Travel to Tweed Valley in New South Wales and immerse yourself in nature and the foodie scene.
An escape in the wilderness awaits just a hop-skip and a 40-minute drive from Gold Coast airport to the Tweed Valley.
The drive along the Old Pacific Highway, Tweed Valley Way, is picturesque and rising high above the cane fields and fertile land of the Tweed Valley, a mountain draws the eye.
Captain Cook may have named it Mount Warning but today most refer to it by its Bundjalung name, Wollumbin. It’s the remnant central plug of the Tweed shield volcano that laid down the rich mineral soil deposits within the Tweed Caldera approximately 22.5 to 24 million years ago.
The fertile soil and sub-tropical climate here on the border of Queensland and New South Wales is home to a food bowl producing sugar cane and some of the best tropical fruit and produce in Australia, attracting top chefs to the region. The emerging agritourism destination is also home to eight national parks – Mt Jerusalem, Border Ranges, Mebbin, Nightcap, Lamington, Springbrook, Mt Cougal and Wollumbin.
Answer the call of the wild without compromising on creature comforts at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.
The private 250-acre sanctuary in Upper Crystal Creek is surrounded on three sides by World Heritage-listed national park and 60 per cent of the sanctuary is protected under a voluntary conservation scheme.
One hundred and sixty-four bird species have been identified at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat; the most distinct call being that of the Eastern Whipbird with its characteristic whip-crack call.
Here you can bathe in the moonlight, rise in the rainforest to the dawn chorus and step into nature because each of the privately appointed bungalows faces into the wilderness.
You never know what you will see. With my morning cuppa in hand, I spy two kookaburras on a branch when a pademelon hops into view before disappearing into the forest.
The rare red-eyed green tree frog can be spotted here in the summer months and might venture near your plunge pool if you’re lucky.
The name of my lodge is Numinbah and it has views out over the mountains as well as the rainforest. The glass front of the building is absent of blinds, letting the outside in. Rather lovely when enjoying a private shower with a view or lying back to look at the stars.
There is also 8km of rainforest walking tracks to explore. I chose the Rainforest Walk, a 30- to 45-minute moderately difficult track through giant strangler figs and staghorn ferns. Armed with a stick for stability (mandatory for walks around here) I wonder if the stick could be handy if I have a snake encounter, however, my footsteps probably have any snakes in the area already on the move.
One thing you do have to consider here is leeches, which is why cans of Bushman insect repellent are supplied to spray your shoes before you step onto the trails.
At the heart of the retreat small waterfalls cascade into a rockpool and hammocks are strung across the water if you just feel like hanging about. It’s safe to swim in the pool and highly recommended. The crystal-clear water is free of nasties including leeches and is refreshing after a hike in the rainforest.
At night, glow worms line the banks. Fireflies are common in spring and glowing mushrooms can be seen all year round.
A FOODIE PARADISE
Book-ended by Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, there’s much to explore and enjoy in the Tweed Valley, including the produce. The Tweed River is here what the Nile is to Egypt, feeding the mineral-rich fertile soil. The sub-tropical climate here also makes it the perfect place for growing tropical fruit and traditional bush tucker.
Husk Farm Distillery, Tumbulgum
Home of the world’s first ink gin and cultivated Australian rum, Husk makes its rum using the traditional French-Caribbean method, using sugar cane that it grows on the farm instead of molasses. It also offers tastings, cocktails and food in a picturesque setting. The line-up of drinks is also pretty. Its purple ink gin, which took three years to develop, contains 13 botanicals including butterfly pea flowers sourced from sustainable farms in Thailand and Vietnam. Butterfly pea is pH sensitive and when mixed with tonic turns blush pink in the glass.
Its new Husk Botanic rum is one to try. Redistilled with Australian grapefruit, lemon myrtle and strawberry gum leaves, it’s believed to be the first rum in the world designed to drink with tonic and lure gin lovers to rum.
It’s an 18-month journey from paddock to bottle. The rum can only be made during the harvest season from June to November.
Husk grows all its edible flowers in a cocktail garden, and bottling is done on-site.
