Travel Australia: Why Brunswick Heads, NSW is now a not-so-secret vacation spot

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The sleepy riverside township of Brunswick Heads is more relaxed than nearby Byron Bay. Photo/Getty Images

Looking for a laid-back getaway in northern New South Wales? Look no further than Brunswick Heads, writes Cassie Tannenberg.

From a less than stellar start as an unnamed settlement, Brunswick Heads rises from the shadow of Byron Bay as a cooler brother on the New South Wales North Coast.

Located a 90 minute drive on the Pacific Highway from Brisbane or 30 minutes from Gold Coast and Ballina airports, Brunswick Heads is a classic coastal hamlet at the mouth of the Brunswick River, amidst the lush, mountainous landscape of the hinterland of Byron.

While the river is a calm place to kayak, the main beach at Brunswick Heads is popular with surfers.  Photo/Getty Images
While the river is a calm place to kayak, the main beach at Brunswick Heads is popular with surfers. Photo/Getty Images

Less hippie than nearby Nimbin and Mullumbimby and less hipster than Byron Bay just a 15-minute drive south, “Bruns” borrows from both as an old-school seaside village refreshed by an influx of sea-changers who have introduced new restaurants and businesses and remodeled existing stores and motels.

Originally inhabited by people from the Bundjalung Nation, British Captain Rous chartered the Northern Rivers region in 1828, naming the Clarence (now Tweed), Lennox and Richmond rivers before running out of inspiration, se referring to “another river” before settling on the Brunswick River. .

This anonymity, plus a certain treacherous rock bar that caused quite a few shipwrecks, kept Brunswick Heads off the tourist map until the 1920s, when space for campsites and horses was scarce. Fortunately, there are now more accommodation options with holiday parks, houses and apartments throughout the city, as well as a hotel and four motels.

The Sails Motel & Pool Club is one of the newly renovated vintage automobile inns that conveys a retro Palm Springs poolside feel and low-key laid-back vibe.

A 1960s original, the 22-room motel has two on-site restaurants: Saint Maries Pizza & Wine Bar and Old Maids Burger Shop with an all-day menu of gourmet burgers and barista-made coffee, as well as a pastel-hued pool with bar bites, cocktails and drinks.

Reservations are recommended for Saint Maries on Friday and Saturday nights when the cozy, candlelit, open-air venue manages to be both family-friendly and incredibly cool with DJ tunes alongside wood-fired pizzas and petty wines. -nat.

Hotel Brunswick is a relaxed place to have a drink or a hearty lunch.  Photo/Getty Images
Hotel Brunswick is a relaxed place to have a drink or a hearty lunch. Photo/Getty Images

Brunswick Heads definitely punches above its weight in the food stakes with over 24 dining options that also include popular Bruns Bakery, Park Street Homemade Pasta Bar, Honor Espresso & Salumi Bar, La Casita Mexican Restaurant and Bottle & Hoop for take-out fine wines and cheeses, as well as the Brunswick Heritage Hotel for a beer garden experience.

Things to do

Brunswick Heads’ population of around 1,900 year-round includes weekend trippers and families during school holidays. The town has everything you need for a beach break, including one of Australia’s newest video libraries.

Shops in the village also run the gamut from vintage and new-age finds to local designers at the Family Studio Showroom, surf and resort wear boutiques and toy stores, as well as the Bruns Market on the first Saturday of the month. with fresh produce, food and crafts. .

Unsurprisingly, outdoor activities always revolve around the Brunswick River. With its steady flow, you can swim at high tide or wade across the sandbars at low tide and spot fish, turtles, rays and shellfish in the clear water, and spy dolphins and whales in season from the breakwater.

Wooden bridges provide access to riverside Torakina Beach, a sheltered sandy spot at the breakwater ideal for families, and the supervised surf beach which follows the coastline to Byron Bay with tennis courts and community center on the foreshore. Other popular water activities include surfing, fishing, and boating, including guided river tours.

Torakina Beach in Brunswick Heads is a sandy and sheltered swimming spot popular with families.  Photo/Getty Images.
Torakina Beach in Brunswick Heads is a sandy and sheltered swimming spot popular with families. Photo/Getty Images.

Older kids can try stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking on the river with equipment for rent from Brunswick Buccaneers (look for the pirate ship in Banner Park), while the playground will keep the little ones busy.

The Brunswick Head Fairy Trail will also delight children on an easy walking route through town to spot handcrafted fairy houses at local businesses and organizations. Pick up a free map at the Visitor Center to locate hidden houses.

Of course, no trip to the beach is complete without ice cream and fish and chips. Bruns has two ice cream parlors offering generous scoops, as well as two chip shops with freshly caught fish burgers, salty hot fries and breaded shellfish. Cross the historic wooden walkway to the park to eat your catch or use the picnic facilities near the playground.

For most visitors, Brunswick Heads is a day trip on a Byron Bay vacation, but while this sleepy seaside village remains a well-kept secret for now, people won’t be sleeping long in this vacation spot. .

For more information, visit visitnsw.com

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