The Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens is Australia’s most impressive crystal collection with some of the biggest crystals and geodes in the world.
The spiritual roots started long before it became the Crystal Castle in 1980 when the main building was constructed on intersecting ley lines, energy lines running along the earth. Locally, the building was known as the castle. Naren King attended a New Years Eve party in 1986 and secured funding for a business of wholesale importing crystals, Crystalight.
Locals started to visit looking for crystals and the visitor centre started sending tourists to the castle to see the crystals. With so many people attending, a café was built and The Castle soon became known as Crystal Castle. It has continued to grow over the next 30 years or so and is now a major tourist destination.
While it is simply known as Crystal Castle, its full name reflects the natural and spiritual inspired gardens, Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens. The land was originally cleared for grazing and banana growing. Replanting has repaired the clearing with wonderful gardens, some integrated with crystals and other spiritual items.
Before entering we were immediately greeted with a large geode with the side opened to look into. Taller than the kids, it is only a teaser for the larger geodes inside.
We started walking by the water pourer pond and tourii gate and watched some of the goldern carp swimming in the shallow pond.
Kalachakra World Peace Stupa
The path continued to take us to the Kalachakra world peace stupa, a sacred monument built by the Tibetan Buddhists to represent universal divinity. The Kalachakra Stupa is a rare type, unique in the southern hemisphere, specifically for restoring balance to the Earth in times of war, conflict and environmental destruction. The spherical body represents the energy cycle and structure of the cosmos.
Tibetans believe benefit can be gained by walking clockwise around a stupa. Once around is fine, however, walking around three times at a slow and steady pace is traditional. The kids joined in for three times around, spinning the prayer wheels when walking by them. Tibetans believe 130,000 prayers inside the wheels are spun out into the universe.
Before reaching the stupa there is a set of nine prayer wheels, the same as used on each side of the stupa.
Buddha’s Feet and Reflexology Walk
Heading from the stupa to the reflexology walk, we passed through Buddha’s Feet, hand-carved in sandstone from India. Buddha’s feet is known as Buddhapada, one of the symbols to represent Buddha and his teachings.
The Buddhapada has a central motif of a chakra wheel, representing the techings of Buddha and the eight spokes represents the Eightfold Noble Path. The Buddha’s feet here has 108 symbols, including the toe symbols.
Buddha’s Feet leads to the Reflexology Walk, an ancient healing art practiced first by the early Indians, Chinese and Egyptians. The walk as a large pink quartz crystal in the centre, surrounded by small white rounded stones.
The principle of the reflexology walk is there are specific reflex areas on the hands and feet that are linked to the internal organs and parts of the body. The feet have over 7,000 nerve endings in them. Taking off your shoes and walking on the reflexology paths enhances your well-being and can reduce chronic pain.
I have tender feet so walking barefoot on the cobblestones felt like I was receiving chronic pain but it did feel nice having done it. I was told that the pain in the feet is an indication the reflexology is working on a congested reflex area.
Rainforest Walk and Bush Tucker Trek
Leaving the Reflexology Walk took us on to the rainforest walk. There have been over 10,000 trees planted since 2006 with Rainforest Rescue . Rainforest Rescue have planted over 125,000 trees in the Big Scrub area, between Ballina, Lismore, and Byron Bay.
The one kilometre rainforest walk at Crystal Castle is of restored indigenous plants supporting native wildlife. Koalas supposedly visit, however, we didn’t manage to glimpse one while we were there. We saw a few birds and heard many more and a fair few lizards sunning themselves and scurrying off as we approached along the walk.
The Bundjalung Gulgan, or Bush Tucker Track, runs across the same part as the rainforest walk. It is named from the indigenous people of the area, the Bundjalung nation, the same as how the Bundjalung National Park is named. The bushtucker food plants have both food and healing plants that would have been used by the Bundjalung nation.
At the start of the track is a warning about some bush tuck plants need preparation to be edible and not all the plants are edible. It would be nice to be able to try some bush tucker plants but without the right knowledge or someone with you to advise to appropriately, it is best just to look and admire and get something from the café instead.
The rainforest walk also takes you along a section called the forest of friends and family. It is in a grove of Quondongs and is a place to remember your family and friends who have passed on. The Crystal Castle has a book of remembrance and each year in November their names are read out to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
The Dragon Egg is a stunningly beautiful amethyst geode from Uruguay and is about 120 million years old. Crystal Castle wanted to be able to provide an experience of sitting inside a crystal cave and found this 10 tonne geode.
The colour is deep and vivid purple, apparently something that is very rare. There is a mat in the bottom of the egg to sit on while you take in its magical space. Naturally, you get your photo taken sitting in the egg also.
The egg is open for anyone to sit inside and included as part of the entry to Crystal Castle. The is space for a waiting line but we didn’t notice more than one group waiting for another at any time we passed by it and we didn’t have to wait at all.
The largest amethyst cave ever discovered in the world is called the Enchanted Cave. It weighs double of the Dragon Egg, 20 tonne compared to “only” 10 tonne. It is more or less the same age and was also found in Uruguay in South America.
