Yamba steals the Bay's mojo

What's going on? Only the seventh best town in Australia to visit? Is that a good or bad result? With Yamba coming in as number one, is Byron Bay losing its mojo as the North Coast place to be?

It would seem that for some sections of the Aussie population, it is.

That was certainly spelled out in an article in the latest Australian Traveller magazine which listed the '100 best towns in Australia' as adjudged by a panel of 12 travel experts.

The top 100 places were picked from a shortlist of about 300 towns with populations less than 45,000.

It's interesting to note that the magazine's story on the outcome of the survey noticed something 'strange' had happened on the way to the top 100.

To quote the magazine: 'Places that polarised opinion didn't do as well as places that had mass appeal across all demographics - Byron Bay for example, had as many fans as detractors.'

Polarised? Detractors?

What could possibly 'polarise' opinion on Byron Bay?

Ummmmmm! Let me see. You can bet traffic congestion would be right up there. I wonder how many visitors caught up in the Ewingsdale slow waltz on a hot day, or the snail crawl through the CBD trying to get to the beach, have said, 'Never again'?

You could also put a dollar on crowded surf breaks - like last weekend -'polarising' opinions and perhaps the same amount on the Bay's reputation as a 'party' town - and occasionally a violent one at that.

Or maybe it's because the so-called 'Hippy Hideaway' of the 70s is just a memory (for those of a more mature age) as the town becomes increasingly homogenised - with a growing number of national franchises putting the Bay on the road to becoming 'Anytown', Australia.

The once vaunted - and flaunted -'unique' tag applied to the town and its rag-tag selection of out-there shops and characters, surely would now, I think, be stretching reality.

That's all the downside and with a place as popular as Byron Bay and the consequent rapid growth, there is no escaping the inevitability of bad bits.

But there are plenty of good bits to compensate.

Thankfully, what surely couldn't polarise anyone's opinion are our natural wonders, the beaches (the best in the world) and the magnificent Cape Byron.

That's the real magic of Byron Bay and what keeps people here - despite some misgivings - and it's what will continue to draw visitors from across Australia and across the world - number seven, or not.

For our local tourism industry, snaffling No1 and No 7 spots on the Top 100 list is a mighty plus.

CEO of Northern Rivers Tourism, Russell Mills, says the result only highlights the diversity of 'tourism experiences' on the North Coast.

Mr Mills said it was great that Yamba had been voted No 1 and Byron Bay No 7 for different reasons.

He said it reflected the tourism experiences on offer in the region, but it also highlighted the need to manage tourism development to maintain their attractiveness.

Yamba can rightfully gloat over its newly-acquired status - but it should also be very, very wary about where it will take it.

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