Flying into Gold Coast airport, you’d be right to assume that most people are headed for the sands of Surfers Paradise, or they might be going slightly south for the laidback vibes of Byron Bay. But in between the two hotspots is an overlooked region that is forging a strong identity as an exciting destination to visit in its own right – the Tweed Valley. And that’s where I’m headed for a weekend of discovery, exploration and zoning out.
At the epicentre of the valley is the imposing Wollumbin-Mount Warning, the remains of what was once a 100-kilometre-wide volcano and the first place in Australia to greet the sun each day. Under the gaze of the mountain, the vibrant riverside town of Murwillumbah is the inland hub, and dotted around the valley are charming country villages, lush farmland, rainforest, paddocks of sugar cane and food producers galore.
A short drive north along a road which was once a smuggler’s route in and out of Queensland, is Mistere Spa and Retreat Urliup. Set on 130 acres of untouched bushland, the retreat is the height of privacy and luxury – home to just three one-bedroom villas.
Each self-contained villa is nestled within the forest – one features views to Mt Warning, one overlooks the lake fountain and one enjoys the serene sounds of a waterfall. As well as a truly divine king bed, the villa boasts a lounge room with TV/DVD, a wood fire, a kitchenette and dining area that can be transformed into an alfresco deck, a bathroom with waterfall shower and a deep spa bath for two.
You can be as active, or inactive, as you like here. Wander one of the walking trails around the property and stumble upon dramatic sculptures; take some time out in the Zen garden with the giant Buddha; or unwind with an in-room massage.
There is no on-site restaurant, but you can organise to have a breakfast basket or barbecue pack left for you. The basket has all you could need for two days: eggs, milk, bacon, yoghurt, muesli, fruit and more. But Murwillumbah is only a 10-minute drive away and we decide to head to dinner at Keith, a funky eatery serving grazing plates showcasing regional produce.
On Saturday afternoon we explore some of the sights of the area under the guidance of proud resident Michael Simmons, who runs Mount Warning Tours. We begin with lunch in the picturesque town of Tumbulgum, at the junction of the Rous and Tweed rivers. The first village established in the region, it is now a magnet for visitors with its historic buildings and picture-perfect streets. One of the best spots in town is the alfresco courtyard of the House of Gabriel and an Ink gin and tonic from Husk Distillery down the road.
The Tweed is full of lovely country roads with views for miles. After lunch we head west to Chillingham, stopping at Buck’s Farm. Owner Gerard ‘Buck’ Buchanan has been growing bush tucker on his 400-acre property for more than 40 years and his produce is garnering attention from some of the best chefs in the country. Heading further inland, we arrive in Tyalgum, a charming village which is home to historic buildings and a healthy performing arts scene.
By the time we return to our hideaway in the hills, the sun is setting behind the magnificent outline of Mt Warning. We’ve been on the move all weekend and we’ve barely scratched the surface. From seaside towns to the beauty of the hinterland, the Tweed is an untapped paradise just waiting to be discovered. And it’s only a one-hour flight from Newcastle.
The writer was a guest of Mistere.
At a glance
- Flights: Jetstar flies to the Gold Coast from Newcastle daily.
- Accommodation: Mistere Spa and Retreat; misterespaandretreat.com
- Tours: Mount Warning Tours, full or half day by car or boat. mountwarningtours.com.au
- Massage: Karen at Cherrysh Massage Therapy; 0417 850 828