Tweed River Cruise



Recently, Kenn and I finally redeemed a Red Balloon experience voucher
that our favourite Darwinites: Lyndsay and Reece had gifted us for Christmas. Luckily for me, the experience didn’t involve throwing myself out of a plane at 20,000 feet, bungee jumping off a bridge or hang gliding around the lighthouse at Byron Bay: the stuff of heart attacks or death by misadventure for as you would know if you’re a regular reader, I’m not the most coordinated of people. Instead a beautiful, peaceful river cruise on the beautiful Tweed River which flows into the Pacific Ocean just south of the NSW and Queensland border awaited us.

This was our cruise boat. I liked how accessible it was. I noticed that one of the passengers was in a wheelchair and it didn’t pose a problem.

 


There were a few different cruises available to choose from but Lyndsay and Reece had selected Tweed Eco Cruises for us. Based at the Tweed Marina, 2 River Terrace Tweed Heads, they were only about an hour away from Byron Bay, and easy to find. There was ample off street parking. The Marina itself was very picturesque.

There were yachts bobbing around
Houseboats for hire
And the prawn fishing fleet was in dock.

Right on time, we chugged away through the Terranora Inlet. We chose to sit on the upper deck on comfy deckchairs to enjoy the open air and the breeze. The passengers were mainly tourists, many from overseas and varied in age from a little four year old girl to a couple of very elderly ladies.

I liked how these chairs were moveable so that you could follow the shade.

As we passed through the Inlet on our way to the main branch of the river, the captain provided just the right amount of commentary on the early history of the river and current developments.

He pointed out the repair to the boardwalk at Keith Curran Reserve. This boardwalk is one of those gems that unless you knew it was there, you wouldn’t know it exited. The walking skirts the inlet and finishes at a pergola draped in vines.

This gives way to an open grassy expanse overlooking a sandy beach. The walkway officially re- opened two days ago and Kenn and I can’t wait to explore it .

Passing the reserve, we found ourselves on the main part of the river heading towards the river mouth at Fingal Head and then we turned around and went upstream towards Tumbulgum, a quaint riverside village. The views were lovely. Sugarcane fields and tea tree plantations surrounded us and we passed an amazing floating island.

The water was such a beautiful colour and always in the distance you could see the unmistakable silhouette of Mt Warning, the extinct volcano which dominates the landscape of the Tweed. The walk to the summit is a hard yet rewarding experience. The views on a clear day are amazing. But be warned. The indigenous people of the area call the mountain, Wollumbin meaning ‘cloud catcher’ and many including myself have begun the climb in sunshine only to reach the summit and find themselves surrounded by mist!
Sugarcane fields as far as the eye can see. Certainly an easy way to enjoy a delicious morning tea.
And a tea tree plantation.

We passed Stott’s Island which is classified as a floating island, as the river’s floods and tides have eroded the subsoil away. The island is anchored to the bed of the river by the roots of the large rainforest trees such as the Morton Bay fig in the centre of the photo.

Just before we arrived at Tumbulgum, we witnessed a bird of prey feeding from the back of the boat.

The eagles and the pelicans swooping down was wonderful to watch

Tumbulgum awaited. We had an hour to explore the village and enjoy a welcome drink at the pub while the crew prepared our lunch.

There are a couple of eateries, a gallery , a riverside walk and the pub. In the pub was a fascinating collection of photos from the pioneer days. The size of the cedar trees that were felled have to be seen to be believed.

Time was up in Tumbulgum and lunch awaited. As we retraced our steps along the river, we enjoyed a tasty seafood buffet. The salads were fresh and plentiful and the seafood generous: three or four oysters, at least half a dozen king prawns and large pieces of crab together with a complementary glass of wine as the crew had had some trouble with the barbecue. Those who had chosen the barbecue option were not disappointed either. Their steak looked wonderful and they had prawns as well.

