Tweed Valley | Rous River Cruise

Tweed Valley | Rous River Cruise

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Tweed Valley
Rous River Cruise Mt Warning. Photos: Irene Isaacson.

When holidaying in the Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales, most river cruises take you along the huge Tweed Valley, which opens to the ocean at Kingscliff. But if you want to be different, then you need to try a cruise on the Rous River instead.

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Rous River Cruise sunset on river

The Rous River


This 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 quieter and spotting birdlife much easier.

In fact the tour operators brag to have seen 38 species of birds in a two-hour trip.

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Rous River Cruise Mt Warning Tours

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.

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Rous River Cruise pontoon boat

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 up stream.

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Rous River Cruise leaving old jetty

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. There were mangroves and cattle farms.

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Rous River Cruise magrove ducks

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.

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Rous River Cruise eagle nest close up

Crab pots were scattered everywhere.  

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Rous River Cruise spoonbill cormorant

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.

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Rous River Cruise termite nest

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.

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Rous River Cruise map information

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.

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Rous River Cruise sun setting on river

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.


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Rous River Cruise historic sign

The trip ended in a short heritage tour of some of the historic buildings of Tumbulgum along the river edge.

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Rous River Cruise Old Bakery

We all headed into the old Tumbulgum Tavern where a seafood platter was awaiting us.

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Rous River Cruise Tumbulgum Tavern

Fresh Moreton bay bugs, mussels, prawns and locally caught fish served with the best deep-fried crispy chips I have ever tasted.

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Rous River Cruise Tavern seafood feast

The sun set behind the caldera whilst we feasted, basking us in its glory as it reflected off the river into the tavern.

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Rous River Cruise river sunset

What a glorious end to a wonderful afternoon.

Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.

Discover New South Wales

Travelling to New South Wales? Have you tried a driving holiday around the Tweed Valley? Or if you’re passing through Sydney, here are some of the best things to do in the Big Smoke.

Planning a trip around New South Wales? Here are some top things to do WollongongRous River Cruise


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