From the minute I walked through the gate, I felt an inner peace come over me due to the serene world before my eyes. I could easily have been in a mountain resort or health retreat, such is the effect of the property I had arrived at – The Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens.
Only a few kilometres south of Mullumbimby and 20minutes from Byron Bay, the spectacular gardens are full of sub-tropical plant life, amazing crystals and statues. There's many an interesting walk to take where you'll come across stone Buddhas, an enchanted cave, a labyrinth, a giant fossil, gorgeous murals and magnificent views.
Beautiful rose quartz - one of many crystals in the gardens
Don't expect to see a castle though. This is a crystal business, originally with the name Crystalight. It was jokingly called 'The Castle' by local hippies that kept 'popping in' to marvel at the crystals and is a reference to the building on the property (more on that later).
It wasn't long before the Byron Bay Visitor Centre was directing tourists to 'try and get in'. With all the 'drop-ins', it eventually opened to the public for limited trading and became known as the Crystal Castle.
It's a large piece of land that has developed massively since its beginnings but getting around is made easy with clear paths, many of which are lined with beautiful rose quartz. Here are some highlights you won't want to miss:-
Kalachakra World Peace Stupa
A sacred monument for world peace, this rare stupa has been blessed by the Dalai Lama and is unique for its unusual spherical body that symbolises the energy cycle and the essential structure of the cosmos. Created to protect against negative energies, it uses symbolism from the Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) Tantra that is specifically for restoring balance to the Earth in times of war, conflict and environmental destruction.
Prayer flags are strung outside in sets of five – blue, white, red, green and yellow – representing the five elements. Tibetans believe that as the flags flutter, the wind catches the prayers spreading goodwill and compassion into all pervading space. It's a lovely concept.
Inside the stupa is a treasury filled with sacred objects of value to the givers and many a mantra written that will travel into the future like a spiritual time capsule.
Walk around the stupa and lend wings to the prayers of peace by spinning the beautiful brass prayer wheels at the bottom. Ensure you walk clockwise as this is believed to bring good karma.
This extraordinary construction, architecturally and spiritually, is something to behold.
Amethyst is a favourite of the owners here, Sono & Naren King, and they have sourced many of these purple crystals locally around Mullumbimby. They have also gone to great lengths to track down extraordinary geodes (cavities in rocks containing crystals and other minerals) from further afield. South America has provided some amazing finds, including the Crystal Guardians.
The impressive Crystal Guardians taking centre stage
Standing at five and a half metres (the world's tallest), these amethyst towers are now on display in the gardens after a gruelling journey from a remote location in Uruguay. Weighing a mammoth 20 tonnes, it took large trucks, cranes and skilful engineering to get them here.
Worth the effort, these natural monuments are seen as a 'human charging station with immensely powerful energies. Watching over the green hinterland, they are extremely rare too with smoky quartz geode and delicate sprinklings of amethyst and calcite crystal flowers, as well as clear quartz and agate present.
The Enchanted Cave
This magical enchanted cave is full of exquisite beauty with gorgeous lavender amethyst crystals. It too, came on an epic journey from South America and is an awe-inspiring creation of nature that's usually hidden deep beneath the Earth's surface.
Created around 120 million years ago, this wonder came about when a giant bubble formed inside a molten lava flow. Over time the lava cooled and hardened with mineral-rich water seeping through the hard rock exterior and evaporating, leaving behind tiny mineral deposits that slowly grew to form the crystals in a cave.
It's the largest amethyst cave ever discovered and weighs about the same as seven cars. Lights inside the cave deepen the colour to a rich purple, making it even more spectacular. Be sure to ask about the special experience available where you can meditate inside the cave.
Wings to Eternity
Many years of searching for amazing crystals has resulted in these three beautiful and rare deep purple amethyst crystal wing formations below.
There's many a great photo opportunity in the gardens and this is another with a gorgeous mural of fluttering butterflies, flowering plants and a fabulous vista providing a magical backdrop.
This tranquil walk will have you come across several Buddhas in the gardens, leading you to the largest stone Blessing Buddha in Australia.
