Byron Bay effect: Crescent Head, Agnes Waters, Eden fight over tourism as influencers visit beaches


Frustrated locals have accused ‘hidden gem’ influencers and Instagram-focussed boutique businesses of stripping the colour and culture from their small towns.

Sleepy communities from Eden on the New South Wales south coast to 1700 in Queensland have seen an influx of city tourists looking for the ‘next Byron Bay’, causing a massive backlash.

Residents of scenic spots around Australia say their colourful town hubs have been replaced with beige businesses appealing to aesthetic-minded visitors. 

Small coastal Queensland town Agnes Water used to be a quiet getaway but is now overrun with visitors while locals struggle to keep hold of its hippie-inspired origins. 

One resident told Daily Mail Australia about the moment she first noticed the town suffering from its own popularity.

Agnes Water residents were overrun by tourists looking to get an Instagram-famous shot at a local bushwalk (above)

Seaside residents said their colourful local hotspots are being replaced by bland boutiques aimed at tourists (pictured, a shop in Victoria's Port Fairy)

Locals said the Byron Bay effect 'drains the soul' from small towns (pictured, a hotel in Byron Bay)

Seaside residents said their colourful local stores are being replaced by bland boutiques aimed at tourists (pictured, left: a shop in Victoria’s Port Fairy, right: a hotel in Byron Bay)

‘Agnes used to be this quiet little town you’d duck over to if you wanted to go surfing or spend a day on the beach,’ she said.

‘But then this little 10-minute bush walk blew up on Instagram, everyone wanted a photo on these little stools that stand above the old creek bed.

‘Every weekend the walk’s tiny carpark is clogged with tourists trying to get their photo. There were times the walk felt more like a queue for an Instagram shot.’

Hundreds more living in the area agree and blamed council for not building the right infrastructure to cope with the sudden wave of visitors. 

‘I’m someone who was born and raised in Agnes and have been here on and off for 25 years,’ one resident said.

‘I don’t have a problem with a town growing but it needs to be done correctly.

‘I remember growing up and being told my kids will have to go to school in Rosedale or Miriam Vale like I did, and look at Agnes now!’

Another said: ‘I don’t mind that it’s growing and accepting new things after all these years but they’re going the wrong way about things and building the wrong things first.’ 

Eden, on NSW's south coast, has seen a recent influx of tourists after its colourful cliffs went viral on social media

Eden, on NSW’s south coast, has seen a recent influx of tourists after its colourful cliffs went viral on social media

Eden is another small town that’s seen a massive boom of tourism since it went viral on Instagram.

The town’s colourful cliffs and sea baths have shot to fame with influencers, seeing many flock to the spot for the perfect picture.

But locals have already begun to notice visitors disrespecting their town with several residents writing about tourists littering and hooning in the main street.

Other residents said the tourist influx is welcome business, so long as the town can build infrastructure to keep up.

‘You can’t stop development altogether but you can do a lot to ensure the town develops and progresses in a way that preserves the beauty and uniqueness of not only the paradise that it is, but the lifestyle it offers,’ one local wrote online.

‘It would be sad to see Eden cloned into another tourist town, but it would also be nice to grab some of their dollars as they pass through,’ another said.

In Crescent Head, a small surfing town on NSW’s north coast, residents are furious over plans for a hotel they believe will turn their slice of paradise into a tourist trap.

Locals said they’ve already noticed their town hosting more tourists every summer with fashionable hotels and boutique shops popping up to satisfy the visitors.

But the tipping point for many is a newly renovated hotel set to open later this year.

