Byron Bay's crystal wonderland pitched as $30m rich lister opportunity
Naren King, in front of the Guardians, 5.5m metre crystals that are among the tallest in the world. Photo: Natalie Grono

Byron Bay's crystal wonderland pitched as $30m rich lister opportunity

After spending much of his adult life trekking through the jungles of South America searching for – and finding – the world’s most fabulous crystals, adventurer Naren King is putting away his hiking boots and selling one of Byron Bay’s tourism gems.

King and his wife, Sono, have spent the last 37 years turning what was once a barren farming site with an abandoned futuristic mansion at its centre into Crystal Castle & Shambhala Gardens, a lush 10ha subtropical oasis full of gigantic sparking treasures, enormous Buddha and Hindu statues and meditative walks in the hinterland near Mullumbimby.

Among the crystals on display are “the guardians” — 5.5 m high smokey quartz geodes – the largest geodes ever found in the world, “the enchanted cave” filled with millions of sparkling lavender amethyst crystals, and the “dragon’s egg” an enormous crystal encrusted cave that King found in Uruguay.

After enduring an extremely tough time during the pandemic – the sale of a $140,000 crystal helped get the Kings through it – the exotic retreat is once again drawing in over 90,000 visitors a year, having hosted celebrities like Russell Brand, Pink, Natalie Portman and Princess Mary in the past.

King, who is now 63, and ready for his next adventure – buying a yacht and sailing it around the world – is hoping to cash in on Byron Bay’s global jetset appeal by selling his tranquil oasis to a high net worth investor for around $30 million.

“I started this when I was 27 and have been creating it with my wife for 37 years, so it’s time to move on and go find and live out other dreams,” King told AFR Weekend.

“There is extraordinary interest in this area, so it’s the right time to sell,”

Tom Butler from corporate advisory firm, Nash Advisory, which is assisting King secure a new owner, said he expected wide interest in such a unique asset.

“There’s a lot of investment going into health, wellness and tranquillity assets,” Butler said.

There’s plenty of interest from rich lister types for these wellness retreats. Mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest bought Byron Bay’s Gaia Resort and Spa last year from the late Olivia Newton-John for about $30 million, the Peninsula Hot Spring Group based on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula or the likes of fund manager Salter Brothers, set to snap up Rich Lister Graham Turner and his wife Jude’s Spicers Retreats luxury lodge portfolio.

King said Crystal Castle was set up for someone else “with a bit of capital” to expand on his vision and potentially double its turnover within the next 3-4 years.

This could come about through the building of luxury cabins on the site – an existing permit allows for 12 of these – and by adding a wellbeing centre and other amenities.

Its development into a world-class resort came about by chance after King stumbled on the site when he was invited to a New Year’s Eve party at the end of 1985 whilst in Byron Bay on holiday.

At the time he was living in Sydney and selling crystals – which are sought after for their beauty and for their so-called healing power – out of a backpack to new age shops in Paddington and to the Theosophical Society.

“I came here, saw this strange round building with a pyramid on the roof and four wings on an empty property and started dreaming and decided I wanted to move here and make something extraordinary out of this place.”

After four banks rejected his mortgage application, King found a sympathetic Harley Davidson-driving bank manager who regarding him as “some kind of Indiana Jones figure” and helped him secure the property.

Then King, with $30,000 of cash and traveller’s cheques strapped to his leg, headed to South America to search for and stock up on exotic crystals, that he could then sell from his new base.

Originally set up as purely a wholesale business, King then started getting requests from the tourist centre in Byron Bay from people who wanted to come and see the crystals.

At the time, he had brought back so many rose quartz crystals that he and his wife lined the pathways of the property with them.

“We had this beautiful row of pink rocks and crystals in the garden, and you could see people’s faces looking at them in awe.”

This triggered the idea that he could be more than just a buyer and seller of crystals, but could create a place of “magic and awe”.

To display “some of the most amazing and largest crystals in the world” out in the landscape, the Kings developed Shambhala gardens, turning a muddy dam into an amphitheatre and Buddha pond, creating a rainforest walk out of an old track full of weeds and adding a bush tucker track.