Murwillumbah is a country town in the heart of the Tweed Valley on the Tweed River, not far from the New South Wales and Queensland border. Nestled in Mount Warning volcanic crater, the world’s second largest caldera, the region is a lush landscape of valleys, hills and river with towns to explore.
The Tweed region is in New South Wales, right across from the Queensland border and so close that one of the things to do from the Gold Coast is to take a drive south to the Tweed.
There’s a one-hour time difference between Queensland and New South Wales.
This is a nice little tour you can still do even if your holiday weather is inclement and if you don’t want to tackle unsealed roads in the wet, then this one is for you.
The roads all sealed and of good quality.
Having limited holiday time left, we decided to try it in the pouring rain with mountain mist and heavy clouds.
While that did hamper our photography somewhat, it was still very enjoyable.
- Murwillumbah history
- Things to do in Murwillumbah
- Murwillumbah driving itinerary – Tweed Valley Circuit
- Murwillumbah driving itinerary – the coast
- Day trips from Murwillumbah
Our starting point was Murwillumbah, the artistic and cultural centre of the Tweed.
Murwillumbah is filled with historic buildings, vintage shops, lovely cafes, paved walkways and relaxing vistas along the Tweed River in Budd Park and Knox Park.
Mount Warning towers over the town in the distance.
As you enter the town with the Tweed River on your right, you will see Budd Park.
With its manicured and landscaped gardens, it makes for a perfect picnic spot on the riverbank, overlooking the huge and highly visible blue Youth Hostel Association (YHA).
In the park is the World Heritage Rainforest Centre (Murwillumbah’s Visitor Information Centre).
This has a wealth of information about the five World Heritage-listed National Parks surrounding Murwillumbah.
Another stunning seaside destination further south from Murwillumbah is Yamba, which is a fast-growing beach holiday place.
In the 1800s the area was famous for forest logging, huge red cedars (or ‘Red Gold’) were floated down past Murwillumbah to the coast to be loaded onto ships to England.
After the 20 years of its boom and bust, the town turned to agriculture due to its rich alluvial soil.
Dairy farming, bananas and now sugar cane is the major industry.
Things to do in Murwillumbah
1- World Heritage Rainforest Centre
The World Heritage Rainforest Centre and Visitor Information Centre greeted us as we drove into town, just before crossing the majestic Tweed River.
The ladies in the center were friendly and more than helpful.
The centre houses the Caldera Art Gallery with its stunning 360-degree panoramic painting of the Caldera landscape, created by a number of local artists.
We learned that graffiti in the town was minimal since the local community encouraged young artists to contribute their skills and talent to help paint murals on the levy wall of the Tweed.
It’s a clever tactic and it obviously works well as there was absolutely no graffiti in sight.
As well as the rather stunning local flora and fauna artworks, there was a curious VW set in a wall and a resident family of Eastern Water Dragons in the garden.
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2- Vintage Discovery Trail
While in the town you can join a Vintage Trail of Discovery and head off on a treasure hunt for art, vintage, eclectic and quirky.
Walk through the streets to find a number of boutique shops selling antiques, curios, collectibles and the like.
There are many interesting heritage old facades including the rather amazing pink Imperial Hotel.
3- Knox Park
Knox Park is a beautiful cool place to rest and relax, with its water lily-filled lake and resident ibis.
4- Tweed River Cruise
Book a Tweed River or Rouse River cruise for a relaxing day out on the water.
The Rous River is a perennial tributary of the Tweed River and stretches for 25km, almost as far as the Natural Arch.
It extends down to where it meets the Tweed at the lovely historic riverside town of Tumbulgum.
The name comes from the Aboriginal translation for ‘the meeting of two rivers’.
It is a much shallower and narrower river than the Tweed. Cruising is thus quiet,er and spotting birdlife much easier.
In fact, the tour operators brag to have seen 38 species of birds in a two-hour trip.
The tours are run by only one innovative boutique company, Mt Warning River Cruises.
Mike and Robert were our hosts and tour guides.
They were a lot of fun and full of great information.
We chose a late afternoon cruise hoping that it would not be as hot, with more wildlife activity than in the heat of the day.
A resort pickup took us to the Tweed River’s edge at Tumbulgum where we boarded the pontoon boat.
The Rous River varies from one to three metres deep but this craft had a draft of only 0.7 metres cruising for quite a way upstream.
