Towns with heart: Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Alstonville
If you’re looking for a tree-change without being too far from the coast, the hinterland towns of Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Alstonville will delight you.
The original inhabitants of this region were the Dur-ung-bil people from the Midjungbal tribe.
During early European settlement in the 1850s, the entire region was home to a large timber industry when huge quantities of red cedar were collected to use in shipbuilding. Today, the area’s main industries are agriculture and farming. Dairy plays a prominent role, as do macadamia and coffee.
Our rich volcanic soil also supports plenty of vegetable growing, and the subtropical climate lends itself well to growing a variety of fruits including many tropical varieties.
Same but different
Although all three towns are part of this rich hinterland region, each has a unique flavour and atmosphere.
Mullumbimby embraces both the hippy vibe of Nimbin and the cosmopolitan air of Byron Bay. When you’re there, you feel far removed from the stresses of city life. The mood is laid-back, warm and inviting and the scenery is awe-inspiring.
Mullumbimby, or ‘Mullum’ as the locals call it, sits alongside majestic Mount Chincogan, which is a minor lava plug of one of the many extinct volcanoes that dot the region.
Further south, not far from the Pacific Highway, sits the historic town of Bangalow. If you love historic architecture, this is the place to be with 100-year-old Federation-style buildings lining the main street. Bangalow is a pretty town with lush parks, eclectic shops and impressive cafés and restaurants.
Travel further south to find the quaint little town of Alstonville. Sitting on a plateau, Alstonville has wide streets, several heritage buildings and a collection of shops that range from retro to ultra modern. For a quiet coffee or to socialise with friends, Alstonville also boasts cafés and restaurants with an unforgettable atmosphere. Most notable in Alstonville is the Summerland House Farm. Started in 1972 as part of the broader House With No Steps initiative, this facility trains intellectually and physically disabled people in useful work/ life skills. The 172-hectare avocado and macadamia farm employs over 90 people in the area. The farm is a family destination with monthly market stalls, as well as attractions such as tractor tours and mini-golf.
A gourmet paradise for all to enjoy
With so much regional agriculture and crop growing, the local cuisine in these towns is wide and varied. Not only can you indulge in locally grown coffee, but the many cafés and restaurants offer seasonal menus that incorporate all the fresh produce grown in the area.
Plus, there are a variety of farmers’ markets where you can purchase this produce to take home and unleash your inner chef.
Who lives here?
This area is home to a variety of different people. With a median age of 50, Alstonville has the highest population last noted at 6,095, with 84% of the residents born in Australia. Mullumbimby, with a median age of 46, has a population of 4,036 while tiny Bangalow’s population is just 2,254. In all three towns, according to the 2016 census, women outnumbered men.
In both Mullumbimby and Alstonville, there’s a fairly even balance of families with children and retirees. However, Bangalow is home to more families with children than people of retirement age.
What local amenities are available?
Each town in this region has a primary school, and there’s also a secondary school in Mullumbimby, as well as a Steiner school.
The closest hospital to Mullumbimby is Byron Central and there’s also Lismore Base Hospital, closer to Alstonville, which serves the entire region.
Of course, each town has its own medical centre, as well as a variety of other medical services, including chiropractic, physiotherapy, naturopathy and herbal wellness centres. There are also plenty of other services, such as hairdressers and beauty clinics, or you can unwind at one of the several day spas in this region.
The region also boasts various sports activities for kids, as well as a couple of gyms for the adults. Plus, there are plenty of sports fields for weekend games of footy or cricket.
Mullumbimby also has an 18-hole golf course and a skate park.
If you love immersing yourself in nature, this area has plenty for you to enjoy. The spectacular Minyon Falls are only a 40-minute drive from the centre of Mullumbimby, but the drive is well worth it for a view of the 100-metre drop of water cascading down the mountain.
In Alstonville, there’s Victoria Park Nature Reserve, which is a remnant of the old rainforests that used to exist in this region hundreds of years ago.
This area abounds with nature reserves, local parklands and glorious mountain views no matter where you are.
Slow down in the Northern Rivers
Life moves at a slower pace in Mullumbimby, Bangalow and Alstonville. If you’re looking for a tree change with a more relaxed lifestyle, this area should definitely be on your list. It’s also the perfect destination for those who enjoy excellent food that is locally grown and produced.
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