It seems that the smaller or less familiar a place is to you, the more delightful are the little treasures you find there. This was certainly the case on my recent road trip from Brisbane, Queensland to Bellingen, New South Wales, when I had the pleasure of exploring Mullumbimby, Newrybar and Bangalow, all near Byron Bay.
The streets are wide and fragrant in Mullumbimby. Houses stand politely next to blooming gardens. You can hear birds singing, the odd car driving a few streets away, and not much else.
But don’t be fooled by the way this small New South Wales town greets you. Underneath the lazy country charm, there lives a vibrant character, alternative and spunky, making Mullumbimby a little place with a lot of personality.
Sitting in the Brunswick Valley, with Mount Chincogan and Mount Warning poking their heads into most views, Mullumbimby is less than two hours drive from Brisbane, only 10 minutes off the Pacific Highway and about a 15 minutes drive from the popular coastal town, Byron Bay. As the first stop of our road
trip, we arrived in time for spicy chicken wraps at my sister’s house (she’s a great cook) and an afternoon stroll into Mullumbimby proper.
I was surprised to find second-hand clothing delights down an alley with a tattooist and a brooding little cafe; Volkswagens everywhere (a trait common with neighbouring Byron Bay); a fair pick of grocers, health food stores and nurseries; and lots of barefoot, colourful, genuinely smiley locals.
The sun shone on my face as we followed the road south to breakfast. Within 10 minutes from Mullumbimby, we pulled into Newrybar, a quaint little village that is only metres from the Pacific Highway, yet seemingly in another world.
We ate well at Harvest, an old country house come welcoming cafe that featured fresh, locally sourced and Organic produce. Across the road, we wandered through time and mental images of future dream homes, in the antique store, which specialised creating new pieces from antique materials. Then, after a a quick browse through a very chic fashion store with a very chatty attendant, we jumped back in the beetle for the next little place adventure.
Surrounded by orchards, rolling hills that overlook the Byron coast and patches of thick sub-tropical green, Newrybar does seem a cheeky little secret waiting to be discovered.
Highly recommended for a 10-forever minute detour if you’re driving along the that stretch of the Pacific Highway.
Bangalow is one of those enchanting little towns that brims with local brilliance. Take coastal casualness mixed with rural practicality, then add a splash of artistic colour, a twist of rainforest wilderness and apply a coat of boutique tourism. The result is a quietly confident little town with plenty to see.
Of course, to this day, when I think of Bangalow, my mind still sings that catchy Abracadabra jingle that used to play on local mid-north New South Wales TV when I was a kid (…the biggest bunch of baskets under the sun, come in and say g’day). Also, I remember buying a rainbow hippy hairband there (the first of many) when I was about 15, learning that clothes could be made of hemp (mind boggling at the time), and eating a boysenberry ice-cream. All good things.
But my most recent visit showed a completely different, and slightly more mature, side of glorious Bangalow. Antique and vintage stores!
And, after hours of antique/vintage heaven … I found cheese!
And cute little cafes. And lots of knick-knacky shops…
Our little Bangalow adventure provided hours of browsing bliss, offering so many delights within the space of about two city blocks.
Only about 15-20 minutes drive from Byron Bay proper, and 5 minutes off the Pacific Highway, this little town also gets a big tick in the detour diaries.