Leaving a small wooden jetty and crossing the Tweed River we set off up the Rous.
We passed an old cemetery built in a rainforest between 1860 and 1930, mangroves and cattle farms.
The old road to Murwillumbah ran alongside a short stretch of the river before leading up to a coffee plantation and wineries.
An eagle’s nest high up on an electricity pylon was home to a mother eagle and her noisy baby.
Crab pots were scattered everywhere.
We spotted a spoonbill, with a pied cormorant as an unusual friend, as well as Azure and sacred kingfishers, a brahminy kite and the odd snake in the water.
The boys handed out books to help us identify the birds.
A termite nest high on a tree trunk hosted a kookaburra as we passed close to a $180,000 rock wall constructed to combat erosion by a local landowner.
The river accessed forest areas with red and (more rarely) white cedar, hoop pine and bunya pine.
These had been extensively logged years ago, the logs floated down to Kingscliff for milling.
The local flora also encourages the rare Richmond wing butterfly.
Flora and fauna spotting alternated with eating nibbles and drinking wine. Along with a setting sun over Mt Warning in the distance, it was an extremely relaxing experience.
We slowly meandered our way back to the jetty after a good two hours cruising.
5- Murwillumbah market
Slightly out of town you will find the Murwillumbah Showground which houses the Caldera Farmers Market.
One of the best markets for locally grown and organic produce, it is held on the third weekend of the month.
If you happen to be visiting when the market is on, it’s a place you won’t want to miss for fresh goods, many stalls selling rare and unusual salads and vegetables, as well as enjoy live music and meet friendly locals.
Richard, a self-confessed coffee tragic and his locally grown Zeta Coffee was a very popular stall, with an expectant queue for most of the morning!
I spotted finger limes, unusual salad greens, okra and colourful dried fruit slices more resembling agate slices than edible fruit.
6- Tweed Regional Art Gallery
If you have time, then both the spectacular Tweed Regional Art Gallery and the Tweed Regional Museum have free entry.
It’s a fabulous art gallery with spectacular views of Mt Warning and the Caldera Valley.
The gallery is impressive and has over 1000 artworks spread out over seven exhibition rooms and a wonderful education area with digital aids.
You could easily spend the whole day just absorbing what both of those have to offer, as we had done on a previous excursion.
I loved the Margaret Olley gallery.
Murwillumbah driving itinerary – Tweed Valley Circuit
The Tweed Valley Circuit: Murwillumbah-Eungella-Tyalgun-Chillingham-Crystal Creek-Uki-Murwillumbah.
7- Hare Krishna Centre at Eungella
Going clockwise, our next stop was Eungella, home to New Govardhana, a Hare Krishna Farm and Eco Yoga Community and Wellness Centre.
One of their largest rural projects in Australia, this local community puts on a renown vegetarian feast on Sundays.
But as we did a drive-by, we had to reverse to double check the line-up of at least 20 large refuse bins for council collection that day.
Each one was placed meticulously along the roadside.
The distance in between each was exact and symmetrical and not one was an inch out of place.
The rain became torrential making photography almost impossible, even from the car window so we moved on and discovered Tyalgum.
Tyalgum is a gorgeous little village in the heart of the Wollumbin or Mt Warning caldera.
This 1850s logging town is now a historic small village full of quaint, beautifully restored buildings transformed into shops, cafes and art galleries.
The ladies running Flutterbies Cottage and The Little Shop Next Door dress in historic costumes adding to the atmosphere.
Much of the organic produce, goods and art here is locally made or homegrown.
As you enter the town you will see the historic Tyalgum Hotel, dating back to 1926.
It is very popular with music groups all over the country and holds the popular annual three-day Tyalgum Music Festival in September each year.
Many of the commercial buildings have been beautifully restored to house attractive small businesses.
The famous Tyalgum Community Hall is reputed to be one of the most acoustically sound buildings in Australia, no mean feat since it was built in 1908.
9- Mount Warning lookout at Limpinwood
Our next stop was at a lookout over Mount Warning at Limpinwood, on the edge of Limpinwood Reserve.
Again, the weather got the better of us and the view was completely clouded out.
We drove into Chillingham with the river already starting to flood.
The reputed Bush Tucker attraction was rained out, so we opted to drop into The Old Butcher’s Shop Gallery.
John Gillson, the in house potter had already left the building, apparently gone fishing!
