Bangalow is a delightful nineteenth-century streetscape of tall, verandah-clad buildings housing a wonderful array of shops selling Oriental carpets and rugs, Tibetan artwork, Japanese kimonos and silk clothing, exotic homewares, books and art. The village also has a variety of cafes and restaurants, so you can stroll the shops and then replenish your energy with lunch or dinner.
Bangalow has a child- and dog-friendly park down by the river, where you can walk under huge shady trees and the children can paddle in Byron Creek. Generations of Bangalow kids learned to swim here, and it’s still a tranquil and peaceful escape from the bustle of Byron Bay.
The Bangalow Community Market, held on the fourth Sunday of each month at the Bangalow showground, is a showcase of local produce, including clothes, jewellery, skin care products, fresh food, plants and trees, and all manner of art and craftwork. You can park in the primary school and while away several hours under the camphor laurel trees, have lunch or coffee, treat yourself to a massage AND do all your shopping.
Every Saturday morning from 7-11am the Bangalow Farmers Market is set up in the car park behind the Bangalow Hotel. Here you’ll find wonderfully fresh salads, herbs, tomatoes, fruit, vegetables and plants, as well as eggs, beef, bread, coffee, sauces, pickles, oils and jams, all produced locally.
Federal is a small village with a general store and art gallery about 25 minutes drive from Bangalow. Follow the Coolamon Scenic Drive and Coorabell Road and come back to Bangalow along Binna Burra Road.
Federal is surrounded by macadamia farms and the lush country for which the Northern Rivers Rainbow Region is famous. Take a little longer and stay in one of the gorgeous guesthouses that dot this countryside, seriously chill out under the gigantic fig trees and treat yourself and the family to a special experience. Out here, away from the bustle, you’ll be sure to make lifelong friends and be coming back for more.
Just north of Byron Bay, about a 20-minute drive up the Pacific Motorway, is one of the gems of the far north coast of New South Wales. Brunswick Heads is one of those places that has survived development, and the superstardom of its more famous neighbour, Byron Bay, to maintain the old-fashioned charm of a sleepy fishing village. Positioned on the beautiful Brunswick River beside the seaside, this village boasts shopping, cafes and restaurants whilst still maintaining pockets reminiscent of the 1950s.
Brunswick Heads is home to the Old & Gold Festival in October and the Fish ‘n Chips Festival in January.
Pop into the Brunswick Heads Visitor Centre, 7 Park St (in the heart of Bruns) or call 02 6685 1002 for information.
Keep going just a few kilometres north of Brunswick Heads on the Pacific Highway and you’ll come to the Ocean Shores turnoff. Here you will find a world-class golf course, a country club, a small shopping centre and great beaches. There’s a lookout from where you can see the fabulous view back south to Cape Byron, and west to Mt Warning.
Ocean Shores is famous for birds, and the flying foxes, or fruit bats that live in large and noisy colonies. The bats make a spectacular sight at sunset as they head out to feed on the lush rainforest trees. Birds such as cranes, herons, swamphens, kites and goshawks are all in abundance.
About twenty kilometres north of Byron Bay via the Pacific highway is Mullumbimby, situated on the Brunswick River.
Mullumbimby is known as “The Biggest Little Town in Australia” and for a small town it certainly has a lot to offer.
On the road into Mullumbimby you are greeted by the spectacular Mt. Chincogan. The town has a variety of cafes, colourful shops, interesting buildings, attractive parks, a swimming pool and a museum. There is something for everyone.
On the third Saturday of each month a market is held in Summers Park on the corner of Stuart and Myocum Streets between 9am – 2pm. Local produce, hand made crafts and clothing, jewellery, plants and fresh food are for sale. Wander through this small but bustling market under the shady trees.
In the middle of Summers Park stands the old Mullumbimby post office (1907) which houses the local museum. Open on Market Saturdays and every Friday between 11am and 3pm, the BVHS Museum is worth exploring if you want to find out about the local history of the area.
At the other end of town on Mill Street is Heritage Park. It has been planted with over 300 species of rainforest trees and plants that are indigenous to the area. A winding path leads you through the park and along the edge of the Brunswick River. The park is equipped with picnic settings, a children’s playground, log seating, an information shelter shed and a riverbank fishing seat.
A drive up into the hinterland around Mullumbimby reveals lush rainforest and spectacular views.
Nimbin has been on visitors’ lists since 1973, when it staged the Aquarius Festival, and hippiedom in Australia was entrenched here. Today it’s still a hippie haven, with a Hemp Embassy and a museum showcasing Kombi culture. Funky, colourful and alternative, Nimbin is the centre of the Rainbow Region, which celebrates everything not in the mainstream.
The main street, Cullen Street, is lined with shops and cafes showcasing the rainbow culture, while the Nimbin Hotel offers lunch and cool drinks to thirsty travellers on a shady wooden deck. There are the excellent day trips Happy Coach and Grasshoppers running day tours to Nimbin from Byron Bay, as well as a shuttle bus several times per week.
On the third and fifth Sundays of each month, Nimbin Community Market is held in the primary school grounds. The market offers handmade clothes and jewellery, children’s clothes, food and homewares. Contact the Nimbin Visitor Centre on (02) 6689 1388 for information about this area.
Lismore is the Northern Rivers regional capital, situated on the Richmond River, which winds its way to the sea at Ballina. It is a town with some fine old buildings and as well as having the definite Australian ‘country’ feel, the town of Lismore is a melting pot of creative collectives and alternative culture.
Lismore has plenty of interesting and unique shops and cafes, as well as the Lismore Regional Art Gallery. It is also home to NORPA, the Northern Rivers Performing Arts centre. Please note that the Lismore centre was badly affected in the 2022 floods and whilst there are shops and facilities open and running, the centre is not back to full strength as yet.
Lennox Head is a spectacular headland 17km south of Cape Byron and Byron Bay. The headland is popular with hang-gliders and surfers, while Lennox township has a range of restaurants, cafes and souvenir and resort shops, as well as accommodation. Take a picnic up to the headland and enjoy the views north towards Cape Byron.
The beach at Lennox north of the Surf Life Saving Club is dog-friendly, and it’s here that you can take horse rides on the beach. Further south, the beach by the town centre is safe for children and patrolled in summer.
Lake Ainsworth, a large tea-tree coloured lake at the northern end of town, behind the Surf Life Saving Club, offers freshwater swimming and water activities. Lake Ainsworth is sometimes closed to swimmers, so check first with Ballina Visitor Information Centre on 1800 777 666 or 02 6686 3484.
Ballina is truly a seaside town, with enough of the old-fashioned flavour of the past to enchant visitors. Situated on a bend in the Pacific Highway, on an island in the Richmond River, Ballina has plenty to see and do. For example, the river estuary for fishing, sailing and swimming is very popular with families, while a drive to the hinterland will reward you with a rainforest experience you won’t forget.
River Street, which runs along the river, has a wide variety of interesting shops and cafes. Walk through one of the arcades or side streets to the river and have lunch overlooking the water. Casual and laid back Ballina is relaxing, quiet in the evening and with plenty of general shops and government services such as Medicare and the Roads & Traffic Authority.
Don’t leave Ballina without a visit to the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, which houses maritime treasures, including the 1973 Las Balsas raft from the trans-Pacific expedition, giant models of battleships and naval memorabilia. For further information, phone 02 6681 1002.
And if you’re into skateboarding, Ballina has one of the world’s best arenas, at Missingham Bridge Park at the northern end of town.
Call Ballina Visitor Information Centre for more details on 1800 777 666 or 02 6686 3484.