Between the rainforest and the sea, Lismore unites country charm with cosmopolitan verve thanks to its burgeoning population of creatives – painters, sculptors, filmmakers, musicians and dancers among them. On the banks of the Wilsons River on the far North Coast of NSW, the town is blessed with notable galleries and cultural institutions as a result. It’s also the gateway to lush farmland – expect to eat well, and freshly – and World Heritage-listed national parkland, opening up some of the state’s most wonderous wilderness areas to visitors and locals alike.
Get a dose of arts & culture
Whether outdoors or within galleries, art is a constant across Lismore’s streets. The Lismore Regional Gallery is also on your route – stop here to peruse an impressive permanent collection from the likes of Margaret Olley (a Lismore local), Jon Molvig, Peter Powditch, Lloyd Rees, Albert Namatjira and Thea Proctor. Download a map and discover markets, fashion outlets, antique stores and well-curated bookshops.
Stroll along the river to enjoy sculptures that form the Wilsons River Experience Walk, with installations spread across three sites and interpreting the region’s Aboriginal and European heritage. Or experience a bush-tucker garden growing plants used in the traditional diet of the Widjabal people.
Art also consumes Lismore’s laneways, where 60-plus larger-than-life murals comprise the Back Alley Gallery. Some 25 local and international artists were commissioned to create these sensory-overloading works of street art and graffiti, which also tell a poignant story of the region.
From parades and festivals to community games, Lismore’s dynamic events calendar demonstrates that there’s never a dull moment in town. A highlight (literally) is the Lismore Lantern Parade, held around the Winter Solstice to celebrate art and community, with illuminated puppets, fire art and fireworks. Or catch a gig at one of the live music venues (try Mary G’s), which have supported local musicians for decades – famous Aussie rock band Grinspoon cut their teeth in the city back in 1995.
Lismore Lantern Parade, Lismore - Credit: Lismore City Council
Where to eat & drink
Also on the town’s roster of events is the weekly Lismore Organic Market. Stalls here sag under the weight of the region’s bountiful produce (this is volcanic country, after all). Seasonal specialties range from macadamias and avocados to stone fruit, blueberries, coffee, beef, pork and dairy. Additional bounty is on offer at the Farmers Market, Produce Market and Car Boot Market. Phew!
Taste the town’s growing foodie scene at health-focused The Bircher Bar, enjoy vegan and vegetarian fare at The Garden Plate, settle in for fun at Mexican food 187 Cantina, and head to the iconic Pie Cart for finger-licking-good sweet and savoury pies.
Lismore is surrounded by some of the world’s oldest rainforest, with World Heritage-listed wilderness areas awaiting in nearby national parks including Richmond Range, Toonumbar, Border Ranges, Wollumbin and Nightcap. These wild and wonderful expanses of Gondwana forest unite waterfalls with sheer cliffs, cool streams with soaring trees, all webbed with an expansive network of hiking trails.
This part of the state is also prime koala country, as you’ll learn at the region’s Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve and Koala Care Centre, both dedicated to nurturing these cuddly marsupials and preserving the habitats they call home.
Lismore is a great base for exploring the Northern Rivers region, and accommodation options abound. Whatever your budget, grand guesthouses, character-filled hotels and motels, campgrounds, farmstays and cottages all await your arrival.
Close to the Queensland border, Lismore is an epic eight-hour drive north of Sydney and around 2.5 hours south of Brisbane. Alternatively, a direct train from Sydney services the Northern Rivers town of Casino, whence you can catch a connecting bus to Lismore, with the whole journey taking 12.5 hours. Or, fly into Lismore Regional Airport (daily flights arrive from Sydney) or Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, just 40 minutes away.
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.