Looking for some olde world Australian charm. Don't hesitate to take the turn to Bellingen when your heading up old highway one. Bellingen is one of the nicest little towns you'll find when driving from Sydney up the Pacific Highway towards Queensland. It's about a half an hours drive from the highway (just before you reach Coffs Harbour) through beautiful dairy farms and lush bush. Bellingen has retained the olde worlde charm of an Aussie country town and is set right on the pebbly, pristine Kalang River.
There's some great old heritage buildings, fabulous coffeeshops and cafes and a timeless feeling if you go for a wander down the main street. Around the centre of town you'll discover the Federal Hotel, the locals watering hole.
The pub has been given the total gentrification on the ground floor level and, while they have retained the essential Aussie Pub feel, it's been brought way upmarket.
A nice verandah to one side is where the locals hang out, was packed when we arrived. They have a central bar at the front with a stage where they put on live acoustic, jazz and blues music on weekends. A pub with live music always wins me over. All the usual gaming rooms etc and very posh toilets, and out the back they have a humming restaurant which serves excellent meals, a cut above your average pub fare by a long shot, but not cheap. Obviously very popular - it was packed, and you line uo for your order and take a buzzer. I enjoyed great fish of the day and my friends found the steak cooked to perfection. The rooms upstairs are pretty ordinary however, not up to the standard of the downstairs renovations, ...still the old style, but quite acceptable nevertheless and cheap at $80 a night if you don't mind wandering down the hall to the bathroom.
Bellingen is well worth a visit for it's beautiful scenery, the charm of the old town and if you head on up the valley you can take an awesome rainforest drive over the hill to Dorrigo, which is some of the most beautiful rural scenery in Australia.
If you happen to be in Bellingen on the Sunday of the month when they hold the Bellingen Markets make sure you check it out - it's fantastic with all that a country market should have, awesome choice of food, old wares, plants, clothing, a really nice vibe, plus great music.
Turn just past Bangalow and a little before the Byron bay turn-off, it's approximately 5 kms from the Pacific Highway, descending through scenic rainforest, suddenly Peppers' Oasis appears through the trees. It is set in stunning surroundings and is so quiet and peaceful with lots of wildlife around. I would recommend to anyone of a slightly alternate / hippy vibe as it has a gorgeous communal feel to it without being in any way feral. This charming property is set on a beautiful creek - complete with platypuses.
The private cabins look out over the valley, so tranquil, just peace and quiet and all the fresh air you can breath. We listened to the birds or enjoyed a sunset wine from our balcony. it didn't feel like a hotel at all! Their promo states: "we offer comfortable accommodation units that are elegantly designed to blend in with the natural surroundings and character. Each lodge at Peppers Coorabell has its own private balcony overlooking the swimming pool or the surrounding rainforest." We found the cabin was nice, simple yet comfortable and yes, with a lovely big verandah. It was more like a good 3 star room. Not up to the standard of the Restaurant in feel and décor. We got a package with dinner, breakfast and lunch and admission to the nearby Crystal Castle which was an ok deal for $385. It is definitely a lovely spot in the forest with a creek you can swim in, but also decent sized pool and spa and fine dining in a gorgeous restaurant. The masseuse we booked through the front office to come to our room was very good.
The Restaurant is expensive but very high class. The circular room features beautiful timbre, is warm friendly and inviting - great wines and a fabulous chef , whose food made you feel you were in a trendy brasserie in Melbourne, with his stunning take on nouveau cuisine infused with local produce - every mouthful bringing a new taste sensation. On Sunday afternoon they had tapas and some excellent music with local diva Kellie Knight singing smooth soulful jazz, with double bass. Pretty special.
Overall the staff were fantastic - friendly and informative and so laid back. It's a fair way out of Byron Bay if you plan to do the Byron thing be prepared to drive for 20 minutes, but the seclusion is great to come home to after the busy vibe of Byron. Some great local markets to visit and the quaint little town of Bangalow is not far away which has some pretty amazing little shops.
This is what an Aussie pub should be. So rare now to find one these days not sterilized by yuppydom into what I call a "Woolworths Tavern", since Woolworths started buying up pubs and become the largest liquor supplier in the country. Old traditional pubs like "the Billi" have been homogenised out of existence into these bland sterile places with 19 televisions and you wouldn't know where you were once inside - no character and disinterested staff working for a corporate giant. The Billi is how pubs used to be in Australia.
This old pub used to be run by an old lady known as Ma Ring for many decades and she was over a hundred when she died. Ma took up the licence in 1929, arriving from Barcaldine where she had been a partner in a Hotel. For many years later all the stock arrived by Rail. Almost every parcel was addresed simply with initials M.A.R. The name stuck and most people in town had forgotten that her real name was Margaret Alice Ring. It was something of a tradition at the New Brighton that Mar took up her position in the quaint little Saloon Bar around 5 and the locals would vie for the honour of buying her a glass of beer.
An ardent card player, Mar gave her unique style to the watering hole which still bears her name. Her MBE, awarded in 1971 was recognition of her support for the Ambulance, Red Cross and School of Arts Hall. Mar continued as licensee until her death in 1983 aged 101!When Bob hawke was president of the ACTU he visited the Pub and Mar gave him a twenty minute lecture on how to serve a good beer. Short pull and clean pipes.
It is truly a classic older style Aussie Pub, just as it has been for who know how long, across the railway tracks at the tiney village of Billinudgel, just past Brunswick Heads off the Pacific Highway if you are heading north.
The Beach Suites is a very beautiful boutique hotel right in the heart of the famous holiday destination of Byron Bay, built to cater for people who can afford the best when staying in beautiful Byron. With absolute beach front that's a good start.
This high quality block of private apartments are owned by a celebrity and designed to cater for celebritys with a sense of prestige and privacy to go with it. In fact, they bill the Beach Suites as: "Byron Bay's most private beachfront luxury accommodation. The best of Byron with light filled and spacious rooms, quality furniture and fittings. Two and three bedroom penthouse apartments with their own rooftop pool, Studio style rooms in a garden setting or Beachfront studios with their own private plunge pool and private front gates for direct beach access." This truly is stunning accommodation with great uninterrupted views to that famous beach across the road. The Apartment we stayed in was absolutely spot on clean and well maintained to perfection. Below is a shot taken from entrance to one of the ground floor garden apartments.