Surf, sun and sand – but minus the crowds of other popular coastal hamlets surrounding – Kingscliff is the quintessential North Coast NSW beach holiday destination. Just south of the Queensland border, this sleepy village in The Tweed has a string of blissful beaches, from Fingal Head near the mouth of the Tweed River all the way south to Cabarita Beach, known for its reliably good waves.
This part of the Tweed is a magnet for water sports enthusiasts, drawn here to swim, surf, snorkel (green sea turtles are a highlight), sail along the Tweed River – and spot whales, which migrate up and down the coastline from May through November.
Local sea turtles around Cook Island, Fingal Head, North Coast
There’s no need to venture far from main Kingscliff Beach, which curves from the breakwater at Cudgen Headland in the south (where the Cudgen Creek flows into the ocean) to Dreamtime Beach at Fingal Head, in the north. The diverse conditions across the long stretch allow for calm waters in estuaries – ideal for young kids, kayaking and paddleboarding – as well as world-class breaks at the beach, including Cudgen’s legendary right-hander.
Where the Cudgen Creek flows into the ocean, Kingscliff - Credit: Ryan Fowler, Destination Tweed
Kingscliff is home to the annual Australian Longboard Surfing Open, attracting wave riders and their entourages for one of the biggest World Surf League longboard events in Australia. If you feel inspired by the professionals, and are keen to try a board with a little assistance, this is the place to do it. In2surf Surf School and Salty Girls Surf School both offer classes that will have you riding the waves in no time.
Or sign up with Watersports Guru, which also takes visitors out to explore the region in kayaks, on stand-up paddleboards or on snorkelling tours to the easily accessible Cook Island Aquatic Reserve. If you have children in tow, Guru hosts a program designed especially for kids looking to become more confident in the water. If you want to up-close to marine wildlife, sign up to swim with whales, dolphins or turtles with Cooly Eco Adventures.
On two wheels
Back on dry land, you can hire bicycles (including beach cruisers) from Kingscliff Cycle Centre. From here, head along the bike path north to Fingal or south to Casuarina, Cabarita, Hastings Point and Pottsville, on the lookout for dolphins and whales the whole way. Download the Tweed Shire Cycleway Map before your adventure, to help plan your day on two wheels.
When you’re on the coast, your first though come mealtime is, naturally, seafood. There’s no better place to sample the regional delicacies than at Fins, known for using the freshest sustainable and organic produce the region has to offer (the seafood tasting menu is epic). It’s hard to look past the beautifully renovated 1932 Kingscliff Beach Hotel for a classic pub meal – with a modern seafood twist.
The bounty at one of Australia’s best regional Greek restaurants, Taverna, looks like it has landed in NSW via Santorini. Just south, more fine dining awaits at Spice Den in Casuarina, serving flavour-packed fare from across Asia; or the highly awarded Paper Daisy at Cabarita Beach, set inside the luxe Mediterranean-styled motel Halcyon House.
More low-key, but just as tasty, is the fresh regional produce on sale at the Kingscliff Market, held the second and fourth Saturday of the month. Families will also love a visit to nearby Tropical Fruit World, where (in season), you can sample exotic chocolate pudding fruit, finger limes, ice-cream beans and tamarillo. Like a party in your mouth.
If you’re coming from Sydney, the quickest ways to reach Kingscliff are via the Gold Coast Airport or Ballina Byron Gateway Airport – the commute from the former takes 15 minutes, the latter an hour. If you’re a fan of road trips, the drive north from Sydney to Kingscliff along the Legendary Pacific Coast route takes nine hours. From Brisbane, it’s an 80-minute drive south to your destination.
Destination NSW acknowledges and respects Aboriginal people as the state’s first people and nations and recognises Aboriginal people as the traditional owners and occupants of New South Wales land and water.