Otis Hope Carey’s connection to the environment reverberates through every facet of his life, including his artwork. “It’s inspired by the spiritual connection to the land, the water, wind, moon and sun,” he says. “It all has a direct translation to what I paint.”

A pro surfer before turning to art – Carey has been commissioned by brands such as Billabong and even Hollywood star, Chris Hemsworth – the 34-year-old Gambaynggir and Bundjalung man grew up on the far north coast of NSW in the coastal town of Coffs Harbour. “I was born and raised in Gumbaynggirr country [NSW Mid North Coast] and recently moved to Bundjalung country [north-east NSW to south-east Queensland],” he says. “My grandfather was one of the last traditionally initiated men around Mount Warning – I feel very connected to Country here.”

Epic surf breaks, crashing waterfalls and off-the-radar beaches: here, Carey shares his favourite spots to visit on the NSW North Coast.

Brunswick Heads Main Beach

Brunswick Heads, NSW

The small town of Brunswick Heads is just 15 minutes’ north of bustling Byron Bay. “Brunswick is one of my favourite surf breaks because it has really good sandbanks. You’re so close to Byron Bay but you don’t have the same crowded line-up in the surf.”

Spend the morning at the beach before stopping for a drink at Hotel Brunswick’s enormous beer garden. Or pop into Cadeau to try the rock oysters fresh from the Brunswick River. Planning on staying a little longer? The chic ’60s-inspired The Chalet Motel will delight with its retro tropical décor and saltwater swimming pool.

Start planning your getaway to northern NSW today at qantas.com

Killen Falls, Tintenbar

Listening to the sound of rushing water is a surefire way to make you feel at one with nature. Killen Falls, a crystal-clear cascade surrounded by vibrant green foliage, is a 16-minute drive north of Ballina Airport and one of Carey’s favourite spots. “Water is always gifting us something and it gives me lots of inspiration,” he says. “Killen Falls is so pretty. I often go there with my family because you can swim in the falls, which is so calming.”

Shelter, NSW

Extend your visit by driving 15 minutes to Lennox Head where you’ll find beaches such as Boulder and Skennars. Stop in at Shelter, a paddock-to-plate restaurant where the sweet coconut sticky rice and juicy mango with a kick of chilli and mint is a must-order. Visit Pat Morton Lookout at Lennox Point Headland for epic views over Seven Mile Beach – if you tackle the 30-minute coastal boardwalk, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins or migrating whales during the winter months.

Start planning your getaway to northern NSW today at qantas.com

Belongil Beach, Byron Bay

Belongil Beach, NSW

North-eastern NSW is renowned for being a zen paradise and Belongil Beach, just minutes from Byron Bay’s city centre, is the perfect spot to feel truly at ease. “I love being able to hear the waves and feel the wind on my face,” says Carey. “I can’t ever be too far away from the beach because I get antsy and can’t stay still. Belongil is so quiet and you get less people down there. It’s so relaxing.”

If you’re there for the day, check out Treehouse on Belongil for a beachside dining experience where you can’t go past the Salty Sea Dog, a mozzarella pizza with anchovies, capers and kalamata olives.

Elements of Byron, NSW

For the ultimate tranquil stay head to Elements of Byron which backs directly onto Belongil Beach. Book morning activities including yoga sessions and horseriding before spending the afternoons lounging in your private cabana or hanging day bed. For an indulgent treat, visit Osprey Day Spa for the Sanctuary Ritual which features a Frangipani and Vanilla Cream Massage and Grounding Foot Bath.

Byron Bay Surfers, NSW

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