The massive geode is a bubble inside a molten lava flow. Amethyst crystals grows in the pressure and heat as water seeps out of the hardened rock exterior, forming the beautiful enchanted cave.
There is more space inside the enchanted cave than there is in the dragon egg, but while you can go right up to it, you are not allowed to enter. The geode is housed in a building and lighting inside shows up its colours. The purple isn’t as vivid as the Dragon Egg though.
There is a main opening along the main side you approach with a railing along the opening. At either end of the cave is a smaller hole that you can look through into the cave.
The Castle – Café, Playground, Shops
The Castle has a few things to have a look around at and the all important café for a nutritional boost. The café offers vegetarian meals and snacks as well as organic coffee and teas. Much of the food is made themselves, include use of their own organic food grown there. The food is served with compostable plates and cutlery with separate bins for food waste and other waste.
The Fireheart Crystal Dragon children’s playground is below the deck from the café, offering a chance for the kids to let loose a little while you finish off your latte or cappuccino. The crystal dragon is a contrete dragon in the middle of the playground with crystals/stones placed on parts of it, such as its eyes and on its ears.
After a bite to eat we had a wander through the shops with a large selection of jewellery, large crystal specimens, and smaller keepsake samples of crystals and stones. Some of the items are stunning but have price tags attached that could buy a good car. They were beautiful to look at but we spent much of our time in the shops looking at more budget friendly items. There is a wide variety of stones with information sheets describing birth stones and other aspects of the stones. We left with a few items each, including a smoky-quartz crystal I used for setting intentions.
Below the café stands the 5.5-metre high Crystal Guardians, the world’s geodes. It is a smoky quartz geode with amethyst and calcite crystal flowers. It also contains clear quartz and agate. The makeup of crystal combinations is itself unique.
The crystal guardians weight 20 tonnes and was found in Uruguay, a country that seems to be rich with large crystal geodes, as the Dragon Egg and Enchanted Cave came from there also.
Getting a photo of the Crystal Guardians proved to be quite a challenge as it was a popular piece to get a photo taken. Help was requested a few times as the size of them makes it hard to get a selfie without them being in the distant background.
In front of the Crystal Guardians is a large single piece quartz crystal. Where many of the crystals are made up of lots of individual crystals bundled together, it is amazing the size of this single piece.
Wings to Eternity
Leading down from the crystal guardians, we headed to the Wings to Eternity and the Shambhala Gardens section of Crystal Castle. The formation of these crystals are in a rare wing shape when split in half and separated. There are three sets of different sizes and when you stand in front of them, the appear to be crystal wings behind you.
The Wings to Eternity is another popular photo spot. With the different sizes, there is a set of wings that work for just about everyone. They look like butterfly wings. A mural as the backdrop for the crystal wings contain a lot of butterflies so it further connects to the butterfly theme.
I went to a guided intentions mediation at the Wings of Eternity, one of a few things you can join for free through the day. They give you a crystal to set your intentions with, then if you choose to you can buy the crystal to take home with you.
The Buddha Walk takes you passed several stone statues, hand carved from volcanic rock, and other wonderful and spiritual spots.
There are several statues along the walk. People started making offerings of coins to the statues, something that is typically done with a prayer. Crystal Castle sends the money left on the statues to a small kindergarten for Tibetan refugee children. The money helps with the employment of teachers and for a health meal to be cooked for the children each day.
Ganesh is the first we approached. The Hindu religion believes honouring Ganesh before new ventures and during life changes assures easier transition and success. The remover of obstacles, Ganesh is also revered as the god of education and literature, knowledge, wisdom and wealth.
An interesting story about this statue is that Ganesh is meant to have a broken tusk as a symbol of sacrifice. This particular statue had been carved with two tusks but when transported by sea in a shipment with dozens of statues, one of the tusks had broken off with no other breakages on any of the statues.
Next we saw Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of fortune, prosperity, wisdom and fertility. Lakshmi has four hands, symbolising the path of right living, desires, wealth, and liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Avalokiteshvara (avalo-kitesh-vara) embodies the compassion of all the buddhas and may be the most popular of all Buddhist deities after buddha himself. His four arms symbolise loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Many Tibetan Buddhists consider Chenrezig (the Tibetan name for Avalokiteshvara) is reincarnated as the Dalai Lama.
Nandi is a white bull that represents joy attained through celebration and also through strength and restraint. In ancient times he was the Lord of Joy, Nandikeshvara, and represented as a man with a bull’s head. As Nandi, he is ridden by Shiva, one of the Hindu gods. Nandi represents masculine potency and the rage and physical power of which is capable of. Only those who have conquered desire and achieved self-knowledge can ride the white bull like Shiva.
Vishnu embodies strength, energy, valour and generosity, one of the three most important Hindu gods. His role is to return to the earth in troubled times and restore the balance of good and evil.
Garuda represents courage and man’s higher spiritual aspirations
Dewi Sri is the goddess of rice in Bali. Rice is seen as a sacred food given to humankind by the deities to sustain us in a way no other food can.