Our cruise had taken about four and a half hours and we were home in plenty of time for dinner. While this was not as exciting as cruising and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or as historically significant as the Gordon River Cruise in Tasmania, this was a very pleasant experience, one that I would share with visitors to our home in the future as it’s so accessible. Do you have a favourite?

Byron Bay’s beautiful and peaceful Three Sisters’ walk.

Looking down at the incoming surf from the Three Sisters’ track, at Broken Head, Byron Bay

Most visitors to Byron Bay love the walk that takes them up to the Bay’s iconic lighthouse and down to the Australia’s most easterly point. It offers those who are willing to tackle the steps to the top, lovely beach and coastal rainforest vistas. And leaning on the fence at the point, you can gaze out over a seemingly limitless Pacific ocean or peruse the bottom of the cliff where turtles and dolphins like to hang out. And because it is so lovely, there are always lots of people to share the moment with you.

But if you hanker for a little bit of shady solitude or want to imagine yourself castaway on your own private, pristine little cove then meandering along the Three Sisters’ walk at Broken Head just to the south of the centre of Byron Bay might be for you. It certainly suited our daughter Lyndsay who together with baby Ilyssia was visiting us from Darwin.

Ilyssia loves hiking with her mum.  Perfect for a cat nap

Jingi Walla” you are welcomed to the track, which begins to the right of the Broken Head carpark, by the traditional owners and joint custodians of the Broken Head Nature Reserve, the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay. The track is only 1.6 kms return and follows the clifftop to a lookout over Kings Beach.

Initially, you enter a shady tunnel of greenery where
the lighthouse can be glimpsed through the trees, standing firm at the northern end of Tallows Beach
Even though it has been very dry, the Cottonwood canapy provides welcome shade as you wind around the headland and …
across little wooden bridges.

And then the rainforest comes to an end and you find yourself high on a grassy headland overlooking the Three Sisters which give their name to the track.
A sad but cautionary tale.
These little coves are easily accessible at low tide but the currents can be quite dangerous. It is a paddle and picnic spot for me.
There is always a lovely breeze here as well as stunning views.

From the lookout you can see Kings Beach in the background.
At low tide you can access the beach from the lookout otherwise access is via a steep rainforest track found along the Broken Head Nature Reserve dirt road. Although this is a clothing optional beach, it is a lovely excursion for cooler days.
And then its back to where we began.

As well as the Three Sisters Walk, Broken Head has a beautiful beach which is patrolled in school holidays. Across the dunes from the beach is a large grassy play area complete with undercover picnic tables and barbecues. There is also an amenities block and basic supplies such as an essential ice cream or two, can be obtained from the kiosk in the adjoining Holiday Park.

Maybe I’ll see you on the headland sometime soon.

Sunflower Magic at ‘The Farm’, Byron Bay

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A touch of the South of France in Byron Bay

Visiting ‘The Farm’ at Ewingsdale is always a delight. Not only is it a working farm but it features an award winning restaurant where the food is sourced from the local community, much of it being grown in the paddocks that surround the restaurant hub, a bakery, a nursery and organic whole foods market.

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A very relaxed vibe permeates the Farm

Children are really catered for as there is plenty of space to run around and explore, animals to see and a wonderful playground.

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The slippery dip is quite steep, so those with younger children would have to be careful.

But at the moment, there is something really special to see. The people at ‘The Farm’ have created a simple maze through their sunflower field which is in full bloom.

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The bees were in heaven

Huddy was keen for an adventure especially when I  promised him a cupcake from the bakery for morning tea! The holiday season has abated so parking wasn’t a hassle and soon with cupcake safely devoured, we set off to explore the maze.

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The path was particularly muddy, so Huddy decided he would like an elevated view of the sunflowers

It was so beautiful. I was almost in a Van Gogh painting.

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I love the pollen on the leaves, looks like gold dust.

The path winds here and there and then emerges beside the vegetable gardens and the chicken pens.

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had fun trying to identify some of the veggies

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Very fat, happy chooks

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There were some baby chickens which Huddy particularly liked. I thought they were super cute too.

