Where or what is Murwillumbah, you may ask yourself? ‘Well, it’s the Heart of the Tweed’ a local may reply. This small and vibrant country town was born in 1868, a stone’s throw from the New South Wales and Queensland border, sited on the glorious Tweed River.
In the 1800’s the area was famous for forest logging, huge red cedars or ‘Red Gold’ sawn and 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.
So what is there to do or see in Murwillumbah? It turns out, quite a bit as we found ourselves on an exploratory visit.
Driving in from the beachside of Cabarita and Hastings Point, we followed the signs for the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, about three kilometres out of Murwillumbahtw on the Tweed Valley Way.
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.
PALEO WITH A VIEW
The Tweed Art Gallery Café serves up locally grown organic fare presented in a paleo menu. Even if you’re not planning on visiting the gallery, it’s worth going to the cafe for a meal. The food is lovely and the view from the cafe of the valley while you eat is simply breathtaking.
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.
It is also home to the Caldera Art Gallery where you can meet resident artist, Gallery Director and Art Tutor Andy Reimanis.
The Centre houses the 360-degree Green Cauldron Panorama, a painting by seven local artists depicting the view from the summit of Mt Warning.
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.
4-ART OR GRAFFITI
As you go over the bridge into Murwillumbah, look to your left. The levy wall skirting the town’s riverbank has been amazingly painted by local artists to make an attractive peaceful walk.
You may also notice the lack of graffiti around the town. This is because young graffiti artists are only allowed to paint this wall if no other in the town is effaced. It’s a great policy and, to their credit, a ploy that has obviously worked!
5-HISTORY AND COLLECTIBLES
Whilst 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 rather amazing pink Imperial Hotel.
The Tweed Regional Museum showcases the rich history of the Tweed Valley. Entry is free to this beautifully restored heritage building with its ornate pressed metal ceilings and rich stained woodwork.
The story of Banana Jim and the logging history of the Tweed is particularly fascinating.
6-A PLACE TO RELAX
As well as Budd Park, Knox Park is a beautiful cool place to rest and relax, with its water lily strewn lake and resident ibis for company.
7-Produce with a Difference
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.
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense
Discover New South Wales
Here are more ideas on what to see while driving around Murwillumbah and the Tweed Valley. The Tweed Valley is home to the Madura Tea Estate, which is well worth a visit, and while you’re in the area do go on a relaxing Rouse River cruise.
Looking for more things to do near Sydney? Here’s why you should consider visiting Wollongong.