Half-assed guide to the Northern Rivers


From the Clarence to the Tweed, from Yamba to Kingscliff, the Northern Rivers region of NSW knows no peer.

Monster-Children-northern-rivers-guide

The water’s warm, the fishing’s good, and the waves are even better.Hell, greater Byron Bay alone is Australia’s undisputed heavyweight champion of coastal towns, the last glimmering reflection of the bohemian counterculture of the free-lovin’ 1960s when weed was king and STDs rampant. The latter as true now as it was then. But that’s why you’re here, bare-footed and wearing op shop threads like you imagine your parents used to as they traversed the east coast, flowers in their hair, in a hemp-burning Kombi—or more likely, a beat Toyota Ace.

Funnily enough, while the Byron area is considered the fourth best destination in the world for vegans and socialists behind only Austin, Portland, and San Francisco—and before it was home to 108 Hemsworths and Jack Johnson—its roots lay firmly in the whaling and meat industries. Up until 1962, the Byron Bay Whaling Company operated at Main Beach for the best part of a decade, right beside JW Anderson’s abattoir—the area’s biggest exports. If you thought the sharks were bad now, spare a thought for the longboarders of the day because so dense was the great white and tiger shark population that shark shooting was a lucrative business, punters were hired by the abattoir—which was pumping offal into the ocean—to sit on the wharf and shoot sharks with a rifle. For safety reasons, of course.

In fact, before music festivals existed, the biggest way to gather a crowd in the area was to haul in one of 88 allowed humpback catches per season. So while Byron’s famous nowadays for being the most easterly point of Australia and home to an iconic lighthouse, perhaps it’s best considered a modern example of cultural progression and the change we want to see in all of us. Or at the very least, one helluva good time.

But don’t kid yourselves—the traffic is fucked, it’s more expensive than Double Bay, and ain’t nobody got time to sit in traffic for 40 minutes off the Pac Highway just to pay $22 for an acai bowl.
So given you’re already well on the outskirts of town, here are a few other towns and attractions to hit for a day trip on the Far North Coast during your stay.

NIMBIN MARKETS

Nimbin, it’s where the hippy subculture is alive and well, albeit its campaigners barely moving. Hell, it’s sister city is Woodstock, USA, so where better to enjoy a hazy brunch and reminisce of your life last lived on this magnificent weekend of peace, love, and music? The streets are painted in colour, the parks plastered in history (among other things), and the Hemp Embassy, Hemp Museum, and Hemp Bar are almost always open. Just understand the “back in 5 minutes” sign means come back tomorrow.
It’s been a hotbed of social issues and movements—think environmentalists, feminists, and just about anything ending in “ist”—since the 1970s and plays home to the annual Mardigrass Festival and Hemp Olympics, making Nimbin a town of deadset innovators. And this Sunday you can see old Nimbin town in all its glory with the Nimbin Markets—for all your rasta and glass-blown needs.
How far? 1 hour.

FLOAT DOWN CUDGERA CREEK

There’s a Disney animated short from the 1950s named The Little House that details the brutal effects of big city progress on regional communities. And Hastings Point is a real life version of it, a tiny coastal settlement with a crystal clear creek running through it that is the last bastion of opposition to city-

There’s a Disney animated short from the 1950s named The Little House that details the brutal effects of big city progress on regional communities. And Hastings Point is a real life version of it, a tiny coastal settlement with a crystal clear creek running through it that is the last bastion of opposition to city-fication on the coast; locals still battling to save it from becoming the eyesore that is Cabarita. A historic caravan park laden with retro vans and plenty of space for camping, it’s a throwback to the 1950s and somehow feels completely isolated despite being just minutes from Kingscliff. The current runs clear and strong from the beach through the waist-deep creek, making for an epic lazy float—enjoyed best with a Calipo from the milk bar across the street. And the water temp is 21 degrees this week.

There’s a Disney animated short from the 1950s named The Little House that details the brutal effects of big city progress on regional communities. And Hastings Point is a real life version of it, a tiny coastal settlement with a crystal clear creek running through it that is the last bastion of opposition to city-fication on the coast; locals still battling to save it from becoming the eyesore that is Cabarita. A historic caravan park laden with retro vans and plenty of space for camping, it’s a throwback to the 1950s and somehow feels completely isolated despite being just minutes from Kingscliff. The current runs clear and strong from the beach through the waist-deep creek, making for an epic lazy float—enjoyed best with a Calipo from the milk bar across the street. And the water temp is 21 degrees this week.
How far? 20 minutes north east.

YAMBA PUB CRAWL

If ever there was a town capable of challenging Byron Bay for best east coast destination, it’s Yamba. With five beaches, the Clarence River, Angourie, and home to the Australian prawn industry, it’s a salt dog’s paradise (think Billabong founder Gordon Merchant and 1966 world champ Nat Young). The Pacific Hotel sits pride of place above Main Beach for the best aspect of any pub in the country. And there are three more pubs you can access by boat. By boat, man! None better than Iluka’s Sedge’s Reef, a 1970s Carlton ad come to life that hasn’t been updated since. BYO stubbie cooler and asbestos mask. And just down the road, Angourie is home to the infamous Blue Pool, a natural spring that unexpectedly filled the rock quarry used to build the break walls at the river mouth in the 1890s. It’s a helluva good jump rock starting from 2m to 5m, and if you’re game, you can take the 10m plunge in the green pool nearby.
How far? 90 minutes south.

SKINNY DIP AT KILLEN FALLS

There are countless waterfalls to check out in the area, but only few with watering holes deep enough to drown last night’s regrets—without enduring a 4km hike. So make the half hour drive north to Tintenbar. There’s some classic country road driving up there, complete with wooden bridges surrounded by the cane fields that have long fed the Northern Rivers. And with just a short hike to the basin of the falls, you’ll be skinny dipping that pale winter rig in no time. It’s surprisingly warm. No sharks either, but there have been sightings of white whales.
How far? 35 minutes south-west.

BRUNCH IN BANGALOW

Bangalow, west of Byron Bay. It’s a historic mill town turned organic haven, typically a shelter from the shitstorm of backpackers and tourists that can be Byron Bay. Steeped in history and with more self-proclaimed artisans per capita than Newtown in Sydney, its Sunday markets are thing of legend. It’s a combo produce and craft market all stocked with local organic fare and hand-crafted products.
Better yet, there are waterfalls and rainforests nearby. So after you’ve enjoyed a $6 mini croissant and still haven’t shook the hangover, hike to the top of Minyon Falls. It’s worth it for the Insta shots of the panoramic coastal views, the 100m cascading waterfall, and the Pokemon.
How far? 23 minutes south.

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