Just 2 hours south of Brisbane, 40 minutes from the Gold Coast Airport and 25 minutes from Ballina Byron Airport, Byron Bay has the distinction of being Australia’s most easterly point. A sub-tropical paradise with long stretches of soft golden sand beaches, clear azure seas and a lush rainforest hinterland, Byron has become one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. It is estimated that 1.7 million visitors pass through each year and that 10% of Australia’s international travelers spend time in Byron. Byron is well known for hosting some of the largest festivals in Australia – the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival, Splendour in the Grass and the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival.
Historically a quiet coastal town built around industries ranging from logging to whaling to meatworks and to sand mining, current day Byron has reversed this karmic connection and is now a centre for (among other things) environmental preservation, whale watching, vegetarian cuisine, and new-age healing. Byron Bay’s population and cultural identity has developed through a series of sea-changes. The first wave of these occurred in the 60s when traveling surfers discovered Byron’s great breaks and moved out of their panel vans and into the beach shacks.
In 1973 the hippies arrived, lingering on after the Aquarius Festival (Australia’s Woodstock) which was held inland around Nimbin. The hippies were artisticly creative types whose focus and lifestyle attracted even more artists, as well as New Agers and followers of Eastern Philosophies. In the 80s some of the biggest names of Australian film bought property in and around the bay. When Crocodile Dundee’s John Cornell and Paul Hogan revamped the Beach Hotel in 1991 and backpacker hostels started popping up like mushrooms, the tourism love-affair with Byron had well and truly begun. The 1990’s attracted a different type of sea-changer as city dwellers seeking more relaxed lifestyles sold up and bought property in and around the bay. A-list celebrities continue to buy property and holiday here.
In recent years Byron has further added to its population melting pot by becoming a haven for filmmakers. According to a study recently compiled by local Producer/Filmmaker Cathy Henkel, the economic value of the local screen industry sector is estimated at $40 million. Filmmaking is fast becoming a significant economic driver of the local economy. Byron’s screen industry is growing in significance for the region, and has become a real player in the national arena.