St Augustin

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
Who lives sees much, who travels sees more.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Northern Exposure - touring the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales


Tropical blooms at New Brighton village
A short stay in the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales reveals vibrant communities and tranquil natural beauty.

We love the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales, so when a friend recommended a cabin at New Brighton in the Brunswick Valley, off we went.

New Brighton is a quaint village minutes from the thriving township of Ocean Shores, six minutes from Brunswick Heads and a 20 minute drive to touristy Byron Bay.

 Every evening, a glass of wine on the river outside our cabin

Photo Courtesy of Sydney Tourist Guide - click on map for info.

The B & B, An Ster is a cabin wedged between the Pacific Ocean and an arm of the Brunswick River. A perfect oasis—sub-tropical garden, beautiful river (a sanctuary for migratory birds and marine life) and a pristine surfing beach to soothe the spirits. The owner, Francoise, imports hand-embroidered French linens, so the decor was ‘beach luxe’, comfortable yet affordable.

The Northern Rivers District is huge, so we explored mainly within the Brunswick Valley. There was plenty to see: lush green countryside, quirky towns, mountain and coastal scenery.

Lush green countryside

Horses on the range

Waking to birdsong, we walked along Brighton Beach chatting to friendly locals. After a healthy breakfast provided by Francoise and enjoyed beside the river, we drove to Brunswick Heads. The Saturday market was in full swing. Stalls spread along the Brunswick River, it was a colourful sight— people swimming and fishing in the sparkling waters nearby. We bought books at Two Square Pegs’ stall, run by a Gold Coast couple who combine travel with bookselling, their staggering library housed in the rig.

The Square Peg Book Bus

At the breakwater where the river meets the ocean, we found an excellent safe beach. We noted for future reference the number of superbly situated holiday parks in the Heads and were impressed by the many cafes, restaurants and cool shops. The art deco Hotel Brunswick was pumping out live music to an appreciative crowd munching on fresh local fish and chips.
Busker at the Brunswick Heads Markets

A short drive from Bruns, (as the locals call it) we were in the enchanting town of Mullumbimby, in the foothills of Mt Chincogan. We enjoyed panini and coffee in La Table’s dog-friendly outdoor eating area with our little Foxy. Driving by Cedar House Antiques in a beautiful historic home, we couldn’t resist. Some dollars lighter, we headed to Minyon Falls through dense forests and winding roads. Our return trip was via tiny Federal, then prosperous Bangalow, stunning rural scenery all the way.

 Old Federal General Store - a country-town institution

This route took us through Byron Bay, where we couldn’t resist homemade ice cream, so we perched on a rustic bench dripping everywhere and watching the hip passing parade. We were both looking forward to getting back to our cabin –a bottle of wine, bread, cheese and fruit, watching the mullet doing acrobatics in the river.

 Byron Bay lighthouse seen from the hinterland drive

Brighton Beach is beautiful, but after a walk there next morning, we drove to Tweed Heads along the coastal route, buying funky fruits at roadside stalls. We enjoyed the wonderful view from Hastings Point, then at Kingscliffe we ate the best ever homemade scones at The Three Figs cafe.
 One of the beautiful beaches

On our drive back, we explored more Brunswick Valley villages. At Crabbe Creek, a wrong turn led to the discovery of TheRealBeans, a certified coffee farm. Axel Wurtele’s coffee has no pesticides, is handpicked and sundried. The car was full of the aroma of freshly-ground coffee beans as we drove off, eager to sip it by the river at our idyllic cabin.

Oh, the coffee! Everywhere! And some is certified organic too!

Driving back to Queensland via the Tweed Valley Way, we discovered Chillingham, near the border. We ate macadamia ice cream and bought fresh produce from the bush tucker garden. A fitting end to a wonderful three days of Northern Exposure.

 Sunset by the river at An Ster, New Brighton

I hope you enjoyed the tour. Some day, go, if you haven't already.

The Northern Rivers district stretches from the Clarence River to Tweed Heads on the Queensland border, then to the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.

New Brighton is 600 kilometres north of Sydney, and 40 kilometres south of the Queensland border. Easily accessible via the Pacific Highway.

An Ster Riverside Cabin, New Brighton (from $110 per night)
Tel: 02 66804499

The Real Beans Organic Certified Coffee, Crabbe Creek:
Tel: 02 66771682

Holiday Parks, Brunswick Heads:
Ferry Reserve Holiday Park
Pacific Highway
, Brunswick
Ph (02) 6685 1872

Massey Greene Holiday Park
Tweed Street, Brunswick Heads
Ph (02) 6685 1329

Terrace Reserve Holiday Park
Fingal Street
, Brunswick
Ph (02) 6685 1233