Planet drawn to Byron’s sun

OVER EXPOSED: Lonely Planet gave Byron Bay a big tick, but what about the rest of the region?
OVER EXPOSED: Lonely Planet gave Byron Bay a big tick, but what about the rest of the region? Cathy Adams

NO PRIZES for guessing which town hogs much of the northern NSW section of Lonely Planet's East Coast Australia Travel Guide, published this month.

Byron Bay takes out a full half of the 19 pages dedicated to the area from Evans Head to the border, something Byron Shire Council may not be ecstatic about given the town's already burdened infrastructure.

The tourist mecca's luxuriant 10 pages do include a cursory mention of Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads to the north as "intriguing towns" that are "worth a visit".

But the rest is a fairly comprehensive list of the many leisure options to be found in the bustling leisure capital, whether it's diving, surfing, eating, drinking, festival-going, or alternative therapising.

Contrast that with coastal Evans Head, which gets zero coverage, alongside fellow "invisible" towns Casino and Kyogle.

Evans Head tourism operators won't be chuckling but local residents in the unspoilt town might be breathing a sigh of relief.

Elsewhere, Ballina and Lennox Head get moderate mentions, with Ballina described as a "quieter, more family friendly" alternative to Byron "spoilt for white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters".

The Big Prawn comes in for a mention thanks to its recent $400,000 restoration, alongside a handful of eateries and accommodation options.

But looking inland, its doubtful Lismore will be attracting an extra share of visitors thanks to its lacklustre coverage in the guide.

"Lismore, the commercial heart of the Northern Rivers region, manages to sit alongside the Wilsons River without paying it terribly much attention," it declares.

And despite some "eclecticism" and pretty colonial buildings, "it's still a little rough around the edges".

The guide does note correctly that Lismore has more markets than anywhere else in the region.

Its biggest failure is not mentioning the Lismore Back Alley Gallery, which would probably appeal to most of its readers, but the Lismore Regional Galley's exhibitions are marked high as "usually excellent".

Nimbin, being the region's second-biggest tourist attraction after Byron, gets its share of pages, complete with a historical description of its alternative transformation in the 1970s.

It's also described as "almost a theme park" and a town that "struggles under the weight of its own cliches", complete with "persistent young pot dealers" who make a living from the daily bus tours from Byron.

Topics:  byron bay lonely planet tourism

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