TWEED HEADS, NSW

TWEED HEADS GETAWAY

Up bright and early we headed to the border and we said a fond farewell to Queensland. 
In waving goodbye to Queensland we also waved goodbye to an hour. New South Wales operates on daylight saving time. Even though there have been calls for Queensland to follow suit it seems a referendum has been greeted with opposition from the rural community.  Our destination was dog sitting at Tweed Heads for a few days.

Extending across the vast bowl of the Wollumbin Mt Warning Caldera, The Tweed Region is characterized by it’s of local communities.  Outside the main centres of Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah and Kingscliff, the quirky charm of the region is revealed in quiet country hamlets, historic river ports and seaside villages.

This is where you can pull up a barstool at a local pub and share a story or two with the locals; or chat with artists at a weekend market; or stroll around an orchard as the farmer plucks native finger limes and Buddha’s hands fruit straight from the tree for you to taste and find out what they are.


After settling in we headed for an afternoon scenic drive to Coolangatta.  Once you’ve hit Coolangatta and her neighbouring Greenmount Beach you’re at the end of Queensland’s Gold Coast as we know it. Duranbah and Tweed Heads sit around the corner, but technically that’s New South Wales. Technicalities aside, visitors flock to the border town of Coolangatta for its change of pace.

From here, you can look back towards the Surfers Paradise skyline in the distance and the entire coastline and feel, well, a little smug in the knowledge you’ve slowed down a bit. That’s not to say it’s boring. Sharing a boundary with Tweed Heads in New South Wales, you’re in the Twin Towns zone. For one, the surf here is spectacular, particularly off the northern corner of Coolangatta Beach, the headland around Greenmount, Snapper Rocks into the southern corner of Rainbow Bay and of course, the world-class surf break of Duranbah. D’Bah, as locals call her, is the one place you can be guaranteed of a swell when the rest of the coast is quiet.

 Meanwhile, the corner of Greenmount offers a protected spot for a swim.
A lovely walking trail wraps around Greenmount Hill connecting Greenmount Beach to Rainbow Bay from which you can head up the hill to the exotically named Point Danger and plant one foot in Queensland and another in New South Wales at this lookout which is also a great place for whale watching. Named after the schooner Coolangatta which was wrecked here in 1846, this suburb exudes an old-school beachside charm where you can still find a milkshake in a tin cup. It combines this with world-class oceanfront hotels, restaurants and clubs, the most popular of which is Twin Towns Services Club, home to local and international acts



Up bright and early for a scenic drive to Murwillumbah to catch up with a friend.  Identified as being in the top ten of the most desirable places to live in Australia, based on natural beauty, property values, welcoming locals and good infrastructure, the picturesque township of Murwillumbah is located in the centre of the stunning Tweed Valley on the far north coast of New South Wales. Quick “Hi” we were back on the road to Byron Bay Beachside Markets.

Held four times a year in early January, Easter, July and late September, the Beachside Markets are a make it, bake it, grow it market held on the Byron Bay foreshore east of the Surf Club. It was a perfect location to experience some of the most original products by one of the worlds’ most famous beaches.
The market showcases a diverse and exciting collection of high quality art, sculpture, ceramics, glass, home wares, fashion, craft, toys, clothing and music created by local artists and designers as well as an array of services offered by our health and well being practitioner

The focus and emphasis of the Beachside Market is on authenticity and fosters both originality and sustainability. Echoing worldwide popularity and the growing demand for direct-from-the-artist-to-you handmade, high quality product. This Artisan Market provides an unparalleled opportunity for local artists, creators and healers to showcase their talents.  With over 200 stalls stretching over half a kilometer of beachfront at Byron Bay Main beach, this market is the perfect location, right on the doorstep of one of the worlds’ most famous beaches and destinations to experience some of the best and most original products and services.



Kim had a blast while I took the dogs up the outside of the markets and onto the shops in the main street. 1 dress and 2 tops later we headed back to Tweed Heads.
The next day was bright and early again for dogs to have a swim and run. It’s a dog’s life at Palm Beach Spit (known also as Currumbin Spit)

everyone loves this place, it’s a dog owner’s paradise for exercising your dog, just follow the councils signage and you and your pooch are going to have a great time.
Much of the area is geared for them. Walk them, let them run or perhaps have a dip in the lagoon in the designated area. It’s an amazing place to observe the antics of dogs and their owners resting in the calm waters of the lagoon on a hot summer day.



