Just a short drive over the Queensland border, you will discover alluring seaside communities dotted along the supreme northern rivers coastline. Incredible food and beverages to satisfy all taste buds and attractions that everyone can enjoy. These coastal communities are the perfect sanctuary for travellers both near and far who are seeking a day trip, weekend getaway, or extended holiday. The list below includes the best things to do in northern NSW.
School holidays provide travellers with an opportunity to have an extended vacation or opt for a long weekend in a location that is only a short drive away. I am not oblivious to the fact that they are the most expensive time to travel and if you want to put a dent in the piggy bank than a trip during peak season, in particular, Easter and January will help you accomplish this but, sometimes it may be the only option.
During a past school holiday period, knowing all to well what to expect when I was trawling the internet for somewhere to visit, we opted for a three-day getaway just over the border in northern NSW. We had never seen the attractions in this area and wanted to enjoy them from a tourist perspective. It was a perfect escape for a long weekend, and if you are interested in knowing the must-see sights and attractions, the below three-day itinerary shares the best places to visit on NSW north coast.
This post contains affiliate links – updated in February 2020
- 1 THINGS TO DO IN NORTHERN NSW
- 2 DAY 1
- 3 DAY 2
- 4 DAY 3
- 5 FOOD SCENE – WHERE TO EAT
- 6 BRUNSWICK CAFES
- 7 POTTSVILLE CAFES
- 8 CHOOSING YOUR ACCOMMODATION BASE
- 9 TYPES OF ACCOMMODATION
- 10 WHERE TO STAY?
THINGS TO DO IN NORTHERN NSW
FRESH IS BEST – TROPICAL FRUIT WORLD NSW
If you are travelling from the Gold Coast, take advantage of Tropical Fruit Worlds location and visit the 65 hectare (175 acres) farm on your way down the coast. By opting to see this attraction first, it gives visitors the added advantage of arriving at opening time. We learned this was a wise decision as it allowed ample time to spend at Tropical Fruit World NSW without rushing.
The farm has many lookout points where you can enjoy 360 degrees of picturesque views. The magnificent Mount Warning and Tweed cane fields can be seen in the distance while the lush green rolling hills that are so vivid around this area are a result of the deluge of rain they receive each year.
The rich red soil is ideally suited to grow tropical fruit, which was one of the main reasons Bob and Val Brinsmead purchased the property in 1972. The plantation has an array of different fruit from all regions that can be seen when you take the tractor tour around the farm. Bounce along on the open trailer while listening to the enthusiastic farm guide, explain the history, and point out the different fruits along the way.
Of course, you don’t visit a fruit farm without being able to sample some of the produce, and there is nothing more delicious than fresh fruit picked from a tree. Upon the tour through the plantation, you will stop to taste the bananas and macadamias grown on the farm. Don’t miss the fruit tasting workshop, where your taste buds will be delighted with many fruits from common to peculiar, which may I add is a brilliant way to get the kids excited about trying new foods.
The enjoyment does not stop there; the farm was created with additional fun activities from a boat and train ride, an animal farmyard, a playground, and a recreation area. When it’s time to rest your legs refuel in the café, which is another area to taste more of the fabulous dressings, sauces, and local honey, as well as testing some of the delectable skincare products.
You can read our full guide to TROPICAL FRUIT WORLD HERE.
BEACH LIFE – HASTINGS POINT BEACH
On a family holiday, we learned long ago to incorporate something for everyone within the day – compromise is key! So, even though we knew everyone would have a blast at our activities as they were all family-friendly, we planned them for the morning and then scheduled in the much needed “rest time” in the afternoon.
There are spectacular beaches all along the New South Wales coastline, and as our family loves some beach action, we planned a visit to Hastings Point beach for our afternoon siesta. The afternoon beach outings are fundamentally the definition of “slow travel” for us, and I feel they are one of the best ways for us to connect and spend quality time together as a family. There are patrolled beaches up and down the coast, and no matter where you choose to stay, it’s likely you’ll be able to claim your patch of sand while frolicking in the ocean waters.
