The Tweed region on the far North Coast of NSW delivers everything you could want in a quintessential Australian holiday. Here, rainforest meets ocean, with in-between diversions ranging from hiking and cruising to surfing and kayaking. The busy border town of Tweed Heads – the area’s hub – sits within the Southern Hemisphere’s largest volcanic caldera. The fertile soil grows all manner of tropical fruits and vegetables, which restaurants and cafes serve in innovative meals alongside plentiful ocean-fresh seafood.
Appreciate nature & culture
Aboriginal guides offer fascinating insights into the history of local indigenous communities at the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, replete with a well-curated museum and Walk on Water boardwalk trail over wetlands and through native forest. Discover bush tucker through interpretive signs, with permission granted to visit a sacred bora ring – a site traditionally used to host ceremonies.
This is part of the larger Tweed Heads Historic Site, one of the most biodiverse mangrove ecosystems in the state and an important breeding ground for fish, butterflies and all manner of birds.
Explore rivers & ocean
The Tweed River runs through the heart of the Tweed Valley in the shadow of Wollumbin (Mt Warning). One of the best ways to take in its expanse is with Tweed Eco Cruises, offering leisurely journeys through subtropical rainforest, mangroves and fields of sugarcane. The latter crop is used to make the rum at Husk Distillers, which is a stop on the Rum Runner Cruise; other Tweed Eco Cruise options see you glide along the water at sunset, or discover the techniques needed to catch spanner, mud and sand crabs.
It’s a similar experience with Catch a Crab, with your haul prepared aboard your boat, followed by a visit to an oyster farm for freshly shucked molluscs. If you prefer to captain your own ship, hire a houseboat from Berger Houseboat Holidays or Boyds Bay Houseboat Holidays, giving you the freedom to explore the river at your own pace, spotting dolphins, swimming, kayaking and fishing whenever the mood strikes. The best bit? You don’t need a boat license or boating experience to take the wheel
Surf, sand, snorkel
If you’re not looking for dolphins while on the river, you can spot whales migrating along the coast (May through November) from the Point Danger lookout, a scenic headland marking the border between NSW and Queensland. From the lookout, you’re a short walk from Duranbah Beach, particularly popular among surfers for its reliably good waves.
This is the most northerly stretch of sand in the state – cross the Tweed River southward, and you’ll find more breaks carving along the 3.3km Letitia Spit, this long sandy stretch also offering calm coves for swimming. Then take in the ocean with your head under water for scuba diving and snorkelling tours to nearby Cook Island Aquatic Reserve, a haven for sea turtles, giant gropers and grey nurse sharks.
Eat & drink
When you’ve had your fill of oysters, crab and rum, then venture into Tweed Heads’ innovative restaurants and cafes for some flavour-packed tropical produce, including native delicacies like finger limes. Watch yachts bobbing while devouring house-made croissants and sausage rolls from a riverside perch at Parisian-style café, Baked at Ancora, and pick up a loaf of sourdough or cinnamon-crusted doughnuts at The Bread Social.
Indulge in guilt-free raw vegan meals at Rawthentic; or linger over brunch at Next Door Espresso. Gallura Italian offers up a taste of Sardinia, while heroing Tweed produce, and the Tweed Heads Bowls Club and Club Banora each offer classic pub fare in family-friendly settings.
Getting there & where to stay
If you’re fond of an epic road trip, the Legendary Pacific Coast drive north from Sydney to Tweed Heads takes around nine hours. You can also fly in to the Gold Coast Airport, a 10min drive away, or Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, one hour away. When you arrive, all manner of accommodation options await, from holiday parks with lots of fun facilities to motels and glamorous waterside apartments.