Is Burleigh better than Byron Bay? Possibly, yes.

If the surf culture, cult coffee scene and diverse markets are anything to go by, we’re thinking Burleigh Heads is well on its way to becoming the new Byron Bay.

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You can justifiably argue that the Gold Coast’s Burleigh Heads, or just ‘Burleigh’ to locals and long time visitors, is on its way to becoming the new Byron Bay.

For after omitting the obvious – that they both start with ‘B’ and are fondly referred to by their shortened nicknames, it’s apparent that much of what has shaped Byron over the years into the preferred destination for those seeking respite and feel good vibes, is quietly and organically developing on the streets and sand of Burleigh.

Sure, this northern suburb of the Gold Coast lacks an iconic lighthouse and several backpacker bars (the later of which can be viewed as a blessing), but it satisfies in spades those ‘Byron-esque’ criteria keen holidaymakers crave they’re Byron Bay bound.

Green juices, health shops and a cult coffee scene? Abundant. Diverse markets? They’re on every weekend. Hip hospitality operating by the sourcing mantra, that local produce is lovely? Countless options. You’ll find too crystal waters, eclectic retail and an internationally known surf break – making this coastal pocket seem to be developing not just into a new version of Byron, but away from the glitz and glam long associated with its city.

What’s more, you’ll notice a nonchalant cool ‘air’ flows through Burleigh. One that’s drawn influence both from the long ingrained surf culture – a thriving scene since the 1970s when the Pro Tour’s Stubbie’s Surf Classic took over the beach, and more recently, the growth of a strong creative work force, comprised both of emerging enterprises and the well established.

In the middle, in a renovated warehouse sits the fashion label Vanguard. Run by Jono and Sam Cottee, the brothers moved their expanding business from Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley at the end of 2012.

“As a couple of surf rats, a coastal change was on the cards for a few years, plus we wanted to take advantage of the beach lifestyle that’s possible, and (we think) works oh-so-well when owning your own business,” said co-owner Sam Cottee.

“It’s got affordable commercial space, all the facilities you need to run a business and has a strong reputation in our industry for surf companies,” he said.

“Plus, pre or post work, there are some solid entertainment and eating options.”

They’re diverse options delivered with grass roots style, and can easily compete against their counterparts across the country – a caliber that gives Burleigh another tick towards becoming Australia’s next green tinged coastal hub.

Great coffee’s long been associated with the bay, and if the lines from Canteen Coffee are any indication, Burleigh’s brew isn’t just good – it’s great.

Owner Brendan Elcham has lost count of the compliments, “We’re constantly told by customers it’s the best they’ve ever had. Not just from locals, but visitors from Sydney and Melbourne – those well immersed in these coffee capitals.”

“We serve high grade specialty coffee, and with a little bit of science and passion have built a meticulous operational system that ensures consistency in the cup each time and is approachable and enjoyable to hipsters and grandmothers,” he said.

Having a post coffee stroll through the local markets and shops is very much a Byron pursuit, and the gentrification of James Street has seen the introduction of unique retail offerings to Burleigh.

Bikini and Me doesn’t sell solely swimwear, but also wares for the everyday and after dark, with a strong edit of established wares from Zimmerman, Bassike, sass & bide and Tigerlilly, as well as quirky pieces from emerging labels. For the little ones, Dragonfly carry cute collections (think sparkled and sequined bloomers) and for the home you’re sure to pick up something surf-centric at Sean Scott Collections.

And for those in need of a shopping pit stop, you can’t go past Golosi Food Emporium, a delicious showcase of the finest produce from the Northern Rivers and Tweed Coast. Or for something more substantial, The Pocket serves crave inducing falafels and ones arguably better than those found in Byron. Commune Kitchen gives any green themed café a run for their money, with a counter stocked with salads and sandwiches crammed with good wholesome things. In the artisan bread stakes, Paddock Bakery and their wood fired oven are making their mark, so too the bacon and egg roll referred to by the locals as ‘next level’.

On the finer end of the dining scene, sits The Fishouse, a pared back and pure seafood restaurant, that see it as their ‘job’ to serve the best available seafood and not ‘mess’ with it too much.

Restaurateur and owner Simon Gloftis notes the location in a renovated surf shack across from the beach, is a major draw card, but it’s what’s served inside, and how it’s served that comes first. The menu reads like an ode to the Australian ocean, no doubt contributing to the need to book a month in advance, particularly for a prized weekend seating.

And in terms of Burleigh moving towards becoming the new Byron? “There are many similarities.., they are both extremely unique and have their own mysteriously subtle charms. That being said, if there was once place in this neck of the woods that could rival the unprecedented fame of Byron Bay, I believe that Burleigh is the one!”.

Even if Burleigh Heads is on the rise, we still love Byron… Get the Good Guide to Byron Bay here

Image credits: Pepper Passport, supplied, and Chris Proud. 


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