If you’re traveling north between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay on the New South Wales North Coast, you should mark New Italy in as your rest stop. This historical site sits just beside the highway, south of Ballina, and has the toilets and tables of a typical rest stop, as well as a whole complex dedicated to the site’s fascinating history.
The story of the site begins in the late nineteenth century when the area was settled by a group of about 40 families from Italy, which sounds simple enough, until you hear how they got here. The full story can be found here, but the short version is that they had intended to go to a paradise near New Guinea, but it turned out to be fictional, so they were offered refuge in Australia. Once settled, they managed to do quite well for themselves and produced products like silk, wine and salami.
There are no remains of the original dwellings on the site but there is a museum full of items from the families that you can explore for free. It shares a building with the Tastes of New Italy Café (very convenient if you don't want to pack lunch for your stop). Nearby there is the Casa Vecchia Gift Shop and across the courtyard is the Italian Pavilion, which is all about the 20 provinces in Italy and the Italian settlements in this area of New South Wales.
The Italian Pavilion
Inside the Italian Pavilion
New Italy is maintained by volunteers and while money is raised through things like the gift shop, donations do help maintain it. Otherwise, you can explore it all without paying anything, though it's not always open.
Where: 8275 Pacific Highway Woodburn NSW 2472
When: You can stop here any time but the cafe hours are 9.00am to 4.00pm, seven days a week
Cost: Free, but donations are welcome