The Tweed Area

As far north as you can travel in NSW, The Tweed area is a bit of a travel cliché – but in the best possible way. Not only is this region home to one of Australia’s prettiest stretches of sand (Cabarita Beach regularly takes out pole position on ‘World’s Best’ lists), it’s also blessed with globally recognised galleries, World Heritage-listed rainforest, and some of the state’s most forward-thinking restaurants, bars and distilleries.

Charming towns abound as well, whether promising sandy feet and salty hair along the coast in Tweed Heads and Kingscliff, or days cooled by waterfalls and rainforest river cruises in the hinterland at Murwillumbah and nearby villages of Uki and Tyalgum.

Scenic coastal views from Fingal Head at sunrise

Wine & dine

The area occupies the largest caldera in the southern hemisphere, the fertile volcanic soils sprouting all manner of tropical fruits, bountiful vegetables and even coffee plantations. For a true taste of this part of the state, journey into the hinterland to savour tree-fresh produce at Tropical Fruit World – the ice-cream and smoothies couldn’t get any tastier.

Tropical Fruit World - Northern Rivers

Potager restaurant is likewise set on a farm, telling a story of provenance from the ceramics (all regionally made) to the hyper-local produce, including greens plucked from the proximate gardens. Sip Zeta’s Coffee while wandering among bean plantations, or head to Ben’s Patisserie in Murwillumbah to purchase buttery croissants. Pick up more specialty coffee from Bastion Lane Espresso in Uki, housed inside the coolest little post office in Australia, replete with an art gallery.

Husk Distillers - tasting - North Tumbulgum

Husk Distillers offers everything from long lunches to behind-the-scenes tours showcasing the process involved making the brand’s award-winning rums (the sugarcane is grown on site) and electric-blue gin, given its vibrant hue by the addition of butterfly pea flowers.

Natural selection

The Tweed is the gateway to Wollumbin National Park, a tangle of lush rainforest surrounding the peak of Wollumbin (Mount Warning), a sacred place for the Bundjalung people. Here, the Lyrebird track weaves through palm forest and along creeks, with viewing platforms en route to offer panoramic views of some of the largest and oldest tracts of sub-tropical rainforest left on Earth.

Scenic country views of Mount Warning in the Tweed Range

Dive, surf, paddle, cruise

It’s not just Cabarita that draws surfers and swimmers in droves – the entire Tweed coast is a mecca for those who love to paddle, catch waves and cruise. Kingscliff is home to a number of beaches, some calm and others with big breaks. If you have a mask and flippers, you can enjoy independent snorkelling or diving adventures around the Cook Island Aquatic Reserve, a haven for green sea turtles, giant gropers and grey nurse sharks. Otherwise, sign up for an underwater tour (or kayaking and whale-watching expedition) with local operator, Watersports Guru.

Woman freediving with a local sea turtle in waters off Cook Island, Fingal Head

From Tweed Heads – nicknamed the ‘Twin Town’ because it’s joined with Coolangatta just over the border in Queensland – you can explore the water on eco-cruises, crab-fishing expeditions and houseboats while drifting along the Tweed River, or out at sea on fishing charters and scenic cruises spotting migrating whales from May through November.

People enjoying a Catch A Crab tour along the Tweed River, West Tweed Heads.

Dose of culture

The riverside hinterland town of Murwillumbah is home to one of regional Australia’s greatest creative spaces: welcome to the Tweed Regional Art Gallery, not only showcasing exhibits from talents across the country and world, but also built with a replica of the jam-packed Paddington studio of Margaret Olley, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists.

Couple enjoying a visit to the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah South

While you’re here, be sure to peruse Murwillumbah’s fascinating art deco architecture and the M-Arts Precinct, an edgy creative space where artists work out of repurposed shipping containers. Then turn back the clock tens of thousands of years to relive the region’s indigenous heritage at the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Check out the events calendar for festivals, markets and sports, like the Tyalgum Festival of Classical Music and the Australian Longboard Surfing Open.

Friends roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate by the pit fire at The Hideaway - Cabarita Beach - North Coast

Getting there & where to stay

If you’re a fan of long coastal road trips, you’ll love the nine-hour drive north along the Legendary Pacific Coast route from Sydney to The Tweed – if you’re coming from Brisbane, the commute is just 1.5hr south. You can also fly into the Gold Coast Airport (a 10min bus or taxi ride away) or Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, one hour to the south.

Accommodation offerings across the region span all budgets and tastes, from camping and holiday parks to luxe retreats and beachside resorts. Also available are several old-school motels turned design-driven hotels, not in the least Halcyon House, with its Mediterranean-inspired colours (all blue, white and lemon yellow) and award-winning Paper Daisy restaurant.