It goes without saying that sometimes all we need is to put some space between us and the city streets. Well, do we have the tonic for you. A road trip from Brisbane to the Tweed, and all the time in the world to think of nothing but the open space and opportunity for adventure in front of you. That’s one idyllic weekend filled with sandy beaches, wildlife encounters, picture-perfect hinterlands and, most importantly, all the opportunity for exquisite dining that you could dream of.
Your overnight destination of the Tweed has got it all, except for the crowds of visitors that the neighbouring Gold Coast region has. Easygoing beachy bliss (and inland wonder, let’s not forget about that) without having to fight for a table at a cafe or a space for your towel on the beach. Say hello to your new paradise. This two-day itinerary has all the necessary goodness for exploring including all the best spots for coffee along the way. Because if there’s one foremost essential for a roadie, it’s caffeine. Now all you need to do is hit the road.
Oh boy, does Brisbane have a stonking good list of places for breakfasting and brunching. The issue that comes with that? Having to choose which to pull up at in the morning and devour your first meal of the day. Because, even worse than food envy, there could be no greater disappointment than spending your hard-earned cash at a cafe that just doesn't cut the mustard. Well fear not, we have chosen one of our favourites to get your day started on the right side of the breakfast menu. Fortitude Valley’s King Arthur has all the quirk, quench and quality to give you the early morning inspiration you need, not least because of their delightfully rounded roof and pristine white walls. Using fresh ingredients from local farms and businesses, King Arthur’s meals are as sustainable as they are delicious, making it a great choice all round. Holla at the Almond Waffle if you know what’s good for you.
If it’s shaping up to be a hot day (when isn’t it in Brissie?), escape the heat from the pavement and head to South Bank, where you can enjoy the best of beachside hangs right in the middle of the city. This man-made lagoon is an oasis of relaxation, with sparkling waters, white sand beaches and tropical plants, open all year round with qualified lifeguards on patrol. We don’t think we could imagine any better way to start off a weekender roadie than laxing by the beach, surrounded by palm trees with Brisbane’s skyline popping through the top. There’s enough water to fill five Olympic-sized swimming pools, which means a whole lot of space to have the time of your life, without having to worry about anyone else who’s had the same idea. Plus, they’re trucking 80 tonnes of sand there every year to make this summer bliss for sweaty Brisbanites, so best make the most of it, right?
This may be one of the Gold Coast’s most well-known cafes, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost any of the pure charm that earned it that popularity in the first place. Elk Espresso is always worth a visit, especially given its dreamy positioning on the beachfront of the Oasis Shopping Centre, a total score in our eyes. Their mint-green decor and lush plant arrangements make it a happy place for almost any type of person (or at least any person that we would get on well with), not to mention their beautiful coffee that would put a smile on any caffeine-deprived being. Their walk-in policy does mean you might have to wait for a table, but boy will it be worth it if it means getting to sample their seasonal goodies. And if their current (spring) menu is anything to go by, we wouldn’t trade a seat at their table for the world. We’re putting in an advanced order for the Crispy Skin Salmon with garden pea crème, shaved zucchini, salted pepitas, snow peas and rhubarb paste. You with us?
We get it, the Gold Coast may seem like it’s just one big long beach and it doesn’t matter where you prop up your towel because it’s all the same anyway… But hear us out okay? There are actually some nuances to each sandy stretch that make a whole lot of difference, and there is no more important task than choosing which suits you better. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but understanding the pros and cons of each section mean you’ll get a whole lot more out of your Gold Coast beachin’ experience. Nobby Beach may sound a bit laughable, but the stretch of sand it encompasses is anything but. Bordered by a headland on one end, Nobbies is a sheltered beach perfect for both swimming and lazing in the sun, with a line of bars, shops and eateries to fulfill all your beachside fantasies. Win, win and win.
Walk amongst the wildlife at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where 27 hectares of open space and rainforest are home to some of the cutest, freakiest and strangest animal species Australia is known for. The open park means you are free to stroll through enclosures, having close-up experiences with all sorts of animals on the way. We’re talking cuddles with wallabies, capybara encounters, taking dingos for a walk and much more, all in a day’s work. The sanctuary is also home to an incredible wildlife hospital which does hugely important treatment and rehabilitation work throughout the year, so these people really know their stuff, to say the least. The best part is, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a not-for-profit organisation, with all proceeds going back into conservation projects, meaning there will be Tasmanian devils and quokka and cotton-top tamarins around for us to visit for many years to come.