Blue Ginger Picnics, Tumbulgum
Surprise your travel companion and plan a pop-up picnic with Blue Ginger Picnics. These delicious and beautifully styled picnics by Tania Usher are Instagram gold. The tables are local barn doors that have been recycled and repurposed and everything is local, from the tableware to the produce.
Tweed Escapes, Tumbulgum
Blue Ginger Picnics collaborates with Tweed Escapes for a picnic on the water experience. Hire a self-drive pontoon boat from Tweed Escapes to explore the Tweed River for an unforgettable experience or take a tour. Tweed Escapes also offers a craft beer tour, and food and farm tour. The company also helps run programmes to support indigenous youth.
A short drive from Upper Crystal Creek, this quaint country town is known for its art deco buildings as well as being a centre for the arts. It’s home to the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, and Arts Trail.
Tweed Regional Gallery, Murwillumbah
Commanding one of the best views of Wollumbin/Mount Warning, the Tweed Regional Gallery stands on a former cow paddock and is also home to the Margaret Olley Art Centre. The celebrated artist, mentor and muse spent many happy days in her childhood in the Tweed. She gifted many works to the gallery before her death in 2011, and later bequeathed the contents of her Sydney home studio – more than 21,000 objects – which has been faithfully recreated here. Over the years Olley layered her home with things she collected from her travels. She loved an antique store, council pick up and flowers.
Anywhere you look in the rooms you can frame up a composition for a painting. There are even flowers that she painted in a self-portrait in the 70s that remained in her home at the time of her death as a dried bouquet. A muse to many, she is also Australia’s most painted artist. A portrait of her by Sir William Dobell won the Archibald Prize in 1948, and won the Archibald Prize again in the year of her death painted by her friend Ben Quilty. She quipped, “I have a face like a pudding and it’s easy to draw”.
Tweed River House, Murwillumbah
This riverside 110-year-old plantation house is currently being lovingly renovated 1930s Raffles-style and reopens as a bistro and cocktail bar in September. It commands a stunning view of Wollumbin/Mount Warning and the hinterland ranges and will showcase the very best of the abundant local fresh produce within a 60km radius.
Farm & Co, Kingscliff
A dining destination and place to wander and pick sunflowers, Farm & Co is Michele Stephens and Ian Kettle’s love letter to their community. Since 2002, the couple has followed a whole food and farming philosophy following organic farming practices. You can buy its produce from its onsite store or dine in at the café. Stephens turned away from traditional farming methods after reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Farm & Co is now a fully circular market garden growing 70 varieties of fruit and vegetables, as well as a place for people to come and step into nature or spend some downtime in
Tropical Fruit World, Duranbah
Even if you don’t want to do a tour we highly recommend you stop in here for a fruit platter. The experience will wow your taste buds with the opportunity to try tropical fruits from around the world including mamey sapote, which tastes like pumpkin pie, and sweet custard apple Rollinia. Tropical Fruit World is a commercial farm as well as a tourist attraction and grows 500 fruits from around the world on 200 acres. Top chefs source produce from tamarind to dragon fruit here. Set amongst rainforest, you can tour the farm by bus and boat and learn your fruits.
Paper Daisy, Cabarita Beach
Cabarita Beach is only a 20-minute drive away from Murwillumbah and home to Halcyon House and its renowned Paper Daisy restaurant. Enjoy fine dining on the deck and then take a stroll along the white sands of Cabarita Beach, which is famous for its surf breaks.
Buck’s Farm, Chillingham
Over a period of 40 years, Gerald ‘Buck’ Buchanan has planted out a former dairy farm with thousands of trees while winning multiple awards for his produce, including more than 20 bush tucker foods. His finger limes are particularly sought out by chefs including Rene Redzepi for his Sydney Noma pop-up. You can buy direct from Banana Cabana, the farm shop.
Mavis’s Kitchen, Mt Warning Rd
It’s worth driving here for the food and location. This 25-acre former dairy farm at the base of Wollumbin/Mount Warning is now a relaxed country-style restaurant with an organic kitchen garden. It also offers eco-friendly B&B cabin accommodation surrounded by World Heritage rainforest.