His father Earl was capably holding the fort whilst he espoused a wealth of information about the century-old building.
John’s pottery and porcelain ceramics were quite unique and we couldn’t resist buying a few pieces to take home.
11- Crystal Creek
Not to be confused with Crystal Castle near Byron Bay, Crystal Creek Miniatures was our last point of interest.
However, we had missed Carolyn and John Tebbutt’s 1030am tour of their miniature animal farm.
By now another torrential downpour had started, so we elected to come back another day to see their family of small horses, cattle, mules and donkeys.
We were left wondering whether it was the heavy annual rain quota in the region that naturally shrunk the animals to create this particular attraction.
The Sunday market in Uki is held on the site of the old Buttery Factory.
We were greeted by a host of banner-carrying environmentally sensitive ‘Uki-ites’ protesting possible loss of local habitat affecting koala numbers due to suspect council proposals.
But we found the market stallholders were extremely friendly and welcoming talented characters who entertained us throughout the market.
Laurie greeted me with open arms (and amazing nails) when I bought a $5 feathered catnip toy for our cat.
Her lifelong dream was to own a Sphynx cat and a hairless crested dog.
Well, she almost expired in excitement as I showed her photos of our own Sphynx, MissyB, and our two Chinese Crested dogs Hera and Errol Flynn.
We were instantly bonded – friends for life!
I spotted some amazing postcards of local landscapes, which on close inspection were actually Aboriginal-like dot paintings.
Chris, the artist, effusively told us the story behind his artworks.
Some were actually 3D, which he sold as sets complete with cardboard 3D glasses.
We breakfasted at the lovely Uki Café directly opposite.
Team Uki made us feel at home and served up gluten-free rice and pumpkin bread with fresh smashed avocado and ‘gooey’ poached eggs, washed down with Merlo cappuccinos. Nice.
Murwillumbah driving itinerary – the coast
Murwillumbah to Cabarita Beach: Murwillumbah-Madura Tea Estate-Tropical Fruit World-Cabarita Beach
13- Madura Tea Estate
A visit to Madura Tea is an educational experience where you will learn all about the tea making process.
From growing tea bushes to processing tea leaves, this tea-growing estate is a unique attraction near Murwillumbah.
Tropical Fruit World is a tourist attraction where you can taste all kinds of exotic tropical fruit. It’s worth spending a few hours tasting dragon fruit, jackfruit and star fruit.
There’s also a mini train for the kids and Treasure Island attraction.
It’s a 20-minute drive from Murwillumbah and a shorter distance to Cabarita Beach.
15- Cabarita Beach
Cabarita Beach (or Caba), also known as Bogangar Village, grew in the early 1960s as a popular surfing and holiday spot on the Tweed Coast.
The Aboriginal Goodjinbura clan were the original custodians of the Tweed Coast, which is a stunning coastal region in New South Wales just across the border from Queensland.
A large midden remains near Norries Headland as evidence to their existence prior to the arrival of the white man.
Stone tool-making sites are also found at Norries and Hastings Point. Fingal and Pottsville claim Aboriginal ceremonial sites too.
These days, Cabarita Beach is one of the top tourist destinations in Northern New South Wales and only a short drive from Murwillumbah.
It is 15 minutes from the NSW/QLD border and a five-minute drive to the main motorway that runs along Australia’s east coast.
This makes it very accessible, yet, Cabarita Beach has a quaintness about it and is relatively unspoilt.
Northern New South Wales can lay claim to some of the most beautiful headlands and long sandy beaches.
Cabarita is certainly one of those.
From Norries Headland you can see far north to the beaches and skyscrapers of the Gold Coast.
Look south and you will find Hastings Point and Pottsville, both are about 15 minutes away.
The headlands are wonderful examples of Littoral Forests and can be accessed by short bush walks and fabulous boardwalks.
From Cabarita Surf Life Saving Club, on the beach, it’s a short walk up Cabarita Hill.
Actually, I think this hill should be called Dragon Hill as we counted no less than 10 Eastern Water Dragons while walking up the hill.
One dragon wouldn’t move off his patch on one of the steps, even when we were within a foot of it.
The dragon was so relaxed and confident it reminded me of the ones in the Galapagos Islands.
Head north and you will reach Lamington National Park, which is a beautiful park home to the famous Binna Burra, and Springbrook National Park with the stunning Natural Arch.
