Introduction to Alstonville, New South Wales.

Located on the Bruxner Highway about half way between Lismore and Ballina, many visitors to the Northern Rivers region make a day trip to the Alstonville Plateau to take in the stunning views, and to visit popular local attractions like Amaze ‘n’ Place, Summerland House with No Steps and Teven Golf Course.

Photo: Big Scrub remnant, Booyung Nature Reserve © Big Volcano Tourism

Atop the rich krasnosem soils which previously supported the “Big Scrub”, Alstonville and Wollongbar are communities serving a thriving agricultural industry and workers who commute to Lismore and Ballina.

In addition to the more conventional dairy and beef farming, macadamia orchards abound in the smaller villages, while bananas, peanuts, pawpaws, pineapples and other exotic and subtropical fruits are being successfully grown.

Motor Inns, B&Bs and farmstays are the primary accommodations available on the plateau, and in the smaller settlements like Tintenbar and Teven, which also boasts an excellent golf course.

A variety of day tours, river cruises and activities are available at Ballina.

Read more here: Alstonville, Wollongbar, NSW 2477


Hooray for Olleywood

What is it about Ballina?

With Burns Point, a current film in production written by local Chris Blackburn, and PJ Hogan (“Muriel’s Wedding”), filming the feature “Mental” in Ballina in 2012, not to mention a slew of other film and TV productions in the region recently, you could be forgiven if locals started referring to the town as “Balliwood”.

And why not?  After all, there’s only so much Big Prawn you can eat, and with the opening of the Margaret Olley Art Centre, already dubbed “Olleywood”, complete with sign, at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah last month, variations on the theme seem to be very appropriate at the moment.

Olleywood sign

Olleywood sign, Tweed Regional Gallery, Murwillumbah, NSW, Australia

Been there, Seen that. Movies shot here

So the 2014 film award season is upon us, and Huff Post Travel just did a cutesy piece on location settings for some of this year’s Oscar contenders.

Which got me thinking about films shot in our neck of the woods.

Rural view

Ballina beach view

So here’s a quick roll call;

Everyone’s favourite ABBA revival movie: Muriel’s Wedding (1994), had Rainbow Bay, Point Danger and Tugun standing in for Porpoise Spit.

And in 2009, local director Belinda Chayko, filmed Lou (2010), which starred one of the latest of the Doctors Who, John Hurt, entirely on location in the Tweed.

Although, apart from the promotional poster, you’d really need to be a local to realise it, as the director and editor/s did a great job of carefully avoiding including the most distinctive feature of the valley in any shot.

But sharp eyed locals would recognise the Surfside Buslines beach bus route scene being Clothiers Creek Road, as it trundled past the Nunderi turnoff, as well upteen shots with the McPherson Ranges, Springbrook National Park and The Cougals outlined in the background, in other scenes.

Coolangatta Gold (1984), which actually spawned the contest named after it, rather than the other way round, was shot at, funnily enough, Coolangatta and other locations on the Gold Coast.   >> Coolangatta Gold 2013.

And as far a TV goes, well, that list is getting a good work out, with the Brit “reality” favourite; “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here“, being shot on a property located a short drive from Murwillumbah since 2002.

Forays into the local wilds usually include Crams Farm, which also featured recently, along with the usual selection of local villages like Tyalgum, with Rachel Griffiths, who starred in the recent “Camp” TV series (2013 NBC), before she got called up to play in the current Tom Hanks hit “Saving Mr Banks“.

Speaking of Muriel alumni, PJ Hogan’s “Mental” (2012), with Toni Collette and Liev Schreiber, had location shooting in and around Ballina, not to mention a climb of Mt Warning.  PJ must like his old stomping ground.

But then, what’s not to like?

Great scenery and locations, oodles of local talent to call on, close to two international airports: Brisbane and Gold Coast, and of course, being less than 90 minutes drive south of Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast, is a bit of help too.

And while local organisations and groups (below) are doing their best to raise the profile of the region, it also doesn’t hurt when celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fly into Byron for the day (January 2014), and enjoy some quality fun time with the kids at local attractions like Byron Circus Arts, and a meal in town later, before decamping back to Brissie.

And let’s not forget Lady O herself, with a group from Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure, finding out about the pleasures of Byron Bay as part of their New South Wales itinerary.

Local Arts Organisations:

Byron Bay International Film Festival has morphed from an Australian to a truly international film festival.

Nothern Rivers ScreenWorks is the screen industry gateway for the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia, serving creative practitioners in the film, television, video, and digital media sectors.

Arts Northern Rivers is the peak body for the arts and cultural sector in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia.

Flickerfest International Short Film Festival is Australia’s only Academy Accredited Short Film Festival screening the best of new and cutting edge short films from Australia and the world.