Mavis's Kitchen.
Mavis's Kitchen. Linda Cunningham

Choose your own adventure on the NSW North Coast

Pondering a post-Games getaway to the Gold Coast? Sure, you can hang around Byron in the hope of spotting Chris Hemsworth in his natural habitat (more on that later), but you won't regret taking the chance to explore holiday heaven on the threshold of the Gold Coast.

Stretching south from the Gold Coast Airport, the New South Wales North Coast is the drive destination that lets you choose your own adventure.

My whirlwind weekend begins far from the madding crowd, the lush landscape of the Tweed unfurling in my mirror as I make a beeline for the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre.

Perched high on a hill at Murwillumbah, the modern gallery is beautiful inside and out and you can lose yourself for hours exploring art-lined hallways, before soaking up the scenery from the cafe.

The outdoor balcony offers the best vantage of the Green Cauldron, with the Mt Warning Shield Volcano punctuating the dramatic skyline.

From here, follow the road to the village of Uki, stopping at Mavis's Kitchen for some country hospitality. The verandas of the beautiful old, white Queenslander are destined for Devonshire teas starring fluffy scones slathered in jam and cream.

Take the Mount Warning turn-off from the Murwillumbah road to stretch your legs on the Lyrebird Track.


Family exploring the base of Mount Warning along the Lyrebird track at Mount Warning National Park.
Family exploring the base of Mount Warning along the Lyrebird track at Mount Warning National Park. Sharyn Cairns

Just off the carpark at the base of the mountain, this gentle walk winds 600m (return) through towering palms to a rainforest viewing platform.

If you're looking for a convenient beach base with proximity to some of the region's most-loved restaurants, stay overnight in Cabarita. I stayed at the The Beach Resort, which offers well-equipped two, three and four-bedroom apartments just a stumble from the sand. It's tempting to while away the day with a good book by the frangipani-fringed pools at the complex's heart, but the Norries Headland walk is a must for spectacular ocean views.

To sample the best of that blue backyard, book dinner at Kingscliff fine diner Fins, helmed by gregarious celeb chef and cookbook author Steven Snow.

Snowy's fish - whiting on the night I dined - is a respectful showcase of sustainable seafood, dressed with riesling and a lick of lemon and stunning in its simplicity.

The next morning, Casuarina's Italian-inspired eatery Osteria turns on the charm for breakfast, showcasing produce plucked straight from its rambling garden.

From the street there's little hint of the venue's potential, but if you step inside the white picket fence, duck through bougainvillea arches and mysterious doors, you'll discover a series of sweet settings. Dine in a courtyard clad in corrugated iron and raw-edged timber, alive with twinkle-light studded pillars of devil's ivy.


The Tweed offers a surprising array of destinations waiting to be explored.
The Tweed offers a surprising array of destinations waiting to be explored. contributed

Heading back on the road south, I've got Byron in my sights, but call into the shire's better-kept secret Brunswick Heads on the way. Here you can hire tinnies, canoes and stand-up boards from the pirate boat (Brunswick Buccaneers, moored opposite the Brunswick Hotel) to cruise the river at your own pace. The water is so clear you've got good odds of spotting turtles, stingrays and schools of fish.

Brunswick Picture House is the character-filled home of cinema, circus, cabaret and comedy. The town is also known for its vintage shops, so your odds of finding op-shop gold are good.

The Bruns Bakery delivers when it comes to coffee, croissants and custard tarts, or save room for lunch at Park Street Home Made Pasta Bar, where gorgonzola cream gnocchi will knock your socks off.

Taking the Byron turn-off, drive straight into The Farm to meet their mascot, the fuzzy highland cow Braveheart, or crack your own macadamias in the orchard.

While Byron has its rites of passage - a sunset session at Australia's most easterly point, a balcony beer in the heart of town - you'll improve your odds of hanging out with a Hemsworth if you take the local lead.

Sip a turmeric, rose and baobab latte at the pretty, plant-based Folk cafe and keep your eyes peeled. You never know who you'll bump into in Byron.

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