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The hinterland between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast often flies under the radar for travellers to the region. And that’s a shame, because it boasts some of the most stunning scenery along Australia’s east coast.
Take your time to tour the byways that surround the New South Wales-Queensland border and you’ll discover a bunch of hidden wonders, from beautiful boutique hotels and terrific regional art galleries, to captivating rainforest plateaus. Here’s what to check out the next time you’re in the area.
Stay at the winsome Halcyon House
This fabulous Cabarita hotel was an instant classic when it opened in 2015. The property’s giddy ’60s-inspired design is expressed differently across each of its 21 rooms, from patterned walls, cushions, bedding and lamps, to blue and white handmade tiles and lime-washed timber flooring. It’s this kind of detail that makes Halcyon a brilliant retreat (the same goes for Paper Daisy, the Jason Barratt-helmed in-house restaurant). But the real star is Cabarita Beach itself. Quiet and idyllic, it’s part of a string of small townships on this stretch of coast that buzz with cafes, restaurants and natty boutiques.
Take in some art at the Tweed Regional Gallery
This 2014-built gallery is often regarded as one of the best regional galleries in New South Wales on account of its impressive collection of Australian portraits, artist prints and artworks of regional relevance. But the gallery’s draw-card is the Margaret Olley Art Centre, which houses a permanent recreation of the iconic still-life painter’s Sydney home studio. Beyond the glimpse into the life of an Australian icon, the views of the surrounding rolling, green hills from the gallery make it a lovely place to while away an hour or two.
Drive the Numinbah and Nerang–Murwillumbah Road
The stunning inland drive that connects Queensland and New South Wales remains largely undiscovered by the vast majority of commuters who travel along the M1. Perhaps the best route here is the Numinbah and Nerang–Murwillumbah Road, a two-lane blacktop that snakes through lush farmland before it climbs into the border ranges. Heading out of Murwillumbah, first make for Tyalgum to the west, a former dairy centre that’s been given new life as a quaint tourist town full of cafes and shops. From Tyalgum, drive north and join up with the Numinbah Road as it begins its climb towards the border. The border crossing itself is spectacular, surrounded by vertiginous escarpments and rolling mountain meadows, before the route descends into Queensland through a dramatic, deeply scooped valley. Take the turn at Pine Creek Road if you want to check out Springbook National Park – otherwise, you’ll emerge in Nerang and a short drive from the centre of the Gold Coast.
Surf the waves (and a menu or two) at Burleigh Heads
If you head instead up the main highway, make some time to stop at Burleigh Heads. This gorgeous Gold Coast suburb – with its cute apartment buildings, gentle beaches and locally-minded businesses – stands in contrast to flashy Surfers Paradise just up the road. Here it’s about going with the flow: hit the surf at the approachable Burleigh Heads Beach, or hike through Burleigh Head National Park before paddle boarding in the beautiful Tallebudgera Creek. But there’s also a stack of phenomenal restaurants and bars scattered around James Street and Goodwin Terrace, including Rick Shores, Restaurant Labart, Iku and Burleigh Pavilion – maybe make time to stay a night or two.
Explore Springbrook National Park and Tamborine Mountain
Tourists on the Gold Coast often spend so much time lured by the city’s beaches and night life, they forget to make time to visit the hinterland a short drive west. Springbrook National Park is perhaps the most impressive – an enormous primordial plateau populated by thick rainforests, waterfalls, bush walks, and numerous lookouts with jaw-dropping views of the city and the ocean beyond. Further north is Tamborine Mountain, which is where to head if you’re after something more community-minded. This sleepy township boasts exceptional walking trails, waterfalls and views west towards the Scenic Rim. There’s also a handsome high street with quaint tourist shops, a brewpub and a clutch of cafes that are worth checking out. Try to visit on a Sunday morning so you can explore a local producers’ market that takes over the Mount Tamborine Showgrounds.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Australia. Whether you’re seeking a quick getaway, lazy holiday or epic trek, Australia is a land of endless adventures. There’s never been a better – or more important – time to get out and explore. Take a Holiday Here This Year.