Set between Australia’s counterculture capital of Nimbin and impossibly cool Byron Bay, Mullumbimby is small in population, but big in personality. All palm trees and tropical architecture, Mullum (as it’s affectionately known) is the gateway to the World Heritage-listed rainforest that characterises the far North Coast of NSW.
The town offers plenty of opportunities for mingling with colourful locals at legendary markets, strolling the banks of the winding Brunswick River, dining in forward-thinking restaurants and cafes and easing into the alternative lifestyle this pocket of the Northern Rivers promotes. The Brunswick Valley Historical Society Inc Museum, meanwhile, reveals the region’s history, from its early farming days to its most notable town buildings.
For a moment of magic, connect with the world’s largest crystals amid the lush Shambhala Gardens at Crystal Castle. Across five hectares of rainforest lie enormous, sparkling geodes, not to mention a dreamy labyrinth, buddha statues and the ‘Dragon Egg’: a 120-million-year-old amethyst cave where you can sit to soak up positive vibes.
Mullum Music Festival street parade, Mullumbimby
You don’t have to travel far to immerse yourself in nature when Mullumbimby is your base – in fact, you can go bushwalking within the town itself. The Brunswick Valley Heritage Park is a botanical haven for hundreds of species of rainforest plants, some rare or endangered, and all of which nurture a menagerie of animals, big and small. Take the reserve’s trail to the Brunswick River for a picnic beside the water.
Slightly further afield, more wilderness awaits in Nightcap National Park, an immense expanse of protected forest forming part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Explore hiking trails along crystal-clear creeks in the shadow of the (extinct) Wollumbin shield volcano, then cool off at Protestor or Minyon falls – the latter offers a swimming hole at its base.
Follow the lead of locals to The Middle Pub (bring your instrument for Sunday jams), Empire Café (the burgers are highly rated) or Izakaya Yu (a slice of Kyoto). Flock Espresso & Eats is as quirky as cafes get, full of mismatched furniture and whimsical art. Punch and Daisy offers a tight but delicious menu revolving around free-range poached eggs and homemade salsa verde with seasonal sides. Visit Wandana Brewing for craft beers with a view of Mount Chincogan.
The region’s bountiful seasonal fare also stars at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market, a heaving weekly event featuring stalls bulging with local produce – live entertainment is an added bonus. Held every Friday, it’s a great place to grab breakfast and good coffee, then stock up on fresh fruit and veggies or sweet baked treats to take home. The monthly Mullumbimby Community Market is like a mini-festival, with yet more food as well as arts, crafts and fashion.
The annual Mullum Music Festival spans four days every November, attracting some of the country’s most talented up-and-coming performing artists – past editions have hosted more than 100 acts. Music aside, expect family-friendly events and activities, as well as street stalls selling quirky curios.
Held just 15 minutes’ drive away in Tyagarah, Byron Bay Bluesfest is one of the country’s largest music festivals, showcasing more than 200 performances across seven stages over five days at Easter. Byron Bay packs out, making Mullum the ideal base – away from the crowds.
Mullum Music Festival, Byron Bay Area - Credit: Mullum Music Festival
Getting there & where to stay
Mullumbimby is a scenic 8.5-hour drive north from Sydney, or a two-hour commute south from Brisbane. If you prefer someone else navigate, catch the train to the nearby town of Casino, and connect via bus. Alternatively, fly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, 35 minutes away, or Lismore Regional Airport, 50 minutes away.
On the outskirts of Mullum, luxe Blackbird is a design-driven retreat featuring sleek pavilions surrounding an infinity pool. More low-key are central pub rooms and motels, as well as a sprawling camping ground.
Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is located 5km from Ballina’s town centre and 35km from Byron Bay. Use the shuttle bus or taxi services available at the terminal to make the short trip to these coastal destinations. Alternatively, rent a car from the hire services available at the airport and explore the region at your own pace.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the traditional owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.