The Alternative Lifestyle in Australia; Byron Bay

apr 17I suppose I’m a bit of a hippie myself, if truth be known. Had a great time at the Glastonbury Festival in 1992, highlights for me being The Fall, The Orb, The Ukrainians and John Otway. It doesn’t get too much more hippy town than Glastonbury.

But, of course, I now live in Australia.

One town here though has been growing on me, the more I visit, the more I like it.

Aussie HolidaysI first visited the place during a holiday in 2002 and I’ve written about it quite a few times since on this blog:

It’s also somewhere that I wrote about recently for Australia and New Zealand magazine, it appeared in their April edition and we called it…

The alternative lifestyle

alternativeIt is a favourite haunt of hippies; a town more in line with the 70s which appears to be in no hurry to catch up. Rainbow coloured clothing and dreadlocks are popular with the locals. People dance in the street to the sound of bongos and buskers.

General practitioners are pushed aside in favour of holistic and spiritual healing. Here you can join a kundalini workshop; no, I have no idea either. Not sure what Tibetan eye reading or cranial sacral balancing is either, but you can get that here too. The nearby rolling hills offer ample opportunity for tree huggers.

The mantra for this town is ‘Cheer up, slow down, chillout.

Byron Bay signThis town has a unique energy, explained by possibly being on lay lines or sitting on a bed of crystals. Every year there is a big outdoor music festival and thousands and thousands of people come, it’s very popular. By now, you might possibly be thinking of Glastonbury, but that’s not what I’m thinking, because I live in Australia.

If I continue my description, I’m sure all thoughts any of you might have had about the Somerset town will quickly disappear.

Well, I’m not really sure the game hasn’t already been given away by the pictures above us of a stunning beach line with hinterlands behind it. Yes, this place has a beach; in fact being on a peninsular it has many beaches facing different directions.

It is also, for the record, the furthermost eastern point of the Australian mainland.

Added bonus for my readers, not available in the magazine…

And here I am, wearing my most ridiculously hippy T-shirt, posing with four of my favourite girls, standing next to the sign that says it is the furthermost eastern point of the Australian mainland…

Far eastEnd of added bonus for my readers.

So as well as being a favourite haunt of musos, Bohemians, tarot readers, stargazers and vegetarians, it’s also a popular destination for surfies. It really doesn’t matter which way the wind is blowing, there is a beach where surfers can catch the waves. If you are like me though, and not much of a surfer dude, there’s also a very large pub on the front. You can catch the sea breezes instead and have a beer overlooking the ocean.

Yes, I’m in Byron Bay, a town about a 2 ½ hour drive south of Brisbane on the coast of northern New South Wales. With the nearby and quite extraordinary hippy town of Nimbin, that’s another story, and the laid-back town of Mullumbimby, Byron Bay completes a compact obtuse triangle of alternative lifestyle living in Australia.

The area has been a sacred healing ground for aboriginals for over 20,000 years. The music festival I mentioned is actually the Byron Bay Bluesfest, which has been going since 1990 and is held over the long Easter weekend.

It might not match Glastonbury’s band list, but it has a good go in every other way. It all takes place in 120 hectares, with seven stages, over 200 performers and an audience of more than 100,000. It has camping facilities, five licenced bars, over 100 food outlets and is a festival full of family friendly fun.

Pretty good effort, I’d say.

Seems to me that Byron Bay is the Australian version of Glastonbury, but with added beaches, glorious weather and beautiful blue skies. It also provides glimpses of manta rays, dolphins and at the right time of the year, whales. We’ve been there four times in nine years; never hugged a tree, but if that’s your thing, Byron is the place to be.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • George August 23, 2021, 12:33 pm |

    On my last visit Byron Bay in 2019 it felt like another town overrun by tourists and temporary visitors, all looking for what their own town is missing. The irony is they destroyed what they valued once the numbers get past a certain point.

    Lorne in Victoria is the same. It was like living in a picture postcard. You can feel the focus of the town is tourism and the local community is fractured, and not very functional. Long-term locals detest visitors because they can remember what it used to be like. New arrivals are never “local” even though they are permanent residents and want to contribute to their new town.

    I agree with the other posters comments about Nimbin. My first impressions of Mullumbimby were similar, but judging the town by a half hour on the main street only tells you about what you saw the main street. It tells you nothing about the health of the community. Returning several times my initial impression proved incorrect. I did not need to need the BBC or Forbes to understand this, just some basic detective skills.

    • BobinOz August 24, 2021, 6:15 pm |

      The first time I went to Byron Bay (and Nimbin for that matter) would have been 2002, and the last time I went, like you, 2019. The place has changed enormously and not for the good. At first I loved it and thought it would be a great place to live. Getting a holiday rental was no dearer than anywhere else, and it was a fun place to be.

      Now, as you say, it’s overcrowded with tourists and the locals are fed up with it. Jump into your car to nip to the supermarket to buy milk and eggs, and you could find yourself in a 40 minute gridlocked traffic jam for what should be a five minute each way trip. I could never live there now, even if I could afford it 🙂

      Not sure why there’s so much of a problem with my article about Nimbin, it’s just a light-hearted look at what is a very unusual town. I’ve been there at least four times, I like the vibe, and I have been aware for some time that there is more to it than the rainbow coloured main street, particularly when it comes to how the community work together. Doesn’t mean I have to write an in-depth article about it.

  • Mandie Hale July 23, 2021, 2:10 pm |

    I found this blog about Nimbin ( and Byron) poorly researched and simplistic.
    A stroll down the one street has only given you a superficial view of the town, and you seem to have done no research. Did you visit the Rainbow Power Company, or see the banks of solar panels on the public buildings, a community initiative. Did you know that Nimbin people fundraised to buy the old school site which now houses a number of community services including a childcare centre, which was the result of a funding submission from a Nimbin worker in a service established by Nimbin people. Did you visit the galleries or talk with the people working in the shops? Do you know about the many successful land-sharing communities in the Nimbin area, where residents have hand-built their homes and in the largest one, built a hall, school, preschool, house for people recovering from injury or needing palliative care, and a well equipped community kitchen for hosting events? You saw a tiny bit of the street scene on a particular day. You settled for a cliche…disappointing.

    • BobinOz July 26, 2021, 4:20 pm |

      So sorry to disappoint. If it helps, I can sort of explain what I think has happened here. You see, this website is, generally speaking, a light-hearted look at what life is like living in Australia from the point of view of someone who has moved here from the UK.

      You are clearly looking for more in-depth articles, so may I suggest Forbes or the BBC?

  • Alanfs June 22, 2017, 12:09 am |

    I spend 25 years growing up in Lismore, half way between Byron and Nimbin and it was the best place on earth. My folks are still there.

    Proper Alternative lifestyle everyone needs to experiance.

    Great article and reading from the UK looking to move back next year.

    • BobinOz June 22, 2017, 9:05 pm |

      Lucky you I say, I would imagine it’s a great place to grow up. I always have a great time when I’m in the area, but funnily enough, I’ve still never visited Lismore. Must do that next time I’m down that way.

      Sounds like you are already looking forward to moving back next year 🙂 and I don’t blame you.

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