12 Must-Do Arts & Cultural Experiences in the Northern Rivers & Coastal Region
Australia’s arts and culture community have found their home in the Northern Rivers and Coastal Region, where chic cafes and world-class galleries sit alongside quirky handicraft shops and vibrant street festivals. Whether you’re here to check out the music, Aboriginal history or one-of-a-kind boutiques, the Northern Rivers is sure to impress.
Lismore Arts Trail
The Lismore Arts, Vintage & Retro Trail features a collection of vintage and retro stores, street artwork and boutique galleries scattered throughout Lismore’s arcades, alleyways and boulevards. Take a stroll around this intriguing city to find antique furnishings, one-of-a-kind clothing, handmade goods and hipster accessories. You can also admire the murals and paintings of local artists, often displayed on walls and fences throughout the area.
Ballina Historic Waterfront Trail
Walk or cycle along the Ballina Historic Waterfront Trail to gain insight into early European settler history. Further north in East Ballina, a new coastal foreshore trail has 19 interpretive signs that demonstrate the rich Indigenous history of the region. If you’ve got time, hang out by the riverbanks for a day of fishing or wander along the North Wall to spot whales and dolphins frolicking in the water.
Ballina Naval Maritime Museum
Discover a significant part of Australia’s maritime history at the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum, home to Australia’s largest collection of naval and merchant ships. You can also see a working steam engine, get hands-on with interactive displays and learn about the revered Ballina riverboats. Notable displays include a detailed recreation of a mess deck and a collection of historic seafaring uniforms.
Lismore Regional Gallery
Positioned in the centre of Lismore, the Lismore Regional Gallery celebrates the talent of Australian artists through a series of exclusive exhibitions and a fascinating permanent collection of paintings and drawings. Portraits as well as abstract and traditional Aboriginal paintings create an innovative selection of imagery. Visit during one of the weekly events, as the gallery hosts free guided tours on Wednesdays and Fridays and talks and films on Thursday nights.
Lone Goat Gallery, Byron Bay
Lone Goat Gallery is an independent art exhibition space housed in a library a few streets back from Byron Bay’s Main Beach. Local and visiting artists use this gallery to showcase their paintings, drawings, photography and other art mediums. There’s also a full calendar of touring exhibitions from Australian and international artists, which change every two or three weeks.
Nimbin Candle Factory
Discover one of the Northern Rivers most interesting shopping experiences at Nimbin Candle Factory, a colourful store and candle-making workshop. You can browse through the various-shaped candles, which all have unique smells, before watching demonstrations of the candle-making process from start to finish. Candles range from standard sticks and pyramids to coffee table-sized masterpieces that burn for hundreds of hours.
Northern Rivers Community Gallery, Ballina
Housed in the former Ballina Municipal Council Chambers, the Northern Rivers Community Gallery showcases contemporary regional artwork through a series of exhibitions. Sculptures, interpretive displays, paintings, photography and drawings are just some of the forms found in this gallery. Artwork and souvenirs can be purchased from the on-site shop; while an array of creative learning workshops promote art literacy, diversification and a passion for history.
Norton Street Heritage Trail, Ballina
Spanning from Richmond River to Meldrum Park, the Norton Street Heritage Trail is an immersive journey back in time to Ballina’s earliest days. Stroll down this trail to see historic homes and cottages from the Victorian era, including the magnificent Ballina Manor Boutique Hotel that offers free tours. Grab a free Norton Street Heritage Trail map from the Ballina Visitor Information Centre.
Tweed Heads Historic Site
If you’re interested in Aboriginal culture and heritage, make sure to visit the Tweed Heads Historic Site. This over-water boardwalk takes you to revered Indigenous Australian sites around Tweed Heads, including the sacred Bora Ring. You can also visit the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which has ancient artefacts and stories from local elders. Hang around for a picnic after or spot fish around the mangroves.
Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre
The Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre is one of Australia’s premier cultural institutions, showcasing some of the country’s most prolific and emerging artistic talents. From nature landscapes to abstract drawings and portraits, the ever-changing exhibitions demonstrate a diverse range of local talent. One of Australia’s most celebrated painters, Margaret Olley, is immortalised through paintings, displays of her personal belongings and educational workshops.
Byron Bay Markets
Embrace Byron Bay’s cultural scene in one of the enthralling markets around the area, from over 240 stalls at The Channon Craft Market to fresh local produce at Mullumbimby Farmers’ Market. Local musicians put on live performances, which complement the unique fashion, artisanal food and handmade goods for sale from friendly vendors. For a local shopping experience, check out the Byron Bay Community Market, Ballina Market or Bangalow Market.
Head into the lush hinterland of the Northern Rivers to experience the colour, quirkiness and warmth of the Nimbin Markets. Held on the last Sunday of every month, this vibrant market features vintage clothing, hipster accessories, handmade jewellery and local food stalls. Chill out while watching local musicians or duck into one of the cafes for freshly-roasted coffee and creative cuisine.