See Ganesh (the Lord of Joy, remover of obstacles and god of education), Lakshimi (the Hindu goddess of fortune and prosperity, wisdom and fertility) and Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of compassion), amongst others before reaching the giant Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama - the spiritual teacher who founded Buddhism).
Designed by eccentric architect Edwin Kingsbury, pioneering his concept of 'harmonious architecture', the round central building has four radiating wings and a series of reflecting ponds. It has been positioned on the point where the Earth's energy lines intersect.
The wings contain the Peace Room, the Treasure Room, Wisdom Alley with inspirational scrolls, and the Castle Jewels showroom selling crystals and an in-house jewellery selection. In the central part of the building you can find the Crystal Matrix with crystal light boxes, magical crystal balls, Tibetan singing bowls and the Auras, whilst the Book Lair has not only books on everything from astrology to Zen but also tarot and life guidance cards by local and international artists.
Tibetan singing bowls accompany chanting and may signal the beginning and end of silent meditation
In the centre of the courtyard of 'The Castle', lies an extraordinary water feature. Crafted by highly skilled fountain makers in Germany, it consists of rose quartz from Brazil and granite from Switzerland.
The quartz has been polished into a perfect sphere and appears to defy logic and gravity by rotating on only 0.3 millimetres of water. This masterpiece of engineering is the spinning heart of the Crystal Castle with rose quartz, according to mystic lore, emanating the qualities of love and compassion.
More beauty in the courtyard comes in this 'trompe l'oeil' (an art technique using realistic imagery to create an optical illusion that the objects exist in 3D) mural with its own amethyst geode pair.
Local artist Peta Laurisen is behind the mural that features a grand archway inspired by the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, a winding stairway to the Tiger's Nest Monastery (Taktsang) in Bhutan, a tiger standing guard, a beautiful peacock and symbols from 12 of the world's faiths etched in the stone of the archway to represent the oneness of humanity.
If you need a bite to eat or just a thirst quencher, then the Lotus Cafe has you covered. They provide nutritious snacks and vegetarian meals as well as delicious cakes and desserts. Beverages include juices, smoothies, organic coffee and teas.
A lot of the ingredients they use are sourced from their own organic food garden below the cafe, thus lowering their carbon footprint. Dishes are created with wellness in mind and are served on fully compostable crockery and cutlery.
Vegan, gluten free, dairy free and sugar free diets are catered for too. Even if you're not on a special regime, try their homemade sugar free vanilla ice cream and vanilla syrup for a healthier choice. I've heard it's good.
If you do have a sweet tooth, you can have your cake and eat it too, as the saying goes. They use naturally occurring sugars here and unprocessed sugar alternatives in recipes to enhance their freshly baked treats made onsite.
The cafe is part of the central building of 'The Castle' and has an open terrace with fantastic views of the Byron hinterland and the Crystal Guardians in the gardens below. It's a great place to drop in and catch your breath after a walk around or even beforehand to raise your energy level.
Heightening your time here are daily experiences that include a Peace Experience, where you meditate with crystal bowls and connect with the Peace Stupa; Music of the Plants, where you connect to the beauty of nature and listen to the plants play through their unique vibrations from the music; and the Crystal Experience, where you'll learn how crystals form and work, along with a brief history of the Crystal Castle.
Included in the price of your entrance ticket, the experiences rotate during the week and are suitable for all ages. You can find the times and days they run here.
Got more time?
Given more time, other things to check out are the rainforest and reflexology walks, the Damanhur Spiral and the Dragon Egg (an amethyst cave you can sit in).
Entry is $39 per adult, $35 per concession holder and $29 per child, aged 4-14yrs. You can purchase online or at the gate.
It is well worth the cost and includes a beautiful guide book which has a map and legend with all the attractions, as well as a wealth of information on each one, the history of the property, the healing powers of crystals, how to use crystals and how to select the right crystal for yourself.
Sodalite means understanding and in astrology is associated with the water sign Cancer
You don't have to be a hippie to love this place, everyone needs some tranquillity in their life at one stage or another. Whether you visit for the crystals, the gardens or both, you'll find the essence of nature at this space in which you can unwind, contemplate and absorb the spirit of life.
It's an enriching experience and something a little different, a paradise for the senses.