I travel to Lismore when there are things to do and places to go, maybe a friend needs a specialist and I’ve offered my car and chauffeuring, or I’m hunting a few things at once, a Bunnings here, an Officeworks there, and a little of the ‘hip-to-be-Square’.
This isn’t an ad for these places, it’s the reality when Lismore calls. So, when I speak of going out to Lismore from the Byron Shire, it’s about the drive, that long and winding road… that leads to Lismore’s door.
Before you even step foot in the city, there’s the obvious country distractions. I’ve spoken in a fashion of the towns dotted throughout the undulating hills of the region but I’ll recap: Clunes Store and the Old Romantic Shack for some bric-a-brac; a little to the right is Dunoon, known as the Macadamia Capital of Australia and also as the gateway to Rocky Creek Dam; the major source of the region’s drinking water and a fine picnic and barbecue spot.
Take the kids or your friends on one or all of the four walks that you can do from the picnic area at Rocky Creek Dam. With each walk you’ll see different aspects of the Rainforest Reserve and get a little bit more exhausted. Off the Lismore to Bangalow Road, between Clunes and Bexhill, is the historic railway village of Eltham, a worthwhile diversion for all with The Pantry and the Eltham Pub (I’ve personally eaten at both and highly recommend a visit).
Then Bexhill with its Open Air Cathedral (‘bless me Father’… or Farther, dependent on how naughty you’ve been) and before we go too far there’s The Channon, home to the original north coast craft market and over 30 years on their ‘make it, bake it or grow it’ philosophy still exists.
Nimbin too is a place not to be ignored, although it’s a trek from Byron; if you’re already in Lismore it’s 30km north and you’ll be knee-deep in quirky township, with a unique mural streetscape of indigenous, rainforest and psychedelic facades and local characters. Cullen Street has an array of cafes, craft shops, galleries and retail outlets.
Some of the go-to places include the Nimbin Candle Factory, The Rainbow Power Company and the Djanbung Permaculture Gardens. Back again to Rosebank and last, but not least, Wyrallah, once a bustling river port – it’s downstream from Lismore on the Wilsons River.
The town of Lismore has retained its older more interesting buildings, unlike other overdeveloped towns. The activities do abound here: CBD walks, trailing the art galleries and studios and the Mother of Galleries of course being the Lismore Regional Art Gallery.
Naturally, like all regional areas, if you’re serious, the local Tourist Information Centres are the first place to visit, or take a squiz at their websites if you’re time poor (www.visitlismore.com.au). If they’re good at the job they’ll tell you where to go and at the same time flog the many locally made products they retail in house (perhaps a gift to take home for those guests up for the week).
The art of walking
The Back Alley Gallery is a walk through the laneways of the city centre with local and national artists graffiti and stencil artworks on show. This walk will immerse you in the street-art culture of Lismore.
If you’re in town with the kids on board, get some peace for a minute with the Heritage Park children’s playground.
The first thing I noticed here was the ample shade, something nearly every play area ever built seems to have forgotten. There’s an assortment of play structures and a good spread of them to keep the interest.
The second thing I noticed was the tiny train station and a miniature train track around the grounds – whoopee! I have a train-obsessed toddler. This mini-train costs $2 and could be the ticket to a big smile and a quick calm coffee.
Runs Sat and Sun 10am–4pm, Thurs and pub hols 10am-2pm. School hols every day 10am-4pm – confirm on 6629 8186
Word of mouth
The first thing I do when I’m in unfamiliar territory, in an eating sense, is get the locals lowdown on places. A mean-average of recommendations will narrow the online onslaught to a fine point and generally get you in a good eatery quickly avoiding the shonky.
Here’s what I gleaned from a number of kind locals. This is in no particular order.
Though I’ve given a full account of the Black Sombrero’s food in these pages, it may just be a coincidence that Fire in the Belly was started by these same folk.
What is evident is that all who spoke to me of this award-winning modern wood-fired pizza couldn’t praise it enough. It’s as well known as the dragon Smaug is in The Hobbit.
This isn’t a metaphor, it relates to the colourful and uniquely sculptured smouldering dragon that drapes over the wood fire oven at this eatery.
I haven’t as yet eaten here, though the walls are adorned with Restaurant and Catering Assoc’ awards including one for the ‘Best pizza in Australia’.
I’m told the pizza bases are made fresh daily in-house using ingredients the likes of stone-ground organic flours. I guess the consistent local recommendation (without trip adviser to assist me) compels me to state this recommendation blind.
You be the judge when next you’re in Lismore. 109 Dawson Street Lismore. Enquiries 6621 4899.
Eat these shorts
The following are a bunch of eateries with dining cred given a big tick by local Lismorites.
La Vida: for some highly-regarded tapas and a Mediterranean courtyard (if you’ve got kids and they’re not mannequins, I’d hazard a guess they could be a stress at dinner here). 178 Keen Street, Lismore: 6622 4664.
The Loft, I’ve been told is a good place to have an affair. I’m only concerned with the affairs of eating. The service is all the talk ‘snappy and efficient’ along with the range of dishes, most people equated the food with local, fresh quality produce ‘it’s beautifully presented and expertly cooked’. Up Nesbitt Lane (opposite The Pie Cart). 6 Nesbitt Ln, Lismore: 6622 0252.
The Pie Cart has to be on this list: as I stood taking photos, I was greeted by two friends from distant places in the space of three minutes. It’s an icon of course and who doesn’t like sloppy peas and gravy? I had a duck and mushroom pie and enjoyed it thoroughly; 11 Magellan St, Lismore, 6622 2946.
Goanna Bakery is the place where your crust is in good hands. Organic healthy and wholesome goods baked daily here and I do love their wholemeal pie cases. 171 Keen St , Lismore: 6622 2629.
Dragonfly Cafe. Again this place I’ve yet to try, but it has the locals’ approval: ‘Always packed and the coffee is made by one of the best baristas I have ever known’, ‘great honest food’. 36 Carrington St, Lismore, 6622 6556.
20,000 Cows is an easy and a hard recommendation at the same time. People who are vegetarians and vegans rave about this place, I’m neither veg or vegan and I love the food that comes forth. Here you need plenty of time – it’s a slow-food place but it’s worth the wait. 58 Bridge Street, Lismore, 6622 2517.