That afternoon we headed to Kingscliff. Shopping, there are boutiques aplenty for Kim.  Up and down Marine Parade was a wonderful array of great shopping with everything from designer clothes through to swimwear through to kids’ clothes and surfwear.

A favourite, Heart of the Home, had a fantastic selection of homewares and clothes.  It is truly easy to while away some time browsing before being tempted by everything from homewares, candles and jewellery to some great fashion pieces.
Fantastic designer fashion pieces can be found at Anna & Ruth and everyone is talking about On Kliff’s reversible jeans.

These are just two of the many fashion stores on Marine Parade and it certainly wouldn’t be too hard to spend a few hours wandering up and down the strip and being tempted by the great fashions, homewares and everything in between on offer, while I got to wait outside with the dogs.

Early the next day we did a drive around Tugun to Coolangatta checking out the beaches and surfer on the breaks. Back to Tweed we started packing the car and heading back to Brissy.

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LENNOX HEADS, NSW

 

LENNOX HEADS

 

Another trip down Northern NSW again to Lennox Heads. The weather was superb and we had good company exploring the Heads, Beach, Lake, Café’s, Byron and Markets
We stayed in a modern two storey cabin boasting an impressive covered entertaining deck. The property was positioned on the eastern slopes of Figtree Hill.
Despite its many attributes, Lennox Head is often overlooked, as it’s located roughly 20 minutes south of iconic Byron Bay and 10 minutes north of the much larger town of Ballina. I’m sure that’s just how the locals like it too, particularly as it’s also home to interesting history, pristine beaches, fluffy meadows, tea tree lakes and a town packed with good cafes and shops.
Situated at the northern end of town is Lake Ainsworth, a tea tree-stained dunal lake that’s named after early settler and sugar cane grower James Ainsworth. It’s a superb spot for a swim or, a canoe and it’s great for kids as it’s virtually always calm. The lake is considered by many to have healing properties. It’s also a favourite with stand-up paddle boarders and there’s picnic and BBQ facilities near the shore.
At the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, out the front of Rayner Lane, lies the remains of an old tea tree fence. This was built sometime in the early to mid 1900s by Fred Hutley to stop the sea spilling into the lake during tempestuous weather
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Saturday morning we found WilliamsBurg perched quite aptly on the corner of William St and another street that I can’t remember the name of (but if you’re super curious it is the one that runs along the beach front) of Lennox Head. We made our way inside, sat down, looked at menus and ordered some breakfast. After visiting WilliamsBurg for the first time we declare on other social media that there was not one single thing about our experience that I did not love. The bacon and egg burger were to die for.
We dropped into the Lennox bakery and ordered and couple of rolls for lunch, drove to the caravan park and picked up permits and beach passes and headed to Seven Mile Beach for a day of fishing, swimming and relaxing. The dogs had a blast, the fish weren’t biting and later in the afternoon the wind picked up so we headed back.
That night we headed to Lennox Head’s original pizza and pasta restaurant for dinner. Wings, garlic bread, pasta and pizza were on the cards. All fabulous and was a great night out.
The Sunday we headed into Byron Bay’s Community Market, which is held at the Butler Street reserve. It is one of the best in the region. Covering several acres, the market offers a vast array of handcrafted wares, locally-grown produce, and artworks of every kind. It’s best to get there early and allow a few hours to take in all the stalls, indulge in some fresh food and culture. We left the girls explore and the guys with the dogs headed into town to find the best coffee in Byron. An espresso bar, Barefoot Brew Room was tucked away down a small laneway in central Byron Bay. Coffee found, time to pick the girls up and make way for breakfast. We dropped into Twisted Sista. I won’t go into it because it’s not worth rating at all. Too expensive, crap food, crap service. We then headed and made and afternoon looking and the hang gliders at Pat Morton lookout.

 

Monday morning we dropped into Lime Café, Lennox Head.  This innocuous little cafe was a real gem. Service was friendly and attentive. Breakfast was amazing (serves were actually too big) but perfect poached eggs.  We then took the scenic drive past Potsville, Kingscliffe and back home. 

