This NSW Spot Is A Throwback To Old-School Family Beach Breaks

4 May 2017

Remember the beach holidays of your childhood? Where holidays in tiny beachside spots were full of long days of exploring rock pools, collecting seashells, doubling on bikes, licking salty fish-and-chip fingers or melting ice-cream cones, and spending as much time as possible in the water?

The nostalgia-tinged, family-friendly beach holiday of your youth is alive and thriving in the charming Northern Rivers village of Brunswick Heads.

Everything revolves around the relaxing Brunswick River. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Just 15 minutes north from Byron Bay, and a half-hour drive from the Gold Coast Airport or Ballina Byron Airport, finds you in the unspoilt surrounds of this unassuming coastal locale. Situated at the Brunswick River delta, this lesser-known holiday destination is becoming a popular option to the flashpacker favourite to the south, while still offering the laidback vibe that Byron Shire is famous for.

A swinging good time at Terrace Holiday Park overlooking the river. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Brunswick Heads, or simply Bruns, is the kind of place where the artisanal Bruns Bakery sits next door to an old-school bait and tackle shop, and the local video shop is still frequented – no high-rises here. For grownups, it’s a spot where you can relive the beach holidays of your childhood, and families can relax and experience the simple joys of a seaside escape through the eyes of your kids.

Here's a list of must-dos for a family beach break in Bruns.

  • First stop: the water. Take South Beach Road over the bridge to family-friendly Torakina Beach, or enjoy splashing in the gentle shallows of Simpson Creek. The sandy stretch south from the Brunswick Heads Surf Club is also dog-friendly if the family canine companion fancies a (doggie) paddle too.
Launch off Brunswick Buccaneers to explore the river. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)
  • If want to try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on the river, or hire a canoe, kayak or tinnie, Brunswick Buccaneers will hook you up (you can’t miss the pirate ship moored across from the Hotel Brunswick). 
Lunchtime means fish and chips by the river! (Image: Cassandra Laffey)
  • After an hour paddling up the river, the kid can hit the swings and slides at Banner Park, or take a break with fish and chips from Starfish Fish & Chips across the road.
What's a holiday by the beach without an ice-cream? (Image: Cassandra Laffey)
  • For a post-swim ice-cream, Bernardi’s Gelato (22 Fingal Street) has a range of delectable flavours (M&Ms gets the kid-approved thumbs up).

 

A street musician warms up the crowd in Brunswick Heads. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)
  • Walk off your meal around town – the commercial centre is easily covered on foot with most shops, services and eateries located on the block between riverside Mullumbimbi Street and Fingal Street. 
  • Head to the revamped 1950s-era Bruns Bakery (15 Fingal Street) for sweet and savoury pastries and watch the artisan bakers top gooey tarts with fruit and make other treats from scratch while sitting at the viewing counter.
  • Don’t miss the markets held on the first Saturday of the month where you’ll find a mix of fresh product and locally made wares as well as secondhand goods at the riverside location on Park Street.
The interior is just as intriguing as the exterior at Fantastic Mrs Fox. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)
  • Continuing the nostalgic theme, there’s no shortage of vintage shops, secondhand pop-ups and garage sales to rummage through. Kids (and kids at heart) will adore the foliage-clad Fantastic Mrs Fox (10 Park Street) with nostalgic toys (vintage ice-skates or kewpie dolls anyone?), and cute keepsakes.
  • Kids will also love the Brunswick Heads Fairy Trail. Pick up your set of clues from the Visitor Centre on Park Street to locate the hidden fairy houses around town. 
  • Heading into or out of Bruns on the Pacific Highway? Make a pit stop for the catch of the day at the Brunswick Fishermen’s Co-Op, which has been at the same site for 70 years. Fresh fish and hot chips are the order of the day, which you can enjoy while watching the boats bob on the harbour, or take your fresh selection wrapped up to go.

Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.