All this is just across the border in Queensland, where there is a one-hour time difference.
If you’re on a road trip you can easily drive across the border to check out these things to do in Queensland
There are a number of great cafes and eateries such as the local fish and chip shop, The Stunned Mullet, is excellent.
Day trips from Murwillumbah
16- Border Ranges National Park
We discovered a hidden secret, the Border Ranges Circuit.
This extremely scenic 2WD drive through luscious rainforests is along the high rim of an ancient volcanic caldera in the Border Ranges National Park.
In the centre of the Wollumbin caldera is the beautiful and stunning Mt Warning.
The rainforest is World Heritage listed, featuring 2000-year-old Antarctic Beech forests, rare Helmholtsia lilies, a 48m red cedar giant tree and numerous bushwalking tracks.
Stunning lookouts over the Tweed Valley include Blackbutt and The Pinnacle lookouts.
We headed southwest down the road to the turnoff to the National Park.
The road from there was unsealed, for around 50km.
The worst sections were outside the park but we still managed it in our low-clearance Veloster sports car.
The road in the park was slightly better, having been recently graded.
However, with no significant rainfall in the area, my reasonably new car was soon covered in a thick layer of dust!
Our first stop was Bar Mountain were we walked the 750m short Falcorostrum loop.
Towering huge old beech trees dominated here, bestrewn with lichen, fungi and moss
The ground was moist and damp, a great climate for leeches.
Our walk was brisk with regular stops for body checks to ensure there were no bloodsuckers on board.
A short way up the road we arrived at Blackbutts lookout and picnic grounds.
Impressive views of Mt Warning and the Tweed Valley allowed me to practice my panoramic photography on my smartphone.
The Pinnacle Lookout
The short 200m walk to the Pinnacle Lookout was through sub-tropical rainforest, luscious green grass trees and onto a sturdy boardwalk.
Then, oh my god, the views were truly spectacular.
Virtually the whole caldera rim was visible with Mt Warning in the centre and Blackbutt ridge to our right.
My recently learned panoramic photography skills came in handy as we took in the amazing 180-degree vista.
Mt Warning’s unique stalagmite appearance stood out in the distance.
This was certainly the highlight of the day.
We continued our anti-clockwise circuit drive, only to discover that two more stops on the most northern section of the circuit were best accessed by driving clockwise not anti-clockwise, as we had done.
This part of the road was one way only, and after 25km of slow bumpy driving, we decided to give them a miss and continue round to Kyogle.
Kyogle, a small service town outside the National Park was closed as it was 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon.
We had a chuckle at the banner in the main street saying “Come for a day, stay for a lifetime” but one of Kyogle’s redeeming attributes was it had been voted Tidy Town 2012.
So we proceeded along the circuit back to Murwillumbah, past Wadeville General Store and the popular Hanging Rock Falls swimming hole.
Tired as we were after a long day’s drive, we just had to stop off at the Sphinx Rock Café in Mt Burrell. What a find it was!
It’s a relaxing quirky roadside café with a great menu, fresh juices and fabulous homemade food.
I quaffed a carrot-celery-cucumber-ginger-turmeric juice to wash down a haloumi pea fritter rocket salad stack with sweet chili sauce.
My girlfriend tried a Cajun fish and feta salad, which was moist and deliciously filling.
Thoroughly exhausted after a great day walking and eating our way around the Border Ranges, we reversed out of the car park avoiding the brightly painted potholes and drove the remaining 60km home.
This was a truly memorable experience and not one to be missed if you are ever in the beautiful Tweed Valley area.
While in the region, keep heading south to visit Crystal Castle in Byron Bay where a day of magic and mystery awaits.
The lovely gardens, crystals, statues and positive vibes to nourish your soul.
19- Hike Mount Warning
The region’s most famous mountain is Mt Warning (or Wollumbin which means ‘Storm Catcher’).
Mount Warning is 1000m high and surrounded by five National Parks.
From its peak, which is best climbed at dawn, you’ll get a 360-degree view of the Tweed Valley.
20- Drive across the border to Queensland
Head north and you will reach Lamington National Park, which is a beautiful park home to the famous Binna Burra, and Springbrook National Park with the stunning Natural Arch.
The Gold Coast is less than an hour’s drive away and can certainly be visited as a day trip from Murwillumbah.
All this is just across the border in Queensland, which has a one-hour time difference.