 

SOUTH BALLINA TO EVANS HEADS

SOUTH BALLINA TO EVANS HEADS

Ballina is a coastal town around 20 minutes drive south of Byron Bay, about 90 minutes south of the Gold Coast and just over a 2-hour drive from Brisbane.
South Ballina Beach stretches on the NSW north coast down from South Ballina – across the Richmond River from the main town of Ballina – becoming Patchs Beach and ending at Evans Head about 30kms away.
From Brisbane I headed via the Pacific Highway straight down to Ballina, then drove onto the ferry from Burns Point in West Ballina across the Richmond River to Seabreeze Caravan Park on the South Ballina peninsula.
Another option is to drive past Ballina to Wardell where you can drive over a bridge across the river, then enter at Patchs Beach. If you’re looping back north, you can catch the ferry back from South Ballina as it runs until half past midnight.
I caught up with the 4wd club at the caravan park and we all started to air down and line up to enter the beach at South Ballina.



Entry is  directly either at South Ballina or down further at Wardell and Evans Head is via well formed, well maintained all-weather tracks that provide easy access for 4WDs – though the Patchs Beach entry track is better suited to high clearance vehicles, small 4WDs may find it a little tough.
Speed limits apply to the entire stretch of the beach. 30km/h limits apply to the beach, while you must dip down to at least 15km/h when you’re within 50m of any other beach user – although the conditions may require a lower speed than this, so just keep your eye out for any other beachgoers (or their pets!) when you’re cruising down the shore.


29 cars lined up on the beach for the group photos, the sun was out and it was just on high tide. After an hour of letting the kids have a little swim we headed to Evans Heads.
If you’re planning on setting up for lunch on the beach, you can set up a day camp back away from the surf, Patchs Beach is even dog friendly..


Swimming is recommended between the flags at South Ballina or Evans Head, as these beaches are patrolled during summer holidays. The waters in between are open beaches and tend to have strong rips, so it’s best not to venture in for a swim. Besides, it’s more suited to casting a line for whiting than doing the butterfly.


If you don’t have any luck fishing, you can go for a hike in nearby Broadwater National Park, and picnic on the beach, where, in spring and winter, you might be able to spot whales or dolphins frolicking off the shoreline.
And to see the shoreline from a different perspective than the driver’s seat, tour operators offer horseback riding along South Ballina Beach, as well as other beaches around Ballina.


Evans Heads, about 30 km to the south of South Ballina Beach, is a great spot for lunch or an extended stay.  There is a patrolled beach and access to even more beach driving options on other beaches from here.  Just be careful of the tides, as depending on the day, there can be coffee rock exposed on the beach, making the beach trip to Evans Head impossible.


Lennox Head, just north of Ballina, is a surfers dream, and you can also take your 4WD straight onto a section of Seven Mile Beach – although you do have to purchase a permit, unlike the beaches in South Ballina. (These permits are available from an electronic ticket kiosk opposite the Lennox Head Surf Club.)




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BALLINA, NSW

BALLINA


We had decided to go to the Childer’s Festival, but a last minute change of plans, we decided to head to Ballina for four days.

Ballina is a bustling holiday town and home of the Big Prawn, one of Australia’s iconic big things. Situated at the mouth of the beautiful Richmond River, Ballina is also blessed with gorgeous beaches and great surf.

The streets of downtown Ballina are lined with stylish cafes and restaurants, classic country pubs and modern clubs that offer first class dining and entertainment. There are pools, parks and entertainment centres offering loads of fun for the kids, and you can visit museums, galleries, expos and festivals bursting with the vibrant works of local craftspeople. There are antique and curio shops and, for the dedicated shopaholic, a mind-boggling choice of boutiques and designer stores.

The coastline is a beach lover’s dream with sheltered coves, vast ocean beaches and some of the world’s finest surf breaks. The beach fishing is legendary and if you wet a line from the North or South Wall, you’ll be in for a reel treat!!

With a quick couple of hours on the highway we took a detour and dropped into The Macadamia Castle, which has been the area’s most popular activity destination for over 40 years. We then headed back on the highway and over the South Ballina barge to Ballina Beach Village. 



The Ballina Beach Village, Dolphin Bay at South Ballina is a relaxing eco destination and was dog friendly. We were able to take our dog Shari into a cabin.


We unpacked the car and decided to let Shari have a good run at the nearby dog beach. Patchs Beach is located 15 minutes south of Ballina and 5 minutes from the local township of Wardell.  The area is a popular seaside getaway and is famous for its ocean and river fishing with full 4WD access. Shari loved it and enjoyed the open space and meeting a couple of doggy friends on the way. We headed back after a couple of hours and played with Shari in the park, then cooked up and Barbie dinner.

