Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia, the public perception of the Northern Rivers revolves largely around the hub town of Byron Bay – famed for being the easternmost point of mainland Australia – and the inland hamlet of Nimbin, famed for…well, being Nimbin.
As a local who campervans, I’m often embarrassed by how little I know about my country – especially when I meet tourists or backpackers who can lecture for hours about the region they’ve just visited. So I made it my mission on my most recent trip up the East Coast to go “Beyond Byron”, as the Northern Rivers Tourism Board puts it, and learn a little bit about the area.
The first thing you’ll notice is that, even at low season, caravan parks in Byron proper are much more expensive than in the surrounds. In fact, there’s a kind of horrible (for the residents) loop in Byron whereby; a lot of tourists are attracted to the town, prices go up, and people try to scam their way out of paying them by camping on the street.
The local papers are full of articles and letters (and Mungo MacCallum columns ) discussing public waste dumping, excessive noise and drunkenness, rental properties and inflation in the region. My advice would be to stay somewhere outside of town – plenty of overnight rest stops in the area, and parks are cheaper in other towns.
A lot cheaper, thanks to the upgrades and new bypasses on the Pacific Highway. Some towns have seen their traffic, (and thus business), drop by 75% once the highway is rerouted. You’ll have the place practically to yourself, and the hospitality, greenery and solitude that made the region famous in the first place will inevitably reveal themselves to you.
It’s really out here in beautiful little hamlets like The Channon that you’ll find the old hippy spirit of the Northern Rivers alive and kicking. My advice – spend a day or two in Byron and then treat yourself to a week exploring the rest of the Northern Rivers region. Try this suggested itinerary for a week in the Northen Rivers RegionThe Channon Hotel over on ninemsn.