WHEN people think of Byron Bay, they think tourist town.
But long before the hordes of international tourists and backpackers discovered this coastal gem, the town owed its existence to an industrial past which included farming and links to the shipping industry.
Byron Bay's colourful history has been captured in a new interpretative sign, Byron Bay As A Sea Port, installed on Monday at Main Beach by the Byron Bay Historical Society and unveiled by Byron Mayor Jan Barham.
"Like many coastal towns, Byron Bay has reinvented itself several times as new industries emerged and demand for services and products grew," she said.
"From the early days of cedar cutting, dairy farming, mineral sands mining to whaling, the need for shipping and rail transport featured prominently in town life.
"The new historical society signage has captured wonderfully the Bay's history and it is a great stop-and-learn experience for everyone visiting our beautiful beaches.
"The society plays a wonderful role in ensuring the records of yesteryear are maintained and we thank them for their continuing efforts."
Historical society president Jim Rogers said most people who came to Byron Bay had no idea there had been a jetty off Main Beach.
"They think Byron Bay has always been a tourist town, but it was a sea port with a colourful history," he said.
The sign contains six old historical photos with information, including photos of the jetty and the SS Wollongbar, which was wrecked in 1921 after a cyclone.
The historical society is planning more signs to erect around Byron Bay.