A statue of Buddha sits on a pond and is the largest statue in the Shambhala Gardens. Buddha represents peace and freedom from suffering. Siddhartha Gautama was the son of a king, shielded from religious teachings or any knowledge of human suffering, with the sick, aged and suffering hidden from his view. At 29, he started to encounter the realities of life. Living a life of luxury he reached enlightenment while sitting beneath a bodhi tree. “The Awakened One” thereafter was known as Buddha and he chose to spend his life teaching others how to achieve a state of liberation and freedom from suffering ‘nirvana’. He believed extremes of abstinence nor pleasure led to enlightenment, teaching a ‘middle way’ of moderation and meditation.
The grounds in front of buddha also has a Damanhur Spiral made from rose quartz. It is smaller than the full sized Damanhur Spiral we went to later.
The Damanhur Spiral is a stone spiral with a large crystal in the centre. The crystal spiral is connected to the stone spirals and labyrinths that live in the Sacred Woods Template of Damanhur through a small crystal that has been charged with joy and positive thoughts. The spiral form invites you to search for the inner room that holds the responses to our most spiritual questions.
To use the spiral, a person walks along the spiral path. Only one person can be walking into the spiral, however, you can start entering the spiral once a person already in it starts to walk back out. When the two people pass each other on the spiral, one of them must stop and stand still to allow the other to pass.
The walk is meant to be done slowly, with awareness of your body and spirit. On reaching the centre, you can stop and sit for a few moments to take in the energy of the for your spiritual way, for inspiration, and for your dreaming. You then walk back out following along the spiral path.
If a person steps across the lines of stones, the spiral is deactivated. Anyone still on the spiral needs to exit the spiral (at this point crossing the lines doesn’t matter) and wait for 5 minutes for it to reactivate. I wondered how likely would it be for someone to get impatient or not bother to read how to use the spiral and walk across the line, especially with quite a few people including young children. It wasn’t a problem while we used it with children respectful of those using the spiral.
Being what it is and the restriction of one or two people on the spiral at any one time, the Damanhur Spiral takes some time to complete for a large group. We would have done it earlier but there were a few waiting when we first came by it, near the Dragon’s Egg.
A smaller spiral with rose quartz stones is in the area in front of the Buddha statue on the pond. The smaller spiral takes less time so it is an option to participate in the same way, however, without the instructions on how it is used, quite a few people were simply walking across the spirals rather than along them.
The Labyrinth is an archetypal symbol found in spiritual traditions across 4,000 years. Labyrinths are traditionally located on sacred sites and have been found on sites of churches. Designed as a form of meditative enquiry or as an entrance into sacred time and space to seek insight or inspiration.
What looks like a puzzle, the path has nothing to solve as it is a single path in and back out. There are no dead ends or path choices. It is thought that by walking into the centre, neurological pathways between the left and right hemispheres of the brain get activated.
It seems similar to the Damanhur Spiral in that you journey into the centre and is a time to quieten the mind and be present but it is quite different. On entering the labyrinth, you can ask a question or set an intention. On the journey in, shed thoughts and distractions to quieten the mind and open your heart. On reaching the centre, use the space for prayer and contemplation – stop, wait, and receive. Further insights may be revealed on your journey back out.
Also, unlike the Damanhur Spiral that is connected to Damanhur and can be deactivated from incorrect use, the Labyrinth seems to be more about you and your journey so others cannot affect your experience the same way. Yes, noisey children may make it less relaxing and more difficult to meditate but the function of it is from within yourself.
It takes longer to walk on, about 20 minutes each way if you don’t rush (kids may find this a challenge to beat). It depends on how much time you spend in the centre as well. We spent time in the centre quietly talking about our experience at Crystal Castle, as well as our own personal contemplations.
Crystal Castle Day Out
We came to Crystal Castle we didn’t have an idea on how much time we would be spending there. If you have been there many years ago you will find that it has grown by quite a lot and there is plenty to do to fill the day.
How long you spend here depends on what you make of it and perhaps by how much you are into the spiritual, wellness and energy aspects. We took in the experience of most of the parts of Crystal Castle, setting intensions, showing gratitude and respect, and meditating, and ended up with my 10-year-old running to get in a last minute mediation on a rock he wanted to fit into the day when time ran out.
It is good value? For us it was, however, the pricing is a little high. When researching to come here perhaps a year before, the prices were much lower, increasing around 25%. We also found the café came with upmarket prices and not much to choose to satisfy fussy children who are getting hungry from a big day out. They had a decent selection of natural vegetarian foods and although I’m not vegetarian, I appreciate the sentiment of offering only vegetarian foods at a spiritual place. The coffee was good and the price of the coffee was more reasonable.
We had a backup plan to continue on to Minyon Falls to fill in the rest of the day if it didn’t take too long at Crystal Castle. Leaving just after closing time, Minyon Falls has been left to be experienced another day. Pricing aside, we enjoyed our day there and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to go if you haven’t been before or haven’t been for 15 or more years. We would love to go again but with the high prices we are hesitant to specifically planning to go. If we were staying in the area and had a day to spare, then we would go again.