Many small town locals said more tourism is a positive for their town's economy but noted councils need to keep up with infrastructure to support more people (pictured, Crescent Head)

Many small town locals said more tourism is a positive for their town’s economy but noted councils need to keep up with infrastructure to support more people (pictured, Crescent Head)

Locals said new boutique hotels and businesses are replacing local hubs (pictured, tourist in Crescent Head)

Locals said new Instagram-worthy businesses 'drain the town of it's soul' (pictured, tourist in Crescent Head)

Locals said new boutique hotels and businesses are replacing local hubs and ‘drain the town of it’s soul’ (pictured, tourists in Crescent Head)

Upset small town coastal locals said waves of tourists often take advantage of their home (pictured, littering in Queensland's Agnes Water)

Upset small town coastal locals said waves of tourists often take advantage of their home (pictured, littering in Queensland’s Agnes Water)

The vintage-surf inspired accommodation called Sea Sea will be run by famous designer and hotelier George Gorrow, who started the brand Ksubi, and his German model wife Cisco Tschurtschenthaler.

The pair have spent the last decade living in Bali and running successful hotel The Slow.

‘I love surfing. So does my wife, and Crescent Head is one of the most iconic surf breaks on the north coast, so we are trying to keep in with that,’ Mr Gorrow told ABC.

‘Crescent Head still feels like that place you visited as a child, it still feels so pure.’

About a quarter of Crescent Head’s 2,200 residents are part of a group that monitors the progress of development in the area.

And Mr Gorrow’s plan – along with other Instagrammable ’boutique’ hotels that have appeared in the last few years – has come under heavy fire from group members.

Famous designer and hotelier George Gorrow and his German model wife Cisco Tschurtschenthaler (together above) are building a new boutique hotel in Crescent Head

Famous designer and hotelier George Gorrow and his German model wife Cisco Tschurtschenthaler (together above) are building a new boutique hotel in Crescent Head

The Sea Sea hotel is already available for bookings ahead of its May opening (pictured, a room in Sea Sea)

The Sea Sea hotel is already available for bookings ahead of its May opening (pictured, a room in Sea Sea)

Crescent Head locals are unhappy with more hotels being built in their small town (pictured, comments under an article about the Sea Sea hotel)

Crescent Head locals are unhappy with more hotels being built in their small town (pictured, comments under an article about the Sea Sea hotel)

‘Crescent Head will be the next Byron Bay or Noosa. These communities are dealing with a rise in popularity of “van life”. Byron is a mess, too many people plus tourism and development beyond capacity of land and lifestyle to cope,’ one person wrote.

‘The reason why myself and many others love Crescent Head the way it is, is because it’s not high end. If people want glitzy high end let them go to Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay or the Gold Coast that have arguably been ruined,’ another said.

A third wrote: ‘Calling it a sleepy town and making out we should be happy to have these people come and “shake it up”. How many tickets do these people have on themselves? Keep your city ideas and comments and leave our “sleepy town” to those that love it just the way it is!’

However, their town is just one of many that have fallen prey to the ‘Byron Bay effect’ which sees small coastal towns lose their charm in favour of what’s trendy, with one upset Crescent Head local noting the process starts with thoughtless tourism. 

‘There is a big difference between holidaymakers who come each year, who make friends with locals and who treat the town with love and respect and tourists who are selfish, demanding and drain the town of its soul,’ they said.

INSIDE CRESCENT HEAD’S SWANKY NEW ‘SURF’ HOTEL

The 25-room hotel planned for ‘sleepy’ Crescent Head looks set to be as trendy as its name – SEA SEA – sounds.

Who needs a sofa when this is an option?

Who needs a sofa when this is an option?

Ksubi designer/hotelier George Gorrow and his German model/raw food chef girlfriend Cisco Tschurtschenthaler are behind the 1970’s inspired surf hotel that will also host art exhibitions and sell clothes from a new fashion line (called Non Type) and her homewares collection.

Gorrow’s Bali visually stunning hotel, The Slow, is said to be a good indication of his stylish attention to detail.

Personal taste aside, there is one thing about SEA SEA that is bound to please all surfers, the location. It is just 400 metres from the much-loved Crescent Head point break.

SEA SEA opens on May 1, 2023 and bookings are already being taken via its website.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk