Leave the stress of modern life behind on a camping holiday in Brunswick Heads on the NSW far north coast.
At the mouth of the Brunswick River, the seaside village of Brunswick Heads is just 20 minutes drive north of Byron Bay, but it feels a world away. A much less frenetic version of Byron Bay, pretty Brunswick Heads—Bruns to the locals—has all the things that make Byron Bay so popular, like a beautiful surf beach, vegan cafes, hippy tarot card readers and a friendly pub with a shady beer garden, but without the traffic snarls and parking meters. Family friendly, the river has some good swimming spots ideal for little kids. An added bonus is that the three caravan parks are all riverside, and campsites are much more affordable because the celebrities and fashionistas haven’t discovered just how great this place is yet.
Proudly boasting that it’s ‘the biggest little town in Australia’s Mullumbimby (locals call it Mullum), is just a 10-minute drive west of Brunswick Heads. Like nearby Nimbin, it’s a centre for counter culture, although a little less in your face. Full of lovely historic buildings, it makes for a great day trip from Brunswick Heads or Byron Bay. Attractions include the colourful Mullumbimby markets (every third Saturday) and the Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens, home to some of the tallest crystals in the world. (https://www.crystalcastle.com.au/)
Part of the World Heritage Gondwana rainforest, Border Ranges National Park and the neighbouring ridges that flank the coast are part of ancient volcano. The Tweed Valley is the crater. You can explore it by car on the Tweed Scenic Drive that runs along the edge of the caldera. Highlights include rainforest walking tracks and spectacular lookouts, as well as some lovely rainforest campsites in the national parks.
It’s almost impossible to resist the siren call of the shops and boho glitz of Byron Bay, which is only 16km south of Brunswick Heads. It's the place to go for shopping and fine dining or perhaps a spa treatment. Go for the day and enjoy the surf beaches, soak in the view from the Cape Byron lighthouse, and indulge in some people watching.
Follow the coast road, rather than the Pacific Motorway, north from Brunswick Heads to Tweed Heads at the southern end of the Gold Coast and you’ll discover a string of sleepy little seaside communities such as Pottsville, Mooball Creek, Cabarita and Kingscliff, each with their own beachfront caravan park or camping ground.
Like nearby Byron Bay, the weather is kind all year round, so there’s no really bad time to go, although it does get a bit rainy in February and March. It gets very busy during summer and Easter school holidays, when it pays to book campsites well in advance.
- Go retro in style and hire a vintage caravan, set up with everything you need. It will be waiting for you at the camping site of your choice. https://retropod.com.au/ - Brunswick Heads is almost exactly halfway between Ballina and the Gold Coast airport in Queensland, which doubles your flight options. If you do fly in or out of the Gold Coast remember there’s a one-hour time difference between NSW and Queensland thanks to daylight saving in summer. - The Brunswick River is perfect for kayaking. Hire a kayak from the Scout Hall (across the footbridge from town) and paddle the Brunswick River brunswickriverkayaktours.com.au - Ask at the Brunswick Heads Visitors Centre (7 Park St, Brunswick Heads) for a free ‘clue sheet’ and use it to follow the Brunswick Heads Fairy Trail to find little fairy houses that have been hidden all over town. Adults love it just as much as kids.