Ballina has a permanent population of around sixteen thousand, but this is not representative of the level of activity there. The choice of outdoor activities makes it sound like a resort, which it could be mistaken for given its location on an island at the mouth of the Richmond River. The atmosphere is far more relaxed than equivalent spots on Australia's East Coast and far less pretentious than nearby Byron Bay. The centre has its own moat in the form of North Creek and North Creek Canal which separate it from East and West Ballina respectively. Oddly the development of the area was driven solely by the nineteenth century British Empires furniture trade. Before the timber trade came to access the cedar forests and ousted the indigenous people of the area, the area saw various longstanding Aboriginal settlements. The area soon moved towards cash crops including tea tree, the oil of which had been used for centuries by the areas previous occupants. The area is very popular with families and young sports enthusiasts, making for a very pleasant city centre that is a mix of the commercial and wholesome.


Richmond River Cruises - The most famous vessel is the MV Richmond Princess that has been taking guests along the river since 1981. The two-hour excursions truly embrace the idea of a cruise with table service and cheesy commentary from the captain detailing the history of the river.

[ Bundjalung National Park] - A short drive from Ballina lies this excellent area including dirt tracks, woodland, mangrove swamp and ten miles of unpatrolled beach. The area can be explored easily by hiring a four-wheel drive and camping at one of the old Aboriginal settlement sites; cabins can be booked for those without camping equipment. The area is also very popular for surfing, fishing and swimming, although it would be understood if you didn't fancy a dip at the uninvitingly named Shark Bay.

[ Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum] - Access to this museum is free although there is a suggested donation (which is understandable as it is staffed entirely by volunteers). The main attraction is the Las Balsas raft which made the epic journey from Ecuador to Australia in tact in 1973. There are various installations of a maritime nature, a large portion of which is of military interest.

Cycling � Ballina itself and the route to Lennox Heads are home to some excellent cycle paths. Hiring bikes can usually be organised through your accommodation although the hire centres are obvious if you want to do it yourself. Cycling is popular in Ballina and promoted and supported by the local council. As a result there are often cycling events and races as well as no shortage of support and information who wish to explore the area by bike.


The main shopping centre is the [ Ballina Fair Shopping Centre] on the Pacific Highway. There are a variety of independent shops selling clothing and similar goods and several large chain stores such as Woolworths, which offers groceries and home goods. The surrounding streets consist of much of the same, which are worth investigating if you are after a bargain. The third Sunday of each month sees a general market on Canal Road, Ballina and the fourth at Evans Head Recreation Reserve.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Out of the Blue on Compton Drive has great views across Shaws Bay and serves seafood at the excellent standard you would expect from an area with such a large fishing fleet. The RSL Club is the most obvious choice on the river, and is a safe bet for seafood and a few beers. There is no shortage of other options along the river, and even if you went for a dinner wrapped in newspaper you'd be unlikely to be disappointed. For something more modern try Cafe Sirocco which offers Mediterranean versions of standard Australian fish dinners or one of the few Chinese or Indian takeaways. The cafes in the centre tend to be pretty good, serving mostly healthy options such as juices and smoothies, although the ice creams are some of the best on the East Coast.

The city attracts little interest from backpackers on the route up the East Coast apart from the odd few that disembark to take a picture of the legendary "Big Prawn". The nightlife therefore is fairly family-orientated, with only a handful of pubs getting very busy. Country Music is very popular in these parts and the Bowling Club sees most of the acts that are touring the coast. Henry Rous Tavern also has live music, but normally of a slightly rockier nature.

Tourist Information

Ballina Visitor Information Centre

  • Address: Corner of Lasbalsas Plaza and River Street, Ballina
  • Telephone: 02 66 86 3484
  • Email:
  • Website: []


The nearest airport is Byron Gateway and is located at Ballina itself rather than Byron Bay. Flights operate between Sydney and Melbourne only and international arrivals and departures must use [ Gold Coast Airport] which an hours drive north at Coolangata. Destinations include East Coast Australia, Perth and New Zealand, from which long haul flights can be taken. Local minibus services offer relatively cheap transfers from Ballina and Byron Bay.

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