Heart of the hinterland

Green Lifestyle magazine

Footprints of the original hippies in the Byron hinterland have left lasting impressions.


Mullum’s markets, established by the hippies of the ’70s, continue to add vibrancy to the region to this day.


The vegie patch supplies fresh, seasonal produce for the restaurant at Kukura House.


Kukura House is definitely a place to relax.

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Flanked by emerald hills, Mullumbimby, or Mullum as it’s known to locals, is home to just under 3,000 people, many of whom share the countercultural spirit that took root in the ‘Rainbow Region’ hinterland during the ‘70s. Then, as now, Mullum was the gateway to the hinterland communes where hippies took up residence in old banana packing sheds and used their talents to produce leather goods, clothing, jewellery, pottery, art and incense they brought back into town and sold at the markets they established, which continue to this day. The markets remain a drawcard, with a farmers’ market held each Friday and the vibrant Mullum market held on the third Saturday of each month.

Though Mullum’s bohemian heart still beats strong, there’s a lot more than rainbow tie-dye on offer at the markets and in the eclectic mix of main street shops. Gallery Casa Mexico stocks a vibrant collection of Mexican folk art, jewellery and homewares spanning Frida portraits to Day of the Dead curios. Alternatively, if you’re after local art, head to Art Piece Gallery, which stocks works from a range of established and emerging artists in all mediums.

Venture down a laneway on Burringbar Street and you’ll find The Rock and Roll Coffee Company, where both the vibe and coffee would be equally at home in inner-city Melbourne. Serving fresh, pan-Asian food, the café is a local favourite and a hit with visiting foodies.

To experience the beauty of the hills and the Aquarius legacy, journey a few minutes out of town to the Crystal Castle where the luscious treescape is every shade of green. Here, the Rainforest Walk and Shambhala Gardens radiate serenity and the World Peace Stupa is perfect for quiet contemplation. Owner and ‘Managing Dreamer’, Naren King, established his crystal importing business more than 26 years ago and believes its enduring appeal reflects the eternal quest for inner peace. “We all yearn to find places of peace in the world,” he says.

“In a way, the Crystal Castle physically represents some of the underlying values of the area and my hope is it serves as a powerful reminder that all is well and peace is within.” Along with the Castle’s ethereal vibe and range of crystals, books and gifts, its cafe has one of the best views of the hinterland and serves terrific chai, making it easy to lose yourself here for hours.

Mother Earth’s nurturing spirit is the guiding philosophy of Gaia Retreat & Spa, which coincidentally is part-owned by Green Lifestyle Hall of Fame inductee, Olivia Newton-John. Gaia offers a custom-made retreat for body, mind and spirit. Set on 25 peaceful acres, its stillness and spaciousness is an instant antidote to stress. The Day Spa offers massage plus energetic healing and craniosacral balancing.

If you’re coming for the day, book your treatment for the afternoon and stay for the delectable three-course dinner at Kukura House, which showcases the best seasonal produce. If time and budget allow, stay longer to fully recharge your spirit – guests design their own experience, arriving any day of the week and solo travellers are well catered for.

With the Pacific glistening on one side and verdant hinterland on the other, the journey to Coco’s Country Cottage along Coolamon Scenic Drive is jaw-droppingly picturesque. Owners Kevin and Janice Pickles left their restaurant and frantic Melbourne lifestyle 20 years ago to forge a greener existence built on simple pleasures. They lovingly restored an 1890s stationmaster’s cottage from nearby Brunswick Heads with their rustic bohemian aesthetic. Guests can enjoy a ‘source dining’ menu that uses fresh, mostly organic food from the local markets and neighbouring farms. The warm-heartedness of the hosts is matched by their respect for the land and determination to tread lightly upon it.

No matter which path you take through the hinterland, the spirit of Aquarius shines on.
Click here for more info on: Crystal Castle, Gaia Retreat and Day Spa, Coco’s Country Cottage & Mullum markets.