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The Big Prawn at Ballina
 

Ballina
Home of the Big Prawn
Located 753 km north of Sydney, Ballina is a major holiday and service centre on the New South Wales north coast. Boasting a population of 14,000, it is home to one of Australia's most spectacular 'bigs' - the Big Prawn. From a distance of some kilometres, if you are entering the town from the south, it is easy to see a huge cooked prawn sitting above the surrounding sugar cane crops.

Aborigines had lived in the area for many thousands of years (the middens on the coast are at least 2000 years old) and it was estimated there were at least 500 living in the area at the time of European settlement. They hunted the pademelons, wallabies, bandicoots and flying foxes which abounded in the hinterland and, in September, headed for the coast to reap the rich harvest of salmon. The shoals of fish were often caught inside the surf and the Aborigines would kill them with spears. It was probably their word 'Bullenah', which reputedly meant 'place where oysters are plentiful', that gave rise to the town name - 'Ballina'.

The first European in the area was Captain Henry Rous who, on 26 April 1828, 'discovered' and named the Richmond River after the fifth Duke of Richmond. Settlers followed quickly. They were looking for stands of cedar along the coast and in the hinterland.

 

A boat being piloted out of the Richmond River at Ballina
 

As early as 1842 a boat named 'Sally' brought cedar cutters, their wives and children, to the area and a settlement developed at East Ballina where the combination of high ground and reliable fresh water saw a village named Deptford grow up near Shaws Bay.

The cedar cutters found considerable stands of the prized timber which was rafted down the river to the sea. By 1853 the first sawmill had been built. It was around this time that the Aboriginal word 'Bullenah', perhaps reminding settlers of the Irish name 'Ballina', came to be accepted as the name for the settlement.

The growth of the town was rapid. This was greatly assisted by a short goldrush in the 1860s when gold was found in the sands at the mouth of the Richmond River.

As people moved into the district Ballina came to serve as a port for Casino and Lismore and the pastoral lands of the district. There was a natural sequence with the timber being cut, the land being planted with corn and then the arrival of the sugar cane. Quickly, sugar cane came to dominate and, by 1875, there were 75 sugar mills operating along the length of the Richmond River. By 1891, this had been reduced to nine mills with the Alstonville, Rous and Broadwater mills being the largest. The river continued to be used for sugar cane until 1974 when more modern methods of transportation were introduced.

Things to see:   

The Ballina Information Centre
The range of information available is quite remarkable. Brochures and pamphlets include 'Services & Facilities', 'Dining Out Guide', 'Market Days in the District', 'Arts and Crafts', 'Golf on the Far North Coast', 'Parks and Picnic Areas in Ballina', 'Viewing Spots of Ballina Dolphins', 'Ballina Cycle/Walking Track', 'Ballina River Drive' and 'Self Driving Tours'. It is sensible to make the centre, located on the corner of La Balsa Plaza & River St, a starting point for any visit to the area.

 

The Big Prawn
If you have a fascination with 'Big Australia' (see the separate section in Regions under the heading Australian Eccentricities) then The Big Prawn is worth a stop. It has the usual array of gift shops and eateries to entice the traveller to part with some money. Otherwise it is just a very strange and exotic building.

 

The Main Street of Ballina
The main street of Ballina (it is an extension of the Pacific Highway from the south) has a number of particularly attractive buildings - the post office and the courthouse - as well as a superb tourist information office which is combined with two museums. There is the FNC Family History Group and the Naval Museum as well as a Maritime Museum. On the waterfront there is the MV Florrie which was built at Brisbane Waters in 1880 and traded on the Richmond River as a passenger vessel and tug. At the time of her retirement in 1975 she was the longest working vessel in Australia. In front of this collection of museums and information centres is the MV Richmond which operated on the Richmond River for nearly 50 years.

 

 

The Court House
 

Ballina Court House
This beautiful Court House was built in 1867 and now is a central feature of the town's main street. Located between the Post Office and the Police Station it is part of an impressive combination of public buildings.

 

Maritime Museum
Perhaps the most famous exhibit at the Ballina Maritime Museum is the 12-metre long and 6-metre wide Las Balsas which landed at Ballina on 21 November, 1973. The balsa wood raft floated across the Pacific from Ecuador, a journey of 3760 nautical miles which it achieved in 178 days. It was originally planning to land at Mooloolaba in Queensland but coastal currents swept it south to Ballina. By the early 1980s more than 15,000 people a year were stopping in Ballina to see the raft. It is open seven days from 9.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6681 1002 for more information.

 

Fenwick House
Beyond the Maritime Museum the road crosses the mouth of North Creek on Missingham Bridge. On the far side are two attractions: Fenwick House and the Pioneer Memorial Park. Fenwick House was built by Captain Thomas Fenwick in the style of a Scottish manor house. It is characterised by an English mahogany staircase, a slate roof and stained-glass windows. Today it is known as Shaws Bay Hotel and is a prominent landmark.

 

Pioneer Memorial Park
On the other side of the road is the Pioneer Memorial Park which contains Ballina's first cemetery with headstones which date back to 1853 when Pearson Simpson was buried. In the 1950s (after there had been no new burials since 1915) it was decided to build a wall containing all the historic headstones.

 

 

The lighthouse at Ballina
 

Rotary Lookout
The Rotary Lookout is far from being an ideal vantage point. The major novelty value is trying to read a bronze map with directions (the usual ploy for lookouts). There have been walls constructed with PVC piping which, if you look through the piping you see the particular coastal feature.

 

Ballina Lighthouse
The Ballina lighthouse must be one of the smallest lighthouses on the Australian coast. First established in 1866 it turned automatic in 1926 and is now located incongruously in a park near the water. It was built to a design by the prominent Colonial Architect, James Barnet.

 

Thursday Plantation
Located only five minutes from Ballina on the Pacific Highway, this unusual plantation focuses on Tea Tree products in the larger context of a theme park environment where there are rainforest walks and other attractions. For details 1800 029 000.

 

Lighthouse Beach
 

The Beaches
The beaches to the east of Ballina are exceptional. No visit to the area is complete without trying the surf at Lighthouse Beach, Shelly Beach and/or Angels Beach. They all stand in sharp contrast to the urban quality of the town centre. Here the Pacific Ocean breaks on beautiful sandy beaches and there are nearly always ideal surfing conditions.

 

Broadwalk Business Brokers

Broadwalk Business Brokers specialise in General Businesses for Sale, Caravan Parks for Sale, Motels for Sale, Management Rights & Resorts for Sale, Farms for Sale, Hotels for sale, Commercial & Industrial Properties for Sale.

 

Phone: 1300 136 559

Email: enquiries@broadwalkbusinessbrokers.com

 

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