Beach Byron Bay is one of Australia’s most famous beach locations and a popular destination with surfers and tourists, with the town and main street located right behind the beach. The town had its origins in the 1860s when timber cut on the forested slopes of Cape Byron was hauled to the beach and floated out to ships. The town and tourism took off with the construction of the jetty in 1888 and the opening on the railway to Lismore in 1894. Ever since, the waters around the cape have been a popular holiday destination. The town encroached so much on the beach that a seawall has been built to protect a number of facilities from wave erosion, including a full-size Olympic swimming pool.The Byron Bay SLSC, located at Main Beach (NSW 13), is the second oldest club north of Sydney and one of the oldest in Australia having been formed in 1907. The main street runs in lee of the seawall, terminating at a beachfront large car park, with a grassy park and picnic area running south to the Surf Club and beyond, and additional parking behind. A beachfront caravan park and more parking and amenities are located at Clarks Beach. Finally at The Pass a car park and boat launching ramp is provided (Fig. 4.15).Most waves reaching the beach have to refract around Cape Byron resulting in a decrease in wave height toward the Cape and generally less hazardous swimming conditions. The lower waves produce a wide attached bar occasionally cut by skewed rips. The rips (when present) and longshore currents usually sweep to the north along Main Beach toward the seawall, where they turn and run seaward. So the best swimming is south of the wall and between the flags.
In the 3 km sweep between the seawall and The Pass the beach curves round to face the north then northeast. The waves are relatively low and the beach along Clarks and The Pass is usually fronted by a wide, shallow attached bar with few rips. However an additional hazard is present in the form of pulses of sand (sand waves) that periodically move around Cape Byron and along past Fishermans Lookout to form long, elongate sand bars and backing troughs or lagoons sweeping along toward Main Beach. In addition waves refracting around Cape Byron tend to run almost at right angles along The Pass. These produce the surf for which it is internationally famous. However for the unwary swimmer these waves produce strong longshore drift along the beach.
Swimming Main/Clarks/The Pass offer a wide and ever changing variety of beach and surf conditions. While usually safer than the longer, higher energy beaches to the north and south, the variable bar conditions and strong longshore currents toward The Pass, and the seawall at Main Beach require extra caution. Stay between the flags and watch for longshore currents at The Pass. The Surf Lifesavers average 9 rescues a year at Main Beach.
Surfing Main and Clarks - usually small beach breaks, which close out on the low tide terrace. The Pass - world class long, tubing right handers (Fig. 4.16). Works in all swell directions, but is best in large southeast swell. A great spot it you can handle the take-off, crowds and occasional sharks.
Fishing Usually a shallow sand bed with few gutters where flathead, tailor, whiting and mulloway are caught. The seawall does provide access to deeper water. Boats can be launched at The Pass to get offshore to the reefs and islands. Julian Rocks Aquatic Reserve is located 3 km north of the Cape and a range of game fish attract both divers and line fishers.
General The State's northernmost Aquatic Reserve is located around Julian Rocks, 3 km north of the Cape. It has both caves and corals and attracts tropical and temperate fish. It was also the site of a fatal shark attack in 1993.Byron Bay's first recorded surf rescue occurred in 1852 when two passengers were caught in an upturned shipwreck. Two days later they were rescued when the wreck was washed ashore 20 km north at Brunswick Heads. Local cedar-getters cut through the hull to save the exhausted men.Beach road: The first use of the beaches either side of the Cape was for pedestrian and horse traffic between the early settlements of Brunswick Heads and Ballina. In the 1870s the Cape's first permanent dwelling was erected at The Pass, called Jarmans Hotel. It was a 'half-way-house' for the travellers.