If you’re feeling a little thirsty (or a bit peckish) after a busy afternoon, the only place you need to know about in Coolangatta is Café Dbar, who serve up the most unbelievable smoothies, milkshakes and juices. Freakishly yummy and freakishly good-looking (especially those green juices), it’s hard to know whether to take a pic for the ‘gram or just tuck straight in. I mean, how good does the Salted Caramel ‘Claim to Fame’ sound - chock full of butterscotch salted caramel and vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and crushed tim tams. Just perfect for a mid-afternoon treat, in our books.
After you’ve sussed out the best of the refreshments, take a stroll around the headland from Café Dbar’s spot at Point Danger and explore what Coolangatta has to offer. Spoiler alert: there’s a lot, from world-famous surf breaks to cute rocky beaches to incredible whale-watching opportunities. Walk all the way around the coastal walkway to Duranbah Beach, enjoying some pretty alright ocean views along the way. With Duranbah Beach actually being part of NSW, not only will you be walking from state to state, if you visit between October and April, you’ll even be stepping through time zones. That’s some Marty McFly business!
After the 30 minute drive back to the coast, it’s a safe bet you’ve earned a couple of drinks. Paper Daisy at Casuarina’s Halcyon House is perhaps The (with a capital T) place to be for a sunset cocktail, where gorgeous interior design and surroundings meets a to-die-for drinks list. Sophisticated but fun and friendly, Paper Daisy is the kind of place you’d want to be your everyday after-work-drinks spot, even if it was just for the To Kill A Barista drink, in all its 1800 Coconut tequila, Mr Black liqueur, Licor 43 and drip coffee glory. We know the food list is incredibly alluring, but there’s another great spot yet to come, okay? You don’t want to be too full for the main event. And if you get a bit ahead of yourself and end up drinking one more delicious cocktail than you can safely drive with, no stress. It’s only a 7 minute drive back to Kingscliff, so you can easily hop in a cab and come back for your wheels the next morning. Safety first, folks.
Ah, and there goes that main event we were talking about. The Bombay Cricketers Club is a modern, Indian-fusion restaurant, with food so good it will bring tears to your eyes. Or maybe that’s just because you forgot to order mild spices. Beautifully authentic, with a modern and local spin, the BCC brings Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan spices to the Tweed in knockout fashion, with that brilliant aesthetically-pleasing décor and interior design to boot. But it’s all about the food here, and with good reason, as it combines everything that is so heavenly about Indian cuisine and transforms it into a perfect modern dish, worthy of imprinting itself on your memory and haunting you every time you try and go back to pre-Bombay Cricketers Club Indian. Get the banquet option and try it all, there’s no other way.
Time to walk off those meals and cocktails, perhaps? Good thing the beautiful Salt Beach is right at your feet, providing the perfect place to wind down your day of exploration and adventure. Feel the soft white sand between your toes and listen to the gentle crashing of the ocean. Just what the doctor ordered.
When it comes to accommodation, Mantra is the perfect place for you to kick back for the night after a long day of adventuring, with its ideal positioning right in Salt Village. With a range of different room types, you’re sure to find something that will suit you quite nicely, without being too heavy on the wallet. They have a beautiful complex with pools, tennis courts and a gym, and are just a couple of minutes from the beach. How could you get better than that?
For a breakfast of quality Aussie tucker, go no further than this spot at Casuarina, which has been appropriately named to describe the wholesome fare it provides. Tucker is the bustling spot for daytime wine-ing and dining, freshly opened by the owners of Blackboard Coffee Roasters in April 2018. So you know you’re going to get a damn good caffeine fix to start your day. Using the best local produce the Tweed has to offer, Tucker’s breakfast menu is a tasty medley of revved-up favourites, such as eggs benedict but on herbed potato rostis, or avocado on toast but with lemon hummus and goats feta. We’re licking our lips already, and that’s before we even get to the fact that they’re licensed from 10am. So if you turn your breakfast into more of a long brunch, you’ll get judgment from no one for ordering an espresso martini instead of a flat white. Unless you’re driving. Then you’ll get our judgement.
