After a big year in 2018, the Aussie House Swap administration manager and I, packed our bags and headed south to attend the 2019 Mona Foma festival in Tasmania. Being the first year held in Launceston, it was a great opportunity to check out this part of the world. I hadn’t planned on visiting Launceston any time soon. I ‘d been to Hobart a few years prior and loved it. The only reason I went to Launceston was because the festival had moved there. I knew absolutely nothing about Launceston but boy was I pleasantly surprised. It is the perfect location for a house swap holiday!
With the Aussie House Swap team being based in the Northern Rivers, NSW, I thought why not take the opportunity to highlight the hidden gems in my own local area.
I am lucky enough to live in this diverse, scenic and unique part of Australia and would love to share it. I love living here in the Northern Rivers, NSW, and I am sure our swap community could learn to love it too.
While most people have heard of Byron Bay, many don’t realise there is so much more on offer only a short drive inland.
Byron can be crazy over the summer months with the streets full of tourists, bumper to bumper traffic, and paid parking! So why not venture inland where there are no crowds, but still heaps to see and do (and I reckon the coffee is much nicer…and cheaper too).
One thing I love about the Northern Rivers is its eclectic mix of people and places. If I feel like a more relaxed, hippy ‘Age of Aquarius’ vibe, then I head out to Nimbin. If I’m after some gourmet deli treats and high end shopping, then I visit the cute, little main street of Bangalow.
Federal cafe has amazing Japanese food, and the pecan pie from Eltham Valley Pantry is to die for!
There are other little villages tucked away in the hills that are really worth exploring too. The Channon, Eltham, Clunes, Uki and Federal are just a few of the cute spots hidden away in the area. Many have small cafes, art galleries and local community events happening throughout the year.
My closest main town is Lismore. It’s the regional centre of the Northern Rivers and only a 45 minute drive from Byron Bay. For a population of approximately 44,000, it is a pretty relaxed town with a very strong sense of community.
Each year in June the town celebrates the winter solstice with the hugely popular Lantern Parade. Almost the whole town comes out to celebrate with live music, market stalls, the parade and fiery finale show.
The joyful spirit that night is infectious, and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy Lismore like a local.
Lismore also has street art that rivals Melbourne’s renowned galleries, with its Back Alley Gallery. On a sunny day you can take a walk along these back streets in the CBD and see the many varied artworks displayed on the buildings. On the edge of the back Alley Gallery is Flock, one of my favourite cafes. With its huge selection of freshly prepared, delicious food, it’s the perfect place to enjoy lunch, a coffee, a raw cake or a vegan treat.
If you’re in town on a Friday night, you cannot miss Il Carretto pizza at Bexhill hall. Only a five minute drive from the Lismore CBD, my local village Bexhill hosts authentic wood fired pizza every week. Run by the lovely Andrea and Emily Bonotto, this is your opportunity to enjoy some pretty amazing pizza with the rest of us locals. Bring a bottle of wine, a picnic rug and the kids, and spend your Friday night doing what we all do, eating great Italian food with friends!
The Northern Rivers is full of local food producers, artists and musicians, and supports them with a jam packed market calendar all year round. There are weekly farmers markets in Lismore, Bangalow and Byron, fortnightly Lismore Carboot markets, and monthly markets in Bangalow and The Channon.
I love the Lismore Carboot market. I grab a coffee from my friends Doug and Fiona’s coffee stand, look for a bargain at the many second hand clothes stalls, and then buy a HUGE bag of Corndale popcorn! It’s such a lovely, relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning.
In the afternoon of the monthly markets there is usually a drum circle, so you can kick off your shoes, dance all that market food away and really let your hair down. I’ve done it a few times, much to my children’s dismay! :)
Whatever you are into you can be sure to find it at one of these markets. Stalls are packed full with locally grown produce, clothing, arts, crafts, even furniture. The vibe is great, with families buying their weekly vegies, catching up with friends and listening to live music.
There is so much more to see and do around the Northern Rivers. With scenic drives in every direction, you can hop in the car and go off on a Sunday afternoon adventure.
There are several National Parks within an hours drive away that are great for a day out bushwalking. I spent a weekend at Lamington National Park recently with the kids and we went hiking for hours.
The scenic back road from Lismore to Murwillumbah through Uki is gorgeous, and sunrise from Mount Warning simply spectacular.
To get the most out of your swap holiday right here in my backyard, make sure you check out http://www.visitlismore.com.au to find out what’s on while you are here so you don’t miss out on anything.
It really is a beautiful part of the world. Since moving here eight years ago I have fallen in love with this area, and I’m pretty sure that once you visit you will too.
So check out the swap members in and around the Northern Rivers and start planning a swap holiday in my little corner of paradise. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.