Cabarita Beach in Northern New South Wales was a base for a short break from the humdrum life of full time work and family commitments. Along with a lifetime girlfriend who flew up from South Australia, we decided to see Murwillumbah and some of the surrounding Tweed Valley countryside.
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.
World Heritage Forests
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 set off from Cabarita early morning to drive to Murwillumbah. Our first stop was Uki for the start of a 10am Sunday market 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 at Murwillumbah extremely friendly and welcoming. Talented characters 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. Simply stunning!
Breakfast at Uki Cafe
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.
We headed southwest down the road to the turn off 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 short stops for body checks to ensure there were no blood suckers 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 practise my panoramic photography on my smart phone.
The Pinnacle Lookout
Onward to The Pinnacle Lookout. The short 200m walk 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.
Well, it was already 3pm on the Sunday afternoon I guess.
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 home made food.
I quaffed a carrot-celery-cucumber-ginger-turmeric juice to wash down a haloumi-pea fritter rocket salad stack with sweet chilli sauce.
My girlfriend tried a Cajun fish and fetta 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 pot holes 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.
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.
Call the Border Ranges Park Officer (Monday-Friday office hours only) on +612 6632 2700 for current road conditions.
Thinking of doing a driving holiday around New South Wales? Grand Pacific Drive has wonderful scenery and plenty of attractions along the way.