A run on the lawn and a play on the slippery dip and it was home time.

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A lovely view of the Byron Hinterland from the lawn

I hope if you’re able that you’ll be able to tip toe through the sunflowers like we did.

 

 

Riding Byron Bay’s Solar Train

Did you know that Byron Bay now has the world’s first fully solar train? Although the train launched on the 16th December last year, we hadn’t taken a ride until just before Easter, a couple of  weeks ago.

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Solar panels look so cool on the old red ‘rattler’ train that I remember riding when I was young.

As departure times and fares can vary with the season, you can check out current details here  The train runs a shuttle service along a three kilometre stretch from North Beach station in Sunrise Beach to the Byron Beach Platform in Byron Bay. Both stations conveniently offer seating, shelter and bicycle racks. There is also ample parking nearby.

It was a very fun experience which we shared with our Brisbane friend Julie and our grandson, Huddy. Now serendipitously,  Huddy, like so many other little boys  loves Thomas the Tank engine. So you can imagine how fascinated he was!

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Look Poppy, I have my ticket. Can’t we get on the train NOW?

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Poppy, that red wheel is asking me to turn it.

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Yep, one hand is all you need!

We virtually had the train to ourselves and Huddy was lucky enough to be invited by the train driver into his inner sanctum.

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Be careful, there are birds out there!

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Keep the train on the tracks, please. Maybe we should slow down for the curves?

And then  there were the carriages to explore…

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Do I really have to sit still?

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I can see much better standing up!

Needless to say, Julie, Kenn and I didn’t feel the need to explore the upholstery like Huddy but we did enjoy the scenic journey. While in Sunrise, I took the opportunity to show Julie around Elements of Byron, our latest 5 star resort and one of my favourite places for coffee and lunch. But Huddy was getting a little restless, so we settled for a late lunch at the Sun Bistro instead. The Bistro, which is just a few steps away from the North Byron station, offers tasty, economical food and plenty of space for little ones to run around.

The Solar train might only travel a few kilometres but it gives us a glimpse of what the future might hold while preserving some of our railway heritage. Maybe you’ll have time to take a ride next time you’re in the Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byron Bay Japanese Festival

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Kizuna Taiko Team : a fantastic Japanese drumming group from the Gold Coast

Last Sunday, hoping to celebrate and share some of their cultural traditions, the local Japanese community hosted  the inaugural ‘Japan’ festival on the  Byron Bay beachfront.  We knew that parking would be difficult so parked close to Clarkes Beach, just a short walk away from the festival.

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Such a perfect day: even though the seat beckoned, I resisted for I could see the flags of the festival up ahead.

There were lots of stalls to explore,  outside on the beachfront and inside the Surf Club. I was drawn to the beautiful clothing,  pottery and jewelery.

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So many lovely shapes and the glazes – just beautiful

 

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I love clothes made of Japanese cotton: the material just gets silkier with every wash and last and last..

All around were members of the Japanese community and their families having fun. The children in particular, looked adorable.

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We arrived just as this activity was finishing.

And while a variety of alternative therapies are always a feature of markets in our area, it was interesting to see a Japanese perspective.  I was particularly intrigued by the Singing Bowl tent.  It seemed a little similar to the Acutonics therapy that my sister Maryanne has trained in and which is gaining a devoted following.

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Multiple Singing rings or bowls are placed around and on the body. As the Harmonic Sound Resonance  from the bowls vibrate around and through the body,   a deep  sense of relaxation and well being is engendered. The lucky recipient of this massage/therapy seems very content and there was quite a line up of those wanting to experience this for the first time. More information can be found at https://www.singingring.com.au 

And inside the surf club, there were lots of cultural activities on show.  Part of the club had been turned into a tea house for the afternoon where still and silent, an appreciative audience enjoyed the tranquility and harmony of the ‘tea ceremony’.

