Merimbula Lake, with individually decorated apartments that can fit up to 3 to 5 guests., It is also a mere five-minute walk to Main Beach. Apartments start at $270.

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Torquay and the Surf Coast

Image: Tourism Victoria

4. Torquay and the Surf Coast, Victoria

This Victorian beach town marks the start of the Surf Coast and the Great Ocean Road, one of the country’s most spectacular coastal drives. This area is lso one of the world’s most renowned surfing spots, with visitors flocking here to watch the world’s best compete in the famed Rip Curl Pro.

  • Best for: Road trips.
  • Top 5 beaches etc: Bells Beach, Apollo Bay, Anglesea, Lorne, Airey’s Inlet.
  • Must see and do: Surfing, Surf Coast Walk, Cape Otway Lightstation Australian National Surfing Museum.
  • Stay: Peppers The Sands Resort: Sitting across the Torquay Foreshore Reserve, this resort is a short drive to Bells Beach and an ideal starting point for exploring Great Ocean Road. There's also an 18-hole golf course on site. Rooms start at $190 per night.

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Port Stephens

Image: Destination New South Wales

5. Port Stephens, New South Wales

Port Stephens is a large natural harbour located in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. Its wonderful beaches and sheltered bays make it the perfect spot for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. The small towns in the area are also ideal places to stay and dine.

  • Best for: Families.
  • Top 5 beaches: One Mile Beach, Fingal Bay, Birubi Beach, Zenith Beach, Box Beach.
  • Must see and do: Local wineries in the nearby Hunter Valley, dolphin watching, sandboarding and camel rides at the Stockton Sand Dunes.
  • Stay at: Landmark Resort: Modern, self-contained apartments with spectacular views of Port Stephens. Sitting right next to Nelson Bay’s 27-hole golf course, this is the perfect location for tourists. Rooms start at $175.

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Image: Tourism Noosa

6. Noosa, Queensland

This swanky resort town is surrounded by beaches, national parks and a river. Noosa is perfect if you are looking for unspoilt coastlines and excellent water-based activities such as fishing or surfing.

  • Best for: A touch of luxury.
  • Top 5 beaches: Noosa Main Beach, Noosa Spit, Noosa Groyne, Sunshine Beach, Castaways Beach.
  • Must see and do: Surfing, beach or river fishing, Fraser Island tours, biking along the coastline.
  • Stay at: Sofitel Noosa Resort & Spa: This 5-star luxury hotel is a two-minute walk from the famed Noosa Main Beach and Hastings Street where you can easily find places to shop, eat and drink. Rooms start at $339.

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7. Yamba, Queensland

From its bountiful beaches and surf-ready waters to its iconic lighthouse and campsite vibe, Yamba is a mirror image of Byron Bay sans the crowds.

  • Best for: Peace and quiet.
  • Top 5 beaches: Pippi Beach, Yamba Beach, Turners Beach, Whiting Beach and Convent Beach.
  • Must see and do: Surfing, beach, fishing, Yamba lighthouse, kayaking and canoeing.
  • Stay at: Angourie Rainforest Resort. This 4.5-star property is absolutely luxurious and is a short drive from Clarence River Light, Dolphin Park and Pippi Beach. Rooms start at $170.

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8. Nimbin, New South Wales

Surrounded by National Parks and reserves, the sleepy town of Nimbin may not be a coastal one but with its chill hippy vibe and lush surroundings, it's not too far a stretch from Byron.

  • Best for: The hippy, small town feel.
  • Top 5 beaches: As Nimbin is an inland town, it doesn't have beaches. It's closest beaches are Byron Bay.
  • Must see and do: Hiking, fishing, scenic drives and shopping.
  • Stay at: Grey Gum Lodge. In line with its laidback vibe, Grey Gum offers cosy accommodation couples with friendly staff and wonderful views. Rooms start from $110.

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9. Lennox Head, New South Wales

A stone's throw from Byron Bay, Lennox Head is a popular day or half-day trip from Byron though warrants its own holiday for its vibrant sea village atmosphere and endless horizon views.

  • Best for: Seaside vibing, surfing.
  • Top beaches: Lennox Head, Lake Ainsworth, Lighthouse Beach and Seven Mile Beach.
  • Must see and do: Surfing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and camping.
  • Stay at: Lennox Holiday Apartments. Find all your creature comforts in the peaceful surrounds of Lennox Head at these self-contained apartments. Rooms start from $190.

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Railay Beach

Image: Tourism Authority of Thailand

10. Railay Beach, Thailand

Isolated from the mainland and accessible only by boat, this tiny peninsula has sun, sea, lush jungles and limestone crags that cater to the adventurous. Railay is the ultimate jungle gym for rock climbing enthusiasts and is also the perfect place to lay back and relax in this tropical paradise with plenty of beachside eateries and seaside bars.

  • Best for: Adventure seekers.
  • Top 5 nearby beaches: Railay Beach, Tonsai Beach, Ao Nang Beach, Nopparat Thara Beach, Phra Nang Beach.
  • Must see and do: Rock climbing, sea kayaking, diving and snorkelling, jungle trekking, explore nearby islands by longtail.
  • Stay at: Rayavadee Resort: This secluded getaway is hidden among tropical foliage, right next to the Krabi Marine National Park. Rooms start at $270.

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Image: Goa Tourism

11. Goa, India

The coastline of Goa stretches along the Arabian Sea with its golden, sandy beaches. The area’s known for a laid-back tropical vibe and nightlife, and has embedded itself in hippie backpacking culture. It’s also rich in history: you can still find evidence of Portuguese colonizations in its cavalcades of 16th century buildings.

  • Best for: That hippy culture.
  • Top 5 beaches: Chapora, Anjuna, Miramar, Siridao, Palolem.
  • Must see and do: Spice plantations, 16th century churches in Old Goa, bazaars.
  • Stay at: Shanti Morada Goa: This small hotel chain offers boutique properties in three cities across India, including the Goa village of Saligo. Rooms here are housed within the fully restored Casa de Morada, originally built in 1897. They are also furnished with handpicked items dating back 300 years. Rooms start at $110.

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12. Sihanoukville, Cambodia

This Cambodian city lies halfway between Thailand and Vietnam on a coastline often explored by tourists on 100cc motorcycles. The beaches may not be Southeast Asia’s finest but the laid-back atmosphere, abundance of budget accommodation and seaside BBQ joints provide a great escape from your typical beach bum crowds.

  • Best for: A laidback escape.
  • Top 5 beaches: Orcheteaul, Serendipity, Victory, Independence, Otres.
  • Must see and do: Khmer cookery classes, diving and snorkelling, eat fresh seafood at a beach BBQ.
  • Stay at: White Boutique Hotel: Situated on a private beach in Sihanoukville, this trendy Cambodia resort is the perfect spot to relax on the coast. Plus, upgraded rooms offer direct access to the pool area. Rooms start at $160.

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Image: Tourism Tofino

13. Tofino, British Columbia

The surf capital of Canada is a spot of stunning beauty and ecological diversity. If surfing the waves is not your cup of tea, explore the ancient rainforest trails and come face to face with natural wonders that are over 1,500 years in age. You cans also browse the locally owned shops for hidden gems - you won’t find any chain stores here.

  • Best for: Marine life.
  • Top 5 beaches etc: Chesterman, Long Beach, Cox Bay, Wickaninnish Beach, Mackenzie Beach.
  • Must do/see: Heritage trails, kayaking and canoeing, surfing, whale watching.
  • Stay at: Long Beach Lodge Resort: This luxury adventure resort offer plush rooms and dramatic views of the seas and surfers. Prices start at $407.

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