In the far north-east corner of NSW, between the sea and the world’s largest tract of subtropical rainforest, lies a quaint little town called Alstonville. Besides its cosy Federal Hotel which hugs the main street of town, the place is home to intensely hued flowers, unsung heroes, and the world’s first commercial orchard of macadamias.
Sitting less than thirty minutes south-west of its more flamboyant cousin, Byron Bay, Alstonville is a prime spot for exploring the green, fertile country of the Northern Rivers – from its forests, meadows, coffee and macadamia plantations, waterfalls, and of course its beaches, which are some of the world’s finest. The town also hosts its fair share of historic buildings and harbours several of its own legends.
One tale is that the soil here is 12 feet deep, which may provide the magic for the town’s Tibouchina trees that dazzle residents with their purple panache every autumn. Even though I live about 20 minutes from Alstonville, I’ve yet to encounter them (sadly). The soil is also richly volcanic, which produces a wide variety of tropical fruit and crops.
In the 1880s, Alstonville was home to the world’s first commercial orchid of macadamia nuts. Today, macadamias are one of the area’s largest industries, and a visit should include a taste and perhaps even an orchid tour of this regional specialty.
Other notable town achievements include former resident Patrick Joseph Bugden, who was awarded the Victorian Cross – the highest medal that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth armed forces. He was honoured for saving the lives of his regiment through a series of daring escapades in WWI. A rather large memorial under a town tree rests in his honour.
Alstonville is a sleepy little town. For my part, I enjoy strolling through its main street and exploring its leafy backstreets whilst marvelling at the lives of others. Then I’ll invariably head to the Federal Hotel, known colloquially as the “Fed”. Here I’ll sit on the balcony, neck a beer, gaze across the hills and think what a very pleasant part of the world this is.