MOLTEN rocks spewed through the air and bubbled from gassy crevices. The earth lurched and shuddered as the enormous shield volcano reshaped all around it. As the hire car sweeps along the Tomewin Range Rd into the Tweed Valley, I’m greatly relieved that the fire and brimstone ended more than 20 million years ago.
As I travel along this little-known scenic drive, the view is nothing short of breathtaking. Passing farmlands and lush rainforests, I’m always under the gaze of the ancient Mount Warning.
It’s no wonder the caldera – part of Australia’s Green Cauldron – has been identified officially as one of Australia’s National Landscapes. What’s hard to reconcile is that the Tweed Valley is less than half-an-hour’s drive from the bustling Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta, and most people zoom past on the Pacific Highway without realising the wonders a detour into the Mt Warning Wollumbin Caldera would bring.
My first stop is at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat. It is surrounded on three sides by world heritage-listed national parks and visitors have access to 8km of rainforest walks.
Each of the [luxury bungalows is] strategically placed to provide total seclusion. I highly recommend taking a refreshing swim in the natural creek pool after a rainforest walk – the stresses of daily life will simply melt away as the natural serenity of the rainforest envelops you.
Meandering out of the Tweed Valley, my journey heads towards the coastal village of Brunswick Heads. Massey Green Holiday Park is positioned alongside the main channel of the Brunswick River and is a short stroll to both shops and patrolled surf beach, making it an ideal base for a family holiday.
Fishing, swimming, kayaking, snorkelling, and surfing – almost every water sport you could think of is available at Brunswick Heads.
Heading south along the highway I arrive at the thriving coastal holiday town of Byron Bay. Mandatory is a visit to Cape Byron Lighthouse, which sits on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Byron Bay is bold, brash and offers great shopping, dining and myriad water-based activities you would expect from a large coastal tourist hub.
Further south still, sitting on the Richmond River is Ballina. The one place to tuck into a crustacean is The Point restaurant under the Ramada Hotel. The food and wine on offer here is fantastic and made from the best local produce.
From Ballina, a short drive inland brings you to the rolling hills of Alstonville. There are many wonderful B&Bs scattered throughout the hills and valleys. Tallaringa Views B&B consists of romantic modern cabins – Cedar Cabin and Rosewood Retreat. Both eco-friendly cottages have breathtaking views through to the Nightcap Range.
Swinging north again on the Pacific Highway, I arrive at the historic Federation Village of Bangalow. Although only 15 minutes drive from Byron Bay, Bangalow has not been seduced by commercialism.
This region has so much to offer. Forget about heading to the loud, brash Surfers Paradise the next time you exit the Gold Coast airport – head south and meander along the Rivers of Life through the Tweed Valley and coast and the Northern Rivers.
The author travelled courtesy of Rivers of Life.