Van curtains flap. Longboards gleam. Feet twitch. Water gurgles over cobblestones. An espresso machine hisses. Someone turns the page of a book. A camping chair creaks. A picnic rug is unfurled. Someone soul arches on a modern performance twin fin hybrid fish…
Welcome to Crescent Head.
Located 5 hours’ drive North of Sydney, and 4 hours drive south of Byron Bay, Crescent Head is a piece of paradise which is – in my opinion – much better than Byron Bay (though I may be biased having tried to go to Byron twice in the last two years, and had both plans scuppered, thanks to COVID-19).
Located between two national parks (Hat Head to the north and Limeburners to the south) Crescent Head is an asphalt backwater which – unlike Byron Bay – is still pretty relaxed. It’s got all sorts of hidden back beaches (for those who don’t like crowds) and a small-town feel.
Though Crescent Head is becoming more popular, it still has a way to go before it hits saturation point like Byron Bay, with many social media users raving about it. One TikTok user, for instance, @cchloeblake wrote, “this was the best thing that I’ve ever seen.”
Video: Why Crescent Head Is Better Than Byron Bay
Others have made comments like: “creso is my go to these days when I just need to chill… can sit there for hours just watching the world go by” and “my happy place.”
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It’s not hard to see why people love Crescent Head. It’s more convenient to get to than Byron Bay (if you live in Sydney), and has still got a beautiful bohemian vibe, with the carpark feeling like the cross between a van convention, a longboard convention, a surfskate convention, and a yoga convention.
If you tire of this there’s a town with a pizza place, one fancy restaurant, and a grocery store, and then of course the backbeaches, which are a whole new adventure in themselves (with campgrounds lining each headland along the way down to Point Plomber). This is where you go if you want to escape.
That said, Crescent Head’s popularity hasn’t left absolutely everyone stoked. One Facebook account “Crescent Head Free Camping” has made it its mission to criticise poor visitor etiquette at every opportunity (and to try and put free campers off bothering coming). One post in 2018 sardonically reads: “Another great day in the best free campsite on the coast…the signs might say 4 hour parking but no-one seems to mind us staying all day.”
The truth is, however, like most places, the rangers swing through as a deterrent and ping everyone now and then, but there are always plenty more people willing to risk free camping for the scintillating views (and in order to secure one of the highly sought after car parks with a view) or willing to leave at midnight and come back and 5am in order to avoid the possibility of being fined at all.
And if the rangers don’t get you the landowners will. As one free camper told DMARGE: “I’m losing money sleeping.” He explained how he tried to freecamp in a secluded spot off Point Plomber road and had a land owner come out and charge him $40 for it.
If surfing and camping and fishing don’t tickle your fancy, there is also Bellingen (if you have time) an hour or so North West, where you can hike and chase waterfalls to your hearts content (and get a bit of a Byron-esque Hinterland experience).
Got it? Good. You’re now prepped to pass on The Pass.