Crystal Castle, Byron Bay: The heart of hippy Byron Bay is an odd, but peaceful, attraction

I'm willing to bet that most people these days have a yellow aura billowing upwards from the tops of their heads. Not vibrant yellow like a trumpet blast, but muddy as mustard. An aura, in short, that indicates indecision and uncertainty.

You can find out at Crystal Castle in the Byron Bay hinterland. Here your aura's electromagnetic pulses, which change with the fluctuations in your health, emotions and energy levels, can be detected by a special camera. Then they are converted to a corresponding colour and printed out like a Polaroid to show you surrounded in hazy halos of light.

That's the theory, anyway, no more improbable than any other theory in Byron Bay. This NSW north-coast getaway of the well-heeled and gullible also indulges with psychic readings, ear candling, chanting and chakras.

Crystal Castle itself dabbles in auras, reflexology, positive energies and cherry-picked aspects of Buddhist and Hinduism. If you feel your aura is a little tarnished and world weary, this is where to find positive vibes as you head into 2021.

Even sceptics shouldn't be put off. Crystal Castle might have its ethos in the hippy era but is a rather sophisticated and highly enjoyable tourist attraction. Even if you don't believe in nirvana, you'll surely find your spirit soothed.

Crystal Castle's main drawcard is its Shambhala Gardens, tucked into spectacular hinterland folds of hills. As you walk about you come across Buddha statues, sculptures and giant geodes glittering with purple crystals. At 5.5 metres, two of the geodes are the world's tallest, and a stunning sight.

Here and there a Hindu goddess, labyrinth or water feature give you reason to pause. Take off your shoes and hobble along the pebbly Reflexology Path or sit inside the Enchanted Cave, a 20-tonne geode twinkling with amethysts, for the ultimate test of crystal healing.

Signboards urge you to contemplate, meditate, feel the karma and get in touch with your inner compassion. Walk the sacred Damanhur Spiral and awaken your divine essence. Circle the Kalachakra Stupa clockwise and you can accumulate further good vibrations.

Whatever path you want to take towards peace and love is up to you, but Crystal Castle reminds us that spirituality is a universal human preoccupation. For the irreligious, perhaps the secret to its soothing success is simply its natural beauty.


Among the garden's highlights is the soaring, cathedral-like bamboo grove and the Rainforest Walk through regenerated hinterland forest where birds screech and chatter. You don't have to be a Buddhist or New Age nutter to appreciate the explosions of heliconias and delicately blushing water lilies.

If it weren't such a pricey pleasure ($60 per reading plus photo), you would be tempted to have your aura checked again on the way out. Chances are, your yellow glow would no longer be quite as startling, and some happy green light might be bursting out of your left side – an indication of renewal and development.

Not a bad result after spending a few pleasant hours in one of Australia's most odd but unexpectedly peaceful places. Maybe Byron Bay does sit on the right ley lines after all. Or maybe the holiday is enough in itself to renew you.



Qantas flies from Sydney to Ballina-Byron with connections from Melbourne and other Australian cities. See 


Crystal Castle is 20 kilometres northeast of Byron Bay. Adults $39, family pass $98. See 


Soma is a chic retreat in the Byron Bay hinterland and offers various types of wellness retreats. See 


Brian Johnston travelled at his own expense.