The next day we were up bright and early with a drive to Ballina’s Big Prawn, which is one of Australia’s iconic big things.

Built in 1989, the Big Prawn has undergone a makeover and was reopened in July 2013. It now has a tail, and is situated adjacent to Bunnings Warehouse on River Street.


We then took a drive up to Lighthouse Hill and spotted some whales and dolphins swimming by. After a couple of photos of the lighthouse we headed back to the Spit at the dog friendly section. We saw many dogs running around and playing in the water, Shari was over excited on joining them. We let her loose and she bolted to see each dog as many times as she could. We spend a good couple of hours letting her run, because she wouldn’t come back to us anyway. Finally she tired enough to catch her and put the lead back on and we headed back to the car and into the centre of town so Kim could look at some shops. 



The main street is small enough and with a couple of boutiques to interest Kim into buying a couple of things. We then headed to the side by side main Shopping Centres, but no interest in them what so ever.  Back to the caravan park late afternoon, Kim played with Shari and I took a drive to the south wall. Great fishing spots with plenty of people lined up catching Bream, Whiting.

The next day we headed first to Lighthouse Lookout to spot more whales before heading to Boulder Beach. Boulder Beach can be found on The Coast Road, between Ballina and Byron Bay. There is a gorgeous headland where you can sit at sunset and watch the guys catching some waves in the water below. It is an unusual beach as the foreshore is covered in black, smooth boulders, which is an interesting element to add to your photos. At low tide you can explore the rock pools below the headland which also is a great spot for interesting foreground elements in photos. Generally this is a great spot for sunrise but it can be really beautiful at sunset too. 

We then headed to the top of Lennox Point, Pat Morton Lookout, which had extensive views especially to the North stretching up Seven Mile Beach.  We did a bit of whale watching and dolphin spotting. It is the best vantage point for watching the surfers at its famous right hand break. Many of photos we headed down into Lennox Heads. 

We bypassed the town and kept going onto Byron Bay. Byron is one of our favourite spots and we try to get there at least twice a year.  It is really a fabulous holiday destination for everyone. There is something to cater for everyone’s tastes. Although I have to admit when we go it is all about the beach, the pub and the organic donuts!  This is broken up with bouts of shopping for Kim. 


There is nothing better than shopping on holidays for Kim. New shops to explore and you usually have the time to browse at a leisurely pace, while Shari get pats waiting patiently outside. Shopping in Byron Bay doesn’t disappointfrom the array of unique shops and boutiques along Jonson, Lawson and Fletcher Streets, to the Arts and Industry Estate. 


After a few hours we headed back to the car and made our way back to Lennox Heads. Lennox Head is a quiet seaside village situated at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach between Ballina and Byron Bay. It’s named after the headland that stands sentinel at its southern gateway.

Lennox Head has a great coastal village atmosphere, with a main street full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants. We dropped into the markets first then back to the main streets for a look at the boutiques. The surfers know Lennox Head for its internationally famous right hand point break, and the hang-gliders love the place for the sensational views when they take off from Pat Morton Lookout. From the main street we spotted the hang-gliders and headed to the lookout.

Late afternoon we headed back and packed up, then next day we headed back to Brisbane. Was a fantastic weekend to get away from the traffic and noise. The soft sound of the waves breaking in the distance made the best nights sleep in ages. Looking forward heading back in a couple of months.


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LEVUKA, NORTHEN NSW

LEVUKA 4WD PARK
Camping is one of our second loves when it comes to holidays and being in a couple of 4wd and camping groups we do a number of weekend getaways. Most of the time we have managed to keep my camping trips confined to South East Queensland to Northern New South Wales.

The order for our first camping trip in 2016 was to be with one of our Social Camping and 4wd Club to Levuka Rainforest Recreation Park – a 4wd-ers paradise located just outside the sleepy town of Urbenville in North West New South Wales.

We must say we were pleasantly surprised at just how well organised Levuka actually is. When you check in Robert (the very friendly property owner) hands you a laminated map of the 600 acre property and is happy to answer any questions you may have.

