NSW Northern Rivers – where the rainforest meets the sea

The New South Wales Northern Rivers are SO much more than just Byron Bay. Personally I prefer everything around the becomingly-controversial tourist hub, where the insanely beautiful hinterland meets the sea.

I highly recommend getting a car and discovering the local area and in all it’s magnificence. Here are some of my favourite places to go.

Bangalow

Located about 15minutes inland, Bangalow fuses the laid-back northern rivers vibe with small country town, and a dash of fancy pants. Think stores filled with high-quality, hand-spun silk dresses, organic candles, and oh so much linen. The main strip, set on an undulating hill, is dotted with beautiful cafes and restaurants, towering palm trees and galleries showcasing indigenous art.

The Woods

When compiling my ‘must do’ list for this trip, every single person I spoke to told me I had to visit The Woods for a meal. So after a morning visiting a waterfall, I had almost made it to Nimbin when I realised the cafe was due to close and I had to choose between the two. No surprise which one won.

Set back behind the main street, this delightful café will fulfil all your organic, health food desires. I treated to myself to a savoury crumpet, topped with smoked salmon, goats cheese and other goodness, with an iced chai on the side (thanks for the rec Janie).

The Woods
The Woods
The Woods
Ninbella Gallery Space

Bangalow Flea Market

I love a market. Any market, I don’t care how shit it is. And apparently I’m not the only one (sorry to my Hinge date who I called a loser by proxy for also liking markets!).

And if you’re in the area on the right Saturday of the month, the Bangalow flea market is on, and it is ace! Not only in the clothing good quality (both second hand and new) but the food is so yum. I got the most delicious Japanese toastie, shaped like a fish and filled with delectable veggie curry!

Look out for this Japanese toasie food stall!
Yum

Brunswick Heads

If I could live anywhere on the coast, it would be Brunswick Heads. I just love it. I love its small caravan park town feel (that’s 100% a compliment), I love its beaches, I love its cafes and restaurants. I want to run my future business here (hotel tycoons, please enquire within for the opportunity of a lifetime!).

On this particular visit, I parked myself at Footbridge Café for lunch and tucked into a delightful, tasty and light Vietnamese salad.

On an alternate visit, my gorge friend Ivanna and I ate at the popular Old Maids, who are famous for their all-day burger menu. I had the vegan cheese burger (I’m not vegan) and I could honestly barely notice the difference. Delish!

Other recommendations include:

Hotel Brunswick – pub

Honour – wine and salumi bar

La Casita – Mexican (i have tried to go here more times than I can count!)

Brunswick Bakery – bakery

Other activities include:

  • Brunswick Picture House
  • Torakina Beach – a little cove just north of the main beach
  • Clem’s Cargo – vintage furniture and clothing

Waterfalls

Waterfalls are a dime a dozen in the Richmond Shire, but don’t let that diminish their glory – each is unique and more beautiful than the last

Previously I have visited Minyon Falls, which requires some quality footwear and a couple of hours to explore properly.

This time round I hot footed it to two – Protesters Falls, and other one close to Minyon of which I can not remember its name (so helpful I know – where is your knowledge Hinge date?!)

I shall call them mystery falls
If anyone can recognise and remember their name, please let me know!

Along the way to mystery falls, my Hinge buddy and I stopped at Lilium Love General Store, Cafe & Cellar for lunch. It’s honestly Byron in a nutshell but my salad was delicious and the setting is pretty spectacular. I also would have had no idea it was here if it wasn’t for my local guide.

Mushroom bathroom art

A couple of days later, I solo adventured to Protesters Falls, cause like markets, I’m a sucker for a waterfall. This excursion is more for the scenery, as you are prohibited (for good reason) to swim in the water due to it’s tiny endangered frog inhabitants. But the walk is stunning and the waterfall a force of pure natural magnificence.

Crystal Castle

In recent years I have started to connect to my spiritual side a bit more, so on the way back from our visit to the Mullumbimbi farmers market, my friend Jo and I decided on a whim to visit Crystal Castle. In my ignorance, I just assumed it would be a shop full of crystals and maybe a singing bowl or two.

But no, Crustal Castle borders on an amusement park for the enlightened, with hundreds of crystals of all shapes, sizes and origins, taking up residence in the expansive grounds. And little did we know it was an eye-watering $40 entry. That’s as much as going to the zoo!

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice experience and the crystals were stunning…but two margaritas worth? I’m not too sure about that!

Other highlights

Newmarket

Just up and down the windy road near Bangalow, Newmarket is a tiny town that features Harvest restaurant, a great homewares store, and a great little community food bonanza (it’s not quite a market) every Wednesday night.

I met my recently-relocated mate Janie there for a delicious burger from Sam’s Burgers – get in early cause they nearly always sell out! There’s also a gelato van on site and the cutest little stalls with homemade slices and jams.

The Eltham Hotel

I’m not too sure if there’s actually anything else in Eltham (NSW version), but the recent purchase of the Eltham Hotel by prolific Instagrammer Julia Ashwood and her husband has put it on the map.

The vibe is pub food and booking are essential, especially if you’re there for one of the collab nights like I was. The theme of the night was Italian, in partnership with Terra Catering.

White’s Beach and Broken Head

Expansive and pristine, the southern beaches of Byron are often overlooked. Which is crazy because they’re absolutely spectacular. Whether you head to Broken Head, Tallows or smaller coves like White’s Beach, you’ll be spoilt with white squeaky sand, warm ocean swells and stunning caves to explore.

Burleigh Heads

I would be remiss not to include my final stop on my sad way back to Victoria (which had just entered its snap 5 day lockdown) with a stop over the border in Burleigh Heads.

A last visit to the beach, a fresh poke bowl from Finn Poke, and a quick shop at The Freedom State to drown my sorrows was all I needed to sell me on a move north. See you in 2022!

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