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I sometimes think that Japan is the Scandinavia of the East: uncluttered  interiors, natural colour schemes and every thing within, a thing of beauty.

There was origami jewellery,  a calligraphy workshop,  a landscape artist and Japanese board games to enjoy to name just a few of the activities on offer.

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These cards would make any occasion,  very special.

And then there were the food stalls! I will confess, it was the thought of a yummy plate of gyoza ( japanese dumplings), piping hot pork buns and yakitori that had initially enticed me to the festival.  Food in hand, Kenn and I found a lovely shady spot under a nearby Pandanus palm and enjoyed every morsel and a wonderful beach view.

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The water was really lovely. Following our time at the festival, Kenn and I grabbed the beach umbrella, our swimming costumes and enjoyed a couple of hours of quality beach time. Bliss.

But for me, the highlight of the festival were the performances. Firstly a small group of Japanese children who live locally and attend a Japanese language and culture class once a week sang and danced for us.

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It was delightful how the older children looked after the little ones. A lovely performance.

A musical duet featuring Japanese instruments followed.

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There is a haunting quality to the sound that these instruments produce. It reminded me of one of my favourite records; James Galway’s “Songs of the Seashore, a collection of Japanese melodies”.

And the final performance was a Japanese drumming group from the Gold Coast.   They treated us to three, terrific compositions utilising the drums in different ways. Their energy and enjoyment was infectious.  For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a drummer!

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The drummers really loved drumming and it showed! Their rhythms rocked the beach.

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The sound of the barrel bass drum down the back was amazing.

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The amount of force used and the variations in dynamics was impressive. No tuck shop arms here!

The festival was a great success. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coastal Recreational Path: a walk to remember.

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Sharpe’s Beach at Lennox Head – Our starting point .

Feel like a gentle stroll or bike ride along a path offering lovely vistas of a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline? Then the Coastal Recreational Path might be just the thing for you. The path, which is being constructed by Ballina Shire Council, aims to connect the coastal village of Lennox Head from the Pat Morton Lookout to Angels Beach in Ballina. The southern section from Sharpe’s Beach to Angel’s Beach has been finished and as Kenn and I discovered, is well worth exploring.

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This section of the path is quite short, only about 5 kms return.

We accessed the path from the Sharpe’s Beach car park as this was the closest access point to Byron Bay.  The first section of the path to Flat Rock winds through picturesque heath land

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We’ve had a bit of rain lately and everything is so, so green!

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The actual coast road is behind those pine trees in the distance.

while offering lovely views of the ocean.

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We noticed lots of little paths winding down to the beach, perfect for those seeking refuge from the crowds

When we reached Flat Rock, we found a viewing platform and of course access to a fantastic beach. For those who enjoy camping, there is also a tent park here.

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Even the signposts are visually stunning.

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If you look closely, you can see the flat rock in the water which gives it name to this headland.

Then the path meanders through coastal wetlands and  instead of smooth bitumen we found ourselves on a slightly elevated metal walkway,

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this section was quite shady, a good thing in the heat of the afternoon

wandering past gnarly coastal banksias.

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Native lilies will grow in the most unusual places.

One of the things I loved about the path were the information boards providing interesting information about how the aboriginal people had interacted with the land as well as some of their dreaming stories.

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I love how the boards blend in with the environment.

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The sculptures enhance your walking experience

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My photo doesn’t do this justice. This board utilises archival photographs from the 1920s to represent how aboriginal people might have interacted with the wetlands.

All too soon, we found ourselves at Angel’s Beach.

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I really don’t think you could get lost on this path!

 

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Just another perfect beach. We didn’t think of it on the day, but we could have walked back to Sharpe’s Beach along the beach instead of retracing our steps.  Love dabbling my feet in the sea. Next time?

It was also lovely to see lots of little ones on the path, cruising along in their strollers or peddling their tricycles with Mum and Dad ambling along behind.  The path is very flat, perfect for beginners as well as the more advanced to ride along. We even spotted a toy poodle standing up in a bike basket, paws on the handlebars having the best time.