Levuka is a working cattle property so you also have to be prepared for the odd herd that will wander by your campsite. With cows there of course also comes cow poo – an abundance of it in fact but luckily enough one of our group was a boy scout in a past life and informed us that it goes very well in a campfire. Most sites come equipped with their own pre-prepared fire pit. You can bring your own fire wood if you want but we found it far easier just to buy some on site. Robert has a seemingly endless supply of good quality timber to burn for just $10 per 35kg bag.

We are no great 4wd-ing experts but the group all seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly. Options range from open farm tracks, to rocky climbs, bog holes and tight rainforest drives. The aptly named playground is apparently a must for those wanting to test their skills. Tracks are graded in difficulty from 1-5 so you always know exactly what you are getting yourself into. For those who prefer their weekends a little slower paced there is also bushwalking available around the property and Lake Levuka for a swim or a kayak. But note Lake Levuka is a small dam, not much for swimming or kayaking.  There is also apparently dams stocked with fish on the property but our resident fisherman said, at the time of our visit, they were less than impressive. We didn’t do any track work, but we took a drive up to the lookout, overlooking the range and looked at the lake for the dog to have a little swim.

The group on Saturday split into 2 groups, one was for and easy scenery drive around some easy tracks and the second group took to the more challenging tracks. That afternoon they all drove some medium tracks. The week before there was some rain, so some of the tracks were more of a challenge.

Night fell we cooked up some tea and the group headed to the main campfire to talk some yarns of their challenging day. The great aspect of the group is that they come together as a group and not unsociable pockets of groups.

Whether you are an experienced 4wder or a new 4wder, Levuka has tracks that will test, challenge and entertain you. If you have a highly modified 4wd or a stock standard 4wd, you can certainly have fun at Levuka. Whether you are looking for a country escape with the family or a weekend of high octane fun we would highly recommend this beautiful piece of New South Wales countryside.

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YAMBA, NSW. PART 4 OF ROAD TRIP

YAMBA

Before we hit Brisbane we stopped into Yamba, for an overnight to catch up with family that was camping at Dolphin Caravan Park.

It’s quiet, the breaks are known to be some of the best in Australia, and you are not fighting for waves. Of an evening you can chill out and give your body time to rejuvenate to prepare for another day of surfing. There are no wild night club hot spots here, no wild drunken debauchery or louts tearing up the streets. It’s early to bed here and early to rise to greet a usual warm, sunny day. It’s a one street town of cafes and restaurants sitting under shady trees that are chilled out, yet classy, and boast delicious meals.


We can vouch for the Wato’s fish and chips on the corner. Not your usual fish and chip shop with Pluto pups and frozen calamari rings. Whatever is cooked here is made from scratch: potato and sweet potato scallops, mouth-watering calamari  and then there are the seafood dishes that you’ll never find anywhere in another take away chipper: seafood laksa and coconut curry.


Sunset is said to be the magical time to be sitting on the deck watching the sky wash over in orange and pink hues. Yamba is of course famous for seafood, particularly prawns. If you climb up to the lighthouse hill of an evening and look back down the river you’ll see the lights of the trawler boats prawning for the evening.


You have 16 pristine beaches to choose from in the area. We walked from the breakwall past Turner’s Beach to Main Beach. The surf looked clean and like it was breaking nicely to my novice-surfie eyes. Why the waves were empty of surfers then I do not know, but if you love catching waves, then you should just bypass Byron and forget the crowds and surf here.

We then took a look at Angourie Beach which is where the most powerful and pumping waves are and is the place where legendary surfers like Mark Occhilupo, Taj Burrow and Mick Fanning come to surf. One of the highlights of the Yamba area that we loved was the walk to Shelly Beach through the National Park along the coastline.


There was no one around, the walk was stunning and we had the beach to ourselves when we arrived.  If all of that isn’t enough, Yamba also has pods of friendly dolphins and is a hot spot for whale watching. The town has the look and air of a place that is modernizing itself. It’s modern and classy yet still retains that old-world feeling to it. It’s the slowness, the gentleness of its people who stop to say hi and chat to friends and strangers on the street.


It’s also the old buildings like the iconic Pacific Hotel that sits on the cliff faces with the best views in town for a schooner. It has the look of a place in desperate need of a reno, but doesn’t look like it would happen to soon, and you don’t really want it to. And then the movie theatre, just one old building with a small shop front, its sound and atmosphere worth experiencing. The next day we rose and jumped back in the car to head for home.

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