Byron Bay is protective of its own.
And as far as the locals of the idyllic beachside town are concerned, Chris Hemsworth and his extended family are ‘one of them’.
No surprise then that the community is rallying around the Hemsworth family in their hour of need.
The usually laid-back Hemsworths have been feeling the pressure of late as brother Liam struggles with the shock collapse of his marriage to American singer Miley Cyrus after just seven months.
As images emerged of Miley cavorting with her apparent new girlfriend Kaitlynn Carter in Italy, the Hunger Games star sought comfort with his brother on the other side of the world.
Hollywood actor Liam Hemsworth (left) has been laying low in Byron Bay, in northern NSW, in the days since news broke of his split from wife and pop superstar Miley Cyrus (right)
Hemsworth was seen getting ice cream in the small beachside town this week, while on the other side of the world Miley has been letting her hair down with apparent new girlfriend Kaitlynn Carter
The Hemsworth’s home base of Byron Bay in northern NSW was the ideal refuge to escape to – a place where he would not be pestered by locals who have adopted the Hollywood celebrities as one of their own.
Chris and his wife Elsa Pataky arrived there in 2014 and are about to move into a $18 million mega mansion they have been building in the hills nearby.
The Hemsworths were drawn to Byron Bay’s laid-back lifestyle, which offers the perfect environment to relax after filming a Hollywood blockbuster or – as has been shown this week – to escape a headline-making break-up.
In Byron, Liam tried to take his mind off his troubles by hanging out with his older brother and going surfing.
But it was easier said than done.
Liam tries to take his mind off his troubles by going surfing at one of Byron’s famous beaches
When Daily Mail Australia travelled to Byron Bay and asked about the split this week, a downcast Liam said: ‘I don’t want to talk about it mate.’
‘You don’t understand what it’s like.’
He later issued a statement on Instagram saying he wished Miley ‘nothing but health and happiness’.
The spotlight of the past week is clearly taking its toll on the Hemsworths.
Uncharacteristically, the brothers angrily snapped at several photographers.
At one stage, a local who did not want to be named intervened: ‘Chris, you alright?’.
‘C’mon mate, they are just locals – they are like any of us,’ he said.
‘To most of us they aren’t the Hemsworths, they are just another two locals living in the best town in the world,’ he said.
‘They just want to get on with their lives and it’s a great place to do it, because they are just accepted by everyone as being part of the community.’ Byron Bay residents are used to stars calling the beachside town home.
Before Chris Hemsworth and his family settled in five years ago, there was Paul Hogan and Olivia Newton-John.
The locals take pride in giving the many local celebrities plenty of space to live ordinary lives.
For Chrissi Ahern, who has lived in Byron Bay for 40 years, celebrities are not a new sight in town.
‘When you see them on the street you don’t give them a second look; maybe all the newbies do but that’s not the Byron way,’ she said.
‘It’s a paradise and it’s easy living. He goes to the Byron Bay public school and it is a place to disappear for him and his family.
‘We’ve seen it when Paul Hogan came to town, the same big influx and change to Byron Bay in the 90s and “Strop” (John Cornell) did the Beach Hotel.
‘These are benchmarks, when famous people come, and the Hemsworths are just the latest one.’
Chrissi Ahern (right) and her friend Seeta (left) moved to Byron Bay four decades ago and say the reason it appeals to celebrities such as the Hemsworths is they are treated no differently by locals
John Cahill, Chris ‘Bumper’ Myers and Shane Pruul (L to R) have also lived in Byron Bay most of their lives and say the Hemsworths are welcomed by locals because they give back to the town like Paul Hogan and other famous faces before them
Byron Bay has seen enormous development over the years, however the beaches remain one of the most enticing factors for many who have lived there for decades
Shane Pruul, Chris ‘Bumper’ Myers and John Cahill have also been living in the Byron Bay area for the best part of three decades.
They too have seen celebrities come and go and say the high fliers will be embraced by locals provided they are willing to give back to the town.
‘I don’t particularly mind when boys like the Hemsworths or Matt Damon come up, because you know they’re going to behave themselves and put money into the businesses – they’re not going to argue over the price of a coffee,’ Mr Pruul said.
‘We had Olivia Newton-John living out the back and she did a great job, and Hoges and “Strop” did a great job too, they gave money to all the sports clubs.’
‘As far as celebrities go, you meet them, say g’day to them and that’s it,’ Mr Cahill said.
Not all locals are as relaxed about the arrival of super-rich neighbours, as they drive up prices and negate the hippy vibe the town once fostered through its surfers and those seeking alternative lifestyles away from the towns and cities.
Mr Myers was among those attracted to the area by the top surfing spots, but feels things have changed dramatically since then.
Having long been a popular town for backpackers, Byron Bay has been put on the map around the world in recent years following the move of Thor superstar Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky (pictured) to the area
The couple are nearing completion of their $18 million mega mansion in Broken Head, outside of Byron Bay
The mansion’s 50-metre roof-top infinity pool is estimated to have cost at least $400,000 and landscaping $500,000
He pointed to the footpath that runs along the town’s main beach, and said it marks the divide between what’s good about Byron Bay and what’s bad.
‘Everything beyond the concrete footpath (the beach) I love, everything this side of it I couldn’t give a stuff about,’ he said.
‘We fought for everything, we protested for everything, we kept out McDonald’s and Pizza Hut but we should’ve let them in because it’s the only place you can afford to eat.’
Despite the escalating prices and loss of its small-town charm, Byron Bay still has strong attractions which have even enticed people from beyond Australian shores.
Stephanie Alvarez heard about Byron Bay from friends while living back in Spain, and has now lived in the coastal town for several years.
Stephanie Alvarez (pictured) has lived in Byron Bay for a number of years and says she would not even recognise the Hemsworths if she saw them down the street – something she believes must appeal to them about the area
The main beach at Byron Bay (pictured) is a regular haunt for locals and tourists alike, many of whom are drawn to the town for its laid back and private nature
‘Before I came to Byron I always had this idea of what it would be like… I heard about it from my friends and on social media, and I always wanted to live by a beach town,’ Ms Alvarez said.
‘In Spain everyone knows Byron Bay because of Chris’ wife. I didn’t even know who he was, but his wife is really, really big back home.
‘The attraction for them is that we who live here don’t care about them.
‘I don’t even know what Chris Hemsworth looks like to be honest, I haven’t seen any of his movies so he could be next to me and I wouldn’t even know.
‘But I do know people who have seen him and know him and they don’t even react.
‘They’re famous but I don’t think people here go crazy over them, whereas he obviously couldn’t be walking around L.A. at the moment.’