BALLINA, NSW AUSTRALIA DESTINATION GUIDE by Felicity Loughrey 
  NAME :
Felicity Loughrey
OCCUPATION :
Digital Creative
HOMETOWN :
Brisbane, Queensland
DESTINATION :
Ballina, New South Wales, Australia
 
STAY:
LOCAL: The Ballina Beachcomber Cottage is down a gravel road (zero traffic noise) just opposite Shelly Beach. We arrived earlier than check-in time so the owner, Judy was there.  For Judy, the property is an art project. She’s been collecting items for years. She built the shed, collected the windows, furniture, crockery, antique shower fixtures and seashell doorknobs. There’s an outdoor shower to get the sand off your body. Inside it’s an open plan, two-story layout that sleeps four. It’s incredibly efficient. It makes you think, I want to live my life like this.
 
WHAT ITEMS SHOULD YOU BRING TO BALLINA?
Ballina is south of Brisbane, so it’s a little cooler. Being on the water, there’s always a sea breeze. I packed just one sweater and I regretted it. I ended up buying long pyjama bottoms at the nearby Kmart (you guys, Kmart is cool in Australia. Draw a triangle with Urban Outfitters, Target and Ikea then place Kmart in the middle. Don’t believe me, there are obsessive Kmart-lover Instagram accounts here and here).
 
TRANSPORTATION:
LOCAL: We had our car with us. I would recommend a hire car just so you can explore the beaches and hinterland (that’s Australian (with a German origin) for the lush countryside inland from the coast).
 
EATS:
LUX: A 20-minute drive from Ballina is the hinterland hamlet of Newrybar. Among the chic slab-huts is Harvest. It’s a tad expensive, long lunch kind of place. That said, it totally fits the hippy vibe of northern New South Wales. You can wander around the gardens of Harvest and see hedges of parsley, edible flowers that turn up on our ginger beer glasses and chooks (Australian for chickens) clucking in the back yard. Also worth checking out is The Farm at Byron Bay. It’s the same idea but on a larger scale: local, seasonal food in a farm-like setting.  
 
LOCAL: How local? This local. The Belle General is only footsteps from our Airbnb cottage. It’s an upscale, earthy cafe across the road from the beach. It’s part of a small Ballina empire: there’s the Belle General at Shelly Beach, Belle Central in an arcade in Ballina and Nourish, a health food store in the same shopping strip. All of the Belle-properties are in a global hipster aesthetic (I love it, I’m not making fun) of white walls, cinnamon leather seats, blooms in jars and a menu that is unfussy and delicious.
 
STYLE:
LUX: Opposite Harvest is Newrybar Merchants. It’s an 1890s cottage and each room is home to a different showcase. There are rooms with books, childrenswear, amazing art on the walls and rugs for sale. Among the merchants are Australian style heavy hitters such as Sibella Court, Shannon Fricke and Jason Grant selling wares.
 
LOCAL: Ballina is known for its op shops (that’s Australian for thrift store). At Ballina Care they give out  a photocopied map of all the local oppies (eight in total). We picked up cricket stumps and wicket for games of beach cricket, I scored two vintage t-shirts, a wooden toy for my nephew, a black blazer for my eldest’s Halloween costume and some knitting yarn.

ACTIVITY:
LUX: Ballina is not a fancy place. It’s like nearby Byron Bay’s working class cousin. It’s a very liveable, practical country beach town. Everything closes after midday on Saturday. That said, surely there is luxury in a walkable, bike-friendly enclave that sits on beautiful pristine beaches. What do you reckon?
 
LOCAL: So when we were in Ballina, we played cricket on the beach, explored rock pools and went for sunset walks. We didn’t actually go in the water. This was because there was a shark attack on the day we arrived. A 13-year-old surfer was mauled and earlier this year, another surfer was killed. But we did swim! We went to the local pool in town with its two water slides that was the quintessential Australian country town experience. And we went swimming in nearby Lake Ainsworth, a tea-tree lake just a ten minute drive up the road in Lennox Heads. Let me tell you, a tea tree lake swim is heaven. It’s a lake, surrounded by melaleuca trees and a sandy base. The trees stain the water brown; it’s like swimming in amber liquid and feels incredible on your hair and skin.
 
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY OF BALLINA?
This is weird to say, but I really loved sitting on the couch at night with my boys and watching Australian reality shows like RBT and Highway Patrol. The cottage has a sense of calm. The tv area is a perfect two couch set up and there’s a balcony adjacent for a lovely breeze. The thing is, in my normal life I don’t sit and watch television with my kids as I have other chores and online errands I need to do at night. It was a true vacation. It was days of playing outside on sand bars and splashing in lakes. It felt like a treat to watch some tv at night, all piled together with a quilt on our laps (told you it was a bit cold).

BEST SOUVENIR?
I love my charity shop buys, in particular the two vintage tees I picked up and a really 1970s wooden salad bowl. I also, collected two washed rocks from the beach. Is it an environmental disaster to take home a smooth pebble from the seaside? I hope not. I have the pair sitting on a window sill in our Brisbane home.
 
TIPS FOR WOMEN TRAVELING TO BALLINA?
The usual warnings about travelling in Australia apply for snakes, spiders and sharks. Just be alert. Add to that list, don’t touch small blue-ringed octopus in rockpools or any bluebottle jellyfish. They will hurt you and you may die (in the case of the octopus). But really, it’s fine. Oh, and swim between the flags.
 
DON'T MISS---
This is a very pedestrian recommendation, but you can buy take out from places like Malibu Burgers in downtown Ballina and take your fish and chips across the street to the riverside park. At dusk, you can sit and watch the small fishing trawlers go out to sea for an evening of work. If you’re really lucky, there are sometimes pods of dolphins that shimmy up the Richmond River.
 
2016