Once you discover this place, it’s hard to forget. Here, nature is more than a backdrop, it’s a source of inspiration: from the art galleries that tell stories of this tropical landscape to the birdsong that calls through ancient rainforest, and acclaimed restaurants that show off the region's bounty. Follow the road less travelled, and we'll let you in on our little secret.
The Tweed 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.
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.
Design-driven Halcyon House, with its Mediterranean-inspired colours (all blue, white and lemon yellow), has an on-site award-winning restaurant called Paper Daisy which is not to be missed.
Husk Distillers, 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.
Home to the distinctive Wollumbin Mount Warning, a remnant central vent of an ancient volcano, Wollumbin National Park is a place of great sacred significance to the Bundjalung Indigenous people. Said to mean ‘cloud catcher’ in the local language, the peak of Wollumbin rises to a towering height of 1,157 metres above sea level, and is a much-loved landmark by photographers and artists.
It’s not just Cabarita Beach 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 or Cooly Eco Adventures.
Scenic coastal views from Fingal Head at sunrise - Credit: David Kirkland
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.
The riverside hinterland town of Murwillumbah is home to one of regional Australia’s greatest creative spaces: welcome to the Tweed Regional Art Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, 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.
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 Murwillumbah Arts Trail and Tweed Artisan Food Festival.
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 1.5 hours south. You can also fly into the Gold Coast Airport (a 10-minute bus or taxi ride away) or Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, one hour to the south.
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.