A good place to start your explorations is with a stroll along Ballina’s most prestigious thoroughfare – Norton Street. Lined with handsome Norfolk Island pines and gracious period buildings, this street runs from the Richmond River to Meldrum Park at the edge of North Creek. Pick up a guide from the Visitor Information Centre on Regatta Avenue or download one here to learn some of the secrets behind the elegant facades. The former North Coast Girls College – now the Ballina Manor Boutique Hotel – offers complimentary guided tours of the property each day.
Continue walking up Fox Street towards Ballina Fair if you feel like shopping, a snack or a movie. This retail complex has over 50 stores, a supermarket and a cinema, as well as a variety of dining options. Otherwise, backtrack towards River Street and peruse the excellent Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum on Regatta Avenue. This facility houses a fine collection of model ships and the last remaining Las Balsas raft, which set the record for the longest known raft voyage in history, crossing the Pacific Ocean from Ecuador to Australia in 1970.
Should you be hungry after this, the good news is that River Street has the town’s widest selection of eateries. There’s also an RSL Club here where you can enjoy hearty bistro-style sustenance in a fantastic waterfront setting, then perhaps partake in a leisurely game of lawn bowls.
To appreciate Ballina and its surrounds from the water, Kayak Ballina offers guided tours on selected Saturdays throughout the year. If dates don’t suit or you prefer a tailored experience, you can also book a private excursion. Learn about the area’s diverse flora and fauna from a local qualified instructor and enjoy interesting commentary about Ballina’s heritage.
Australian Pelicans are a common sight in the Northern Rivers region
Kayaking tours depart near the corner of River Street and Quays Drive. On your drive up here, why not take a short detour into the carpark of Bunnings Ballina? This is the home of the much-loved Big Prawn, a 6 X 9m concrete and fibreglass landmark that narrowly missed demolition in 2009. Today, this hard-to-miss crustacean features in many Ballina family photographs and travel selfies.
Should you find your lips a little chapped from being out in the open or your skin in need of a pick-me-up, head straight for the Thursday Plantation Visitors Centre & Café on Gallans Road near the airport. Drop the kids off to navigate the Tea Tree Maze, while you shop for the latest Thursday Plantation products in the gift shop.
Treat yourself to something natural from the Thursday Plantation
Armed with premium skin products and essential oils, you should now be ready to hit the beach. Patrolled during school holidays, Lighthouse Beach, which extends from North Wall to Ballina Head is very popular with families, fishermen, surfers, and windsurfers. Also well frequented is Shelly Beach, nestled between Ballina and Black heads. That said, none of Ballina’s beaches are half as busy as those in Byron Bay!
Ballina’s beautiful Lighthouse Beach
For a stretch of sand virtually all to yourself, visit secluded Angels Beach beyond Black Head. Its craggy northern limits at Flat Rock offer brilliant fishing whilst the pristine bushland that flanks the ocean harbours echidnas, wallabies, and other interesting native wildlife.
From June to November, humpback whales may be seen as they migrate up the coast to warmer waters. Ballina’s coastline is dotted with viewing platforms, such as the ones found at Ballina North Wall, Lighthouse Hill carpark and Angels Beach, designed for viewing these incredible mammals from land as they journey north.
Attractions outside Ballina
Fifteen minutes outside Ballina in Knockrow, The Macadamia Castle is a fantastic destination for families. This working macadamia farm offers an array of attractions for children ranging from toy train rides and mini golf to a petting zoo. To keep adults happy, there’s a delicious range of specialty food and gourmet treats, many themed around the quintessentially Aussie macadamia nut.
Kids and adults alike will have a great day out at The Macadamia Castle
Teven Valley Golf Course is another choice ion if you’re travelling with children. Set in rolling hills, this 9-hole golf course is well-maintained and challenging to play. It also offers FootGolf, a fun combination of soccer and golf that requires little more than sports shoes and a soccer ball. The object of FootGolf is to kick the ball across the course into 52cm holes located by the greens or in the rough.
To delve into Ballina’s Aboriginal history, take a Bundjalung Coast tour. Experience Nyangbul Bunjalung culture, uncover mythological sites, hear Dreaming stories, and sample bush tucker. On a full day trip, you’ll travel upriver as well as along the coast to inspect scarred trees, see ancient middens, and admire Minyon Falls.
If you haven’t yet been to Byron Bay, then this famous town is definitely worth a day trip or longer. Easily accessible via the Pacific Highway by Ballina hire car, this former beachside hippie hamlet has transformed into a much more upmarket destination in recent years, attracting over 1.7 million visitors annually. Top things to do here including surfing, whale-watching, and scuba diving. Byron Bay is also home to a photogenic lighthouse situated close to the easternmost point of Australia.
Byron Bay’s attractive lighthouse is a must-see