Feel what it’s like to walk on water with a visit to Cudgen Creek, where you can cruise along 9 km of perfectly-still water on top of a paddle board. Watersports Guru are the people to get in touch with, who are absolute champs of the paddle boarding game and can supply you with everything you need to get going, as well as a SUP 101 lesson if you’re a rookie on the water. If you’re a bit of a self-proclaimed SUP pro, you can spend the hour-long tour getting to know the magical area of Cudgen Creek. Soak in the bliss of the wilderness with your surroundings of mangroves, tree swamp and subtropical rainforest, as well as some pretty special wildlife encounters, in the water and the sky. How’s the serenity? Don’t forget to book ahead if you want to do this.
Make the most of that reassuring feeling of solid ground after maybe a bit too much floating, and head south to Cabarita, a small town which lies amongst an almost perfect enclosure of nature reserves and heavenly beaches. Cabarita Beach has maintained all its classic coastal charm throughout its growing popularity, but that’s probably not too hard to do when all you’ve got is unbroken horizon views, bluer-than-blue waves, unbelievably white sand and lush mangrove surroundings. Not to mention the nearby walkway to Norries Headland, a cracker short stroll which will both stretch your legs and provide some great content for your camera roll. From Tweed Coast Road, find the carpark at Norries Headland where you will begin a zippy 800m return walk, bringing you to a perfect coastal panorama. Not too much sweat considering what you get in return, huh?
If you like your mid-morning coffee or orange juice to have a bit of character, House of Gabriel is your spot. Located on the banks of the Tweed River at Tumbulgum, it’s a 25 minute drive to House of Gabriel, a historic old homestead and former bakery which has been standing for over 120 years. Talk about aging well. The building also houses a boutique gift shop and art gallery, so you won’t be bored for a second whilst waiting for your brew. It’s the ultimate spot for a mid-drive break actually, as the alfresco tables and expansive river views have a real sense of calmness to them, just what you need whilst trying to navigate unfamiliar territory, perhaps. That is, before you start to feel the effects of the liquid gold of course. Then you’ll be more than ready to hit the road again.
The cultural (and almost geographical) heart of the Tweed can be found in Murwillumbah, an unfairly picturesque country town located amongst beautiful rolling hills with panoramic views of Wollumbin Mount Warning. The creative hub of this is the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, which is home to six dedicated spaces of beautifully-curated touring and permanent exhibitions. It’s hard to work out what to look at more, the first-rate art or priceless views of the valley and river from the gallery. Either way, it can’t be argued that this stunning gallery brings a world class collection to the Tweed. If only you could take this visual feast home with you.
Well, one thing you can feast on is the menu at the adjoining Tweed Art Gallery Café, where you can have lunch on the balcony accompanied by the equally tasty views of Wollumbin Mt Warning and the Tweed River. Give those legs of yours a break after all your art perusing with a sit-down meal, and a pretty great one at that. With a mouth-watering range of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan meals, as well as meals to suit any non-dietary-requirement diets, the Gallery Café will fill just about anyone’s belly, with style. Um, how good does Goats Feta and Caramelised Red Onion Tart sound? We’ll take the lot, thanks.
After checking out the jewel in Murwillumbah’s crown, spend a bit of time checking out the rest of the town, which is dotted with the most incredible art deco architecture. Wander around the area, being sure to make your way to the Caldera Art Gallery, where you will find an unbelievable 20-metre long mural depicting the 360° panorama of the Green Cauldron Caldera from the summit of Wollumbin Mt Warning. Saves you having to trek up there to see it yourself, right? Bowerbird Emporium is also worth a visit, a wacky store of unique and beautiful treasures that you could get lost in for hours.
Need another coffee? Same. Luckily Murwillumbah has plenty of groovy options for a mid-afternoon breather, with the two caffeinated kingpins of the town being Keith (a very staunchly-named coffee shop and bar) and The Modern Grocer (a stylish deli and cafe). The Modern Grocer is a foodie haven, chock full of tasty deli items and treats, and a brew even the biggest coffee snob would give a tick of approval. This would also be a top spot for lunch if you were keen for something more laid back than the Gallery Café, but with just as fab food.
Banner Photo Credit: Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk PTY LTD