I have the privilege of being a local to one of the most visited and desirable locations in Australia.
Visitors will enjoy the clean sand and crystal clear water of the beaches. They will no doubt walk up to the famous Byron Bay lighthouse, and sit at the main beach headland at sunset, watching people juggle, seagulls nick chips, and people play bongos. Someone might even try and sell them an affirmation.
But, like any place, there is always a back story.
I was born in the area, grew up inland and returned to the Byron Bay surrounds to raise my children. This place is my soul country. So I will let you in on five secrets.
Hidden in the back streets of Mullumbimby is a beautiful Balinese style bathhouse. The Kiva Spa is essentially a backyard, but it’s decked out with two spa baths, a plunge pool, a sauna and a place to enjoy a quiet cup of tea. You can also indulge in a massage and pamper in one of the private rooms. Kiva is so reasonably priced and so divine, I wish I had more excuses to go there.
1 McGougans Ln Mullumbimby, NSW 2482
Tucked away, above the fish shop in Lennox Head, is the sweetest children’s shop I know. It’s called Baby Sesame, and is run by a gorgeous woman called Koralina. Koralina carefully selects high quality, unique and often handmade children’s items from around the world to sell in the store. It’s like a magical universe up there.
Shop 9, 80-84 Ballina Street Lennox Head
Northern Rivers Seafood
There are a number of fish shops around, which makes sense as this is a coastal region. But the best by a long shot is Northern Rivers Seafood in Ballina. They have so many fresh seafood options, and it never smells fishy, which is a good sign. As is the queue of customers streaming out the door. Every week, we buy 500g of smoked salmon offcuts there for $10. It is ridiculously good value, and is literally the bulk of both my childrens’ protein.
480 River Street, West Ballina
When I was growing up, Lismore was a town we typically avoided. It was hot. Unpleasant. I don’t know – just one of those places you only go when you have to. Now, I look forward to going to Lismore. It has such an eclectic community. There are a number of herbalist dispensers and alternative food stores, like Fundamentals. There is the best hairdresser in the Southern Hemisphere. There are so many great coffee places – our favourite is The Republic of Coffee Espresso Bar, tucked down a little alley off Keen Street.
There are also clusters of tiny, interesting shops run by artisans and fashionistas. One of the best clusters is the Star Court Arcade, which runs off Molesworth Street. Little Polli and The Blackbird is one of my favourite shops in the arcade. It makes me feel like I am in wonderland. I have picked up quality second-hand clothes from Etika, also down the arcade.
Lismore hosts a number of regular markets. The Lismore Maker’s Markets are held on the first Saturday of every month at The Con on Keen Street. On the first and third Sunday of every month in the Lismore Boot Markets, held in the car park of The Square. It is one of my favourite markets in the region – it’s almost a flee market. There are also three weekly farmers’ markets – the Rainbow Region Organic Farmer’s Market on Tuesday morning at the showground, the Lismore Produce Markets, held Thursday from 3.30pm on Magellan Street and the Lismore Farmers’ Markets at the showground Saturday morning.
Like my parents did when I was growing up, I still do a large portion of my shopping in Lismore, mainly from Pacific Bulk Foods on Magellan Street. Bulk buying has completely transformed our family’s eating and shopping habits.
White’s Beach, Broken Head
It’s been a while since going there, but one of the most beautiful, tucked away spots of the region is White’s Beach, just south of Broken Head beach. You need to drive down Seven Mile Beach Road, which is a rough, dirt track, find a sketchy park, and then trek through rainforest to reach the beach. But the trek is worth it. The beach feels like a paradise – so secluded, and private, with white white sand, and crystal clear water on a good day.
Are there any secrets you can reveal about your region?