Oz markets


Most backpackers travelling the East coast of Australia will head straight to Byron Bay to drink at the Top Pub, dance the night away at Cheeky Monkeys and nurse their hangover the next day on the beach. However, if there is one thing you should not miss while you are up in Byron and surrounds it is the local markets.


There is no better way to feel out local village life. In Byron Shire and surrounds, the markets alternate every Sunday to one of the local towns within a half hours drive away - Bangalow, Ballina, Brunswick Heads and Lennox head. Each town gives you an insight into a different kind of coastal life, and draws together the community. My favorite ones are the ones held at Lennox head. The markets are tucked into the corner of town by a massive tea tree lake called Lake Ainsworth that is just behind Seven Mile beach.


If you look up, you'll see multicolored kite surfers punctuating the horizon. Look back to the arcing headland the village is named for, you'll see hangliders taking off and swirling onto the beach. Kayakers and paddleboarders head off across the lake and the whole community gathers around the stalls for the monthly markets. The stalls start with vintage collections of clothing and jewelry, native plants and clothing stalls. Here, I manage to pick up three shirts, a skirt and a dress. Two of the shirts cost me a bargain dollar, the others a fiver each. Not a bad way to reinvigorate the travel wardrobe. There are no plastic bags allowed in the town (a town wide ban) so cloth bags and recycled boxes are all the rage. One of the best things about the markets is that it is a great place to get breakfast. The classic option is the Lion’s Club sausage sizzle, held at the entrance to the markets and run as a charity fundraiser for the community. Four dollars will buy you a steak sandwich with fried onion.


However my stomach al always takes me to the organic doughnut shop. Follow the wafting heat to a giant deep fryer in a tent and there you can pick up freshly cooked, organic doughnuts the size of dinner plates, coated in cinnamon and sugar. Stuffed in a fresh paper bag and burning hot to the touch, these fresh bakery treats redefine your idea of what the doughnut should be.  If you're feeling healthier, you can head to the fruit and vegetable shops along the way, where you can buy produce direct from the farmers living in the hinterland around the shire. 


I always go straight to the peaches, where a no-nonsense local with sensible clipped short grey hair fills a brown paper bag. " We just got them off the tree yesterday for the markets " she says with a matter of fact nod,  “so they should be nice and sweet". They are infact so good I go back and buy a few more, sucking the flesh right down to the golden stone.

But it doesn't end there. Past the handmade leather wallets and crystal studded kids wands, secondhand bookstores and poster stores, you can find another cluster of food stores. Here is the drink of the day- fresh crushed sugar cane juice with fresh ginger and lime.  It's the type of drink you invest a bit of time waiting for:  but that's part of the appeal. The thick, bamboo-like sticks are pressed through a machine and the juice collected and mixed with lime and fresh ginger, which sits in a jug of ice water to cool down. The taste is incredible, and perfectly offsets the baking 35-degree heat as the sun climbs further into the midday sky.


The only better relief is taking a swim in the cool tea tree lake, right next to the markets. Lake Ainsworth is rimmed by tea trees, which produce tea tree oil that is reputed for it's cleansing therapeutic properties, cleaning out any wounds or scratches you might have and cleansing the skin. It’s the oil that also turns the lake an eerie red colour. If you open your eyes underwater, all you see if fluorescent red. It's an incredible experience that makes you feel like you’re on Mars. But you’re not - you’re just experiencing a little bit of North Coast paradise.



By Shaney Hudson