All too soon we were back in Lennox heading home. Next time we plan to bring our bikes and a picnic. Maybe we’ll see you there!

 

 

 

The Perils of Winter Golf

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Spring is almost here and in the Northern Rivers, the weather of late has been perfect for golf: cool mornings and warm days brushed with gentle breezes.  Out on the course, everyone seems happy, even the ducks.  Indeed, we had so much sunny weather in August that I have developed ‘golf foot’.  This condition is not to be confused with ‘trench foot’  which is caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions  and which afflicted our WW1 diggers. Rather it is a condition in which your lower extremities come to resemble your driver in reverse. Legs are tanned by prolonged exposure to the sun while from the ankles down, your feet are silvery white. It’s not a look that you’ll see on the catwalks of Paris anytime soon!

And while it is lovely right now, we’ve had our fair share of wintry conditions. It hasn’t been super cold. Unlike the lady golfers from the Central West of NSW who ventured out to play their weekly comp despite fog and frost and being buffeted  by icy winds fresh from the Alps, we haven’t had to contend with freezing conditions. However we have faced storms, hail and very, very wet conditions.

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The fairway at Cowra! How hard would it be to find a white ball? I wonder  if one is allowed to play golf in Ugg boots? Local rule change? 

In June, we experienced a series of big storms. We could see them approaching but luckily made it through a game without a drenching.

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It was a bit grey and not a lot of run but a little bit of golf was better than no golf at all.

But the storms brought water, a lot of water!  The Mullumbimby golf course went under and was closed for a time. It reopened to walkers only. What we didn’t appreciate until we got to the course was that we weren’t really walking: we were wading and sloshing our way down the fairways.

Did you know that a golf ball can land on a puddle and skip along, skimming the water like a low flying ballistic missile? And just like a ballistic missile, have a homing device attached? I discovered that mine did! Without fail, my balls would come to rest in the deepest, most inaccessible drainage ditch. I’m a slow learner. It took a few lost balls before I dug out my most decrepit balls. But these balls wouldn’t get lost. Isn’t that always the way?

Even with preferred lie, conditions were tough. Balls would soar beautifully through the air only to come back to earth with a plop, nestling comfortably in the oozy mud. They needed and received a good talking to from our irons! Even the greens, where I have felt most comfortable posed real problems. On one green I watched in horror as my ball parted the waters, slowing down as it did so. What should have been a gimme putt became a three or four or five putt but who was counting? On the next, I of course over-compensated.  My ball sailed past the hole onto the other side of the green and into the welcoming arms of a bunker. So considerate of it. Wiping: holes, balls, sticks, shoes, legs, shirts and buggies became the order of the day.

Even when it  started to dry out,  and we could see most of the fairways again, there was still a lot of water and mud about. All the water hazards were full and a mistimed shot spelled disaster. We beginner golfers very quickly came to appreciate the benefits of ‘laying up’ even if we couldn’t execute perfectly.

It was not all doom and gloom. We played with preferred lie and other benefits for over a month. I loved being able to place my ball on top of the rough grass with which I have had a long standing love affair. And it was good to get in all that iron practice. But I was glad when all was dry again. As a beginner golfer, I need all the run I can get.

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Our Tuesday golf group also had a fun golf morning at Byron Bay, followed by morning tea at the Byron at Byron! So civilised!

And so Spring beckons. Determined to make the most of the great weather before the summer heat and humidity set in, we have found ourselves playing up to three times a week:  some social, some comp. While like many, I have preferred playing Stableford, on Saturday I’ve agreed to play my first stroke round.  Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

Oh, I almost forgot. As I was having a golf lesson on Tuesday, my coach Nicky told me that in Japan, Amateurs and Professionals stop for lunch at the end of 9 holes.  Having consumed a delightful lunch and possibly some sake, they cheerfully resume their match. Beats our ten minute comfort break hands down! What do you think?

Happy golfing everyone.