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.
SLSA provides this information as a guide only. Surf conditions are variable and therefore this information should not be relied upon as a substitute for observation of local conditions and an understanding of your abilities in the surf. SLSA reminds you to always swim between the red and yellow flags and never swim at unpatrolled beaches. SLSA takes all care and responsibility for any translation but it cannot guarantee that all translations will be accurate.