Freelance writer with a BA double majoring in Literature and Australian History who loves finding random places of social or historical treasure whilst travelling around visiting festivals, markets and quaint cafes with my husband and baby
Published April 9th 2014
Guitar circles, teepee camping and a Buddha Bar
The Arts Factory Lodge has no equal anywhere in Australia, and possibly in the world! I know, this is a really big call, but one visit to this hostel accommodation will leave you with awesome lasting memories! Well known amongst backpackers, any self respecting backpacker or flashpacker has spent some time here!
So let's go through the technical/logistical points, and then I'll get to why it's like nowhere else you'll ever stay!
Set on 5 sub-tropical acres, 5 minutes walk from the town of Byron Bay (a destination in itself), the Arts Factory offers many different types of accommodation including:
Dormitory rooms and private rooms - mostly with shared toilet and shower facilities, although there's a Love Shack with it's own private facilities. They have mixed and women only dorms or double rooms.
Teepee accommodation - mixed or women only accommodation that is just what it sounds like - giant teepees with single bed accommodation for several people in each.
Island retreats - these are very cool permanent tents with double beds or two single beds and little verandahs out front. They are lockable and surprisingly very warm in winter.
Jungle camping sites - first in/first choice camping in the eco semi-jungle. These cannot be booked and you take your chances when you arrive, although I would venture to say that unless it's high peak season you would be unlucky not to get a camp site.
Teepee Accommodation nomadsworld.com/arts-factory
The facilities are as you would expect from a Byron Bay backpacker hostel - pool and jacuzzi, cafe and coffee/juice bar, travel desk, pool tables, internet kiosks, large camp kitchen, and a boutique teepee offering massage etc. However, everything here has a touch of the different, like you've somehow fallen into a vortex and stepped out into a 70's hippy haven.
So let's talk about the workshops and activities, and we start to touch on what makes this place different from other hostels. On any given day you might find drumming, didgeridoo making, yoga, juggling, or an impromptu game of volleyball, table tennis or basketball. The Arts Factory hosts a talent show every week, as well as Cockatoo Paul's bush tucker walk.
Ok, so now we come to what sets this place apart. I am not sure that any words could do justice to the mood of the Arts Factory. Backpackers and flashpackers from around Australia and the world congregate here in this bush setting with its teepees, tents and bungalows. Most days you will find a random backpacker pulling out his guitar and strumming a song. He won't be alone for long though, there will be a circle of singers and listeners around him within a few minutes. It's as if time stands still and nobody has anything more important to do than join a hippy singing circle for a few moments.
The camp kitchen attracts everyone at meal times and tables are happily shared as people swap stories about what they did yesterday, or new places they've heard about and want to visit.
Guests feel inspired to break into song nomadsworld.com/arts-factory
Don't be put off by the backpacker tag, anybody can stay here and feel welcome, but if you want to bring your children it is important that you check with them first.
The Arts Factory has been around for 20 years and as I said before, although the facilities may have been upgraded, time has regressed. The mood of 70's peace and love has never left and it is easy to see why people come for a day and forget to leave. It is rumoured that the Arts Factory is owned by a well known musician, but nobody seems to know for certain who that might be, if it's true at all. For the time you're there though, you're happy to believe it could be true because there's no hint of commercialism here, it's all about the mixing of cultures, good times and new friends.
At night is when the Arts Factory really comes alive. The common room becomes full of people playing pool, joining in random games of cards, making crafts, or playing a guitar or didgeridoo. BYO drinks is allowed here, but nobody seems to take advantage of the friendly spirit by becoming unpleasant.
There is a courtesy bus that goes into town regularly, although the walk is not that challenging and only takes a few minutes. It is unlikely that you would need to go into the town centre of Byron Bay on a daily basis though, there is so much on offer here.
Directly across the carpark is the Buddha Bar and Byron Bay Brewery. A combined brewery, restaurant and bar that has regular live music, local beers and awesome food. This bar is very popular and attracts a large crowd each afternoon/evening of patrons from both Byron Bay and surrounds and the Arts Factory. Check out their website for what's on during your stay as the musicians are usually quite well known and popular.
Attached to the Brewery, the Pighouse Flicks cinema offers movie-goers the chance to see both new release and art house movies from the comfort of beanbags.
The complex is rounded off by the Buddha Gardens Day Spa offering the usual array of day spa treatments but which somehow feel like a more spiritual experience due to the eclectic nature of the location.
Once in your lifetime you need to visit this place, for the experience alone.