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The Byron Bay region is known for its festivals. Right back to the halcyon days of 1973’s Aquarius Festival to the contemporary stalwarts that include BluesFest, Falls Festival and Splendour in the Grass, this area just knows how to do them well.
So as 2018 draws to a close, and many of us have are contemplating plans for the new year, there’s probably more than a few of you scanning line-ups and artist announcements day-dreaming about a holiday or short-break to hit one of the region’s festivals.
I know I’m biased, but the Byron Bay region really is the perfect place to escape normal routine for a bit. Of course, planning a trip to the Northern Rivers around a festival is a great way to experience the area. But it’s worth contemplating some other fantastic local events that make a perfect way to cheer up, slow down and chill out around the area!
If music is your thing, there’s the Mullum Music Festival (November, dates TBA). Billed as the no hassle festival, it has no gates, no big headlines and no VIP areas. A very different feel! Mullum is a great little town that has some cracking good cafes and restaurants to try – feel free to ask us for recommendations!
If your cultural interests lie in the written word, Byron Writers Festival (2-4 August) draws an incredible array of authors and general luminaries. Seeing Liane Moriarty was a highlight for me this year, so who knows what fascinating options they’ll have in 2019. They also run smaller events year-round, so it’s worth checking their website regardless of when you might be visiting the area.
For a spot of genuine rural culture, the local show season each October and November is an absolute must. Local agriculture shows are an annual highlight for many country towns (I can say that having grown up in Wagga Wagga, where the show was a big deal!). Ekka and the Easter Show have nothing on these! There’s a few to choose from and my picks would be Bangalow and Mullumbimby. The CWA members crank out the scones, the harness racing is a hoot and there’s always the art and craft pavilions to wander. Also worth visiting are the shows at Lismore, Alstonville and Murwillumbah.
For a totally left-field option, don’t rule out visiting the Primex Field Days (16-18 May). This is an ag field day, and an eye-opener for anyone who hasn’t experienced much by way of country life. The cattle auctions are genuinely fascinating to watch, if you can work out what’s happening!
Of course, you’d expect that I’ll recommend some food festivals and events to schedule a visit around. There are some incredible options to chose consider, not least of all being the Harvest Food Festival. Run by Northern Rivers Food, in 2019 the Festival will run for 10 days (24 April-5 May), with our friends at Husk hosting the opening night celebrations.
There’s also Lismore’s fantastic Eat The Street. Held in early March, this street festival also has some great side events worth booking in for as well.
Later in the year (20 October), the 10th iteration of the Ballina Food and Wine Festival will be held. This one is over-18s only, and brings in some fantastic local providores and restaurants.
Bangalow’s Sample festival is another local favourite (7 September). Shannon Bennett was guest of honour this year and who knows what’s in store for the event in 2019. Tasting plates and stalls abound so bring a picnic blanket and settle in for the duration.
Keep some others events on your radar too: the Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass Festival straddles the world of music and meat and hopefully will be back in 2019. Ditto for the Mud Trail, a fantastic way to check out some of the talented ceramic artists resident in the area. And we’re looking forward to checking out the second Byron Beer Festival.
Whatever your interests, and whenever you choose to visit, Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers really do have something for everyone – I’ve barely scratched the surface. Just make sure whenever you visit, you meet some real people making real food at real places.
PS. For music lovers, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of BluesFest, so it is guaranteed to be a brilliant line-up this Easter (18-22 April). For me, the prospect of Kasey Chambers, fresh off her induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame performing all the songs from The Captain is beyond exciting. Love Kasey!
PPS. The image with this post comes from the charity auction of produce at this year’s Bangalow Show. The tray of fruit, biscuits and flowers we bid for, and won, was a real treat!