Hastings Point Creek is another option if you prefer not to tackle the ocean waves. The inlet is where Cudgera Creek curves its way round to meet the ocean and, in turn, creates an aquatic playground for everyone. The combination of sandy beaches that stretch around the outside of the creek bed and clear, calm waters are perfect ingredients for an extremely popular swimming area.
If you have early risers, and you are staying close to the beach, make the most of this time. It’s not often that I have the opportunity to watch the sunrise over the ocean, so I used our trip away as an opportunity to seize the moment. It was fulfilling being one of the first people to grace the sand that day, and your senses are heightened as you take in the surroundings while waiting for the sun to make its dramatic entrance.
FAR NORTH DELIGHTS – BRUNSWICK HEADS
Brunswick Heads’ popularity as a family-friendly seaside destination dates back to as early as the 1920’s. With its rising popularity, chances are you may have heard of this town appointed the little sister of Byron Bay; it’s renowned for beautiful beaches, calm swimming areas, and trendy cafes.
Situated at the mouth of the Brunswick River, it is an ever-popular camping destination, and though the population is that of a small coastal village, you will be sure to find many visitors during the school holidays and on weekends, enjoying all the things to do in Brunswick Heads. Brunswick Heads is a place where you go to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors by surfing, swimming, fishing, kayaking, golfing, bike riding, and exploring natural surroundings on foot.
A major drawcard to this destination is everything is nearby, and you can easily walk around the township. One of the best ways to explore the streets is by taking the Brunswick Heads fairy trail. Collect a map from the Brunswick visitor’s centre and wander the streets in search of the fairy houses and their hidden messages. The Brunswick Heads fairy trail walk leads you over timber bridges towards some of the finest beaches and is a hit with children as they excitedly tick off the fairy houses on the list.
There is no shortage of swimming areas at Brunswick Heads, with the calm, shallow river water being a popular place for not only families but all visitors. Torakina Beach is another ideal location for as it’s situated between the break walls at the mouth of the Brunswick River; virtually swell free, it is a perfect substitute to the main beach with ocean swells.
EASTERLY LIGHT – FINGAL HEAD
The sandy path bordered by dense plants and mangrove bushes leads the way to Fingal Head Lighthouse, the oldest public building in the Tweed Shire. Most of the walk is easy and flat until you near closer to the headland, where you will need to climb around 20 steps and ascend a ramp to reach the top of the hill. As you stop to admire the Fingal Head Lighthouse, a historic landmark that sits proudly on the cliffs, the main drawcard that makes many people return to this location repeatedly is the picturesque views.
Standing on one of the most easterly points in Australia, the views sweep all along the coast with a focal point being Cook Island just off the coastline. Take a moment to appreciate the incredible cliffs that are underneath your feet and cloaked with large hexagonal boulders that were formed from cooling lava from Mount Warning volcano 43 kilometres away.
If this is your first visit to the area, you can enjoy a picnic lunch on the headland while watching for dolphins that are often seen frolicking in the waves.
TRANQUIL OASIS – CRYSTAL CASTLE BYRON
Peaceful, magical, and beautiful are three words that come to mind when I think of Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens. Contrary to what the name depicts, you won’t find any fortified structures built during the middle ages, yet you will find a unique architecturally designed building that’s adorned with rare and amazing crystals.
You will need to take a 20-minute drive into the Byron Bay hinterland to reach Crystal Castle that’s nestled away in a stunning rainforest location set on 5 hectares. A business that started from humble beginnings, the continual growth and development of the Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens has turned into one of the most well-known and award-winning destinations close to Byron Bay.
Walk through the exquisite sub-tropical gardens that are filled with sculptures, contemplation spaces, and the largest stone Blessing Buddha in Australia. The gardens display some of the largest crystals in the world that date back over 500 million years.
There are daily workshops and experiences to encounter during the day, a nutritiously rich café with spectacular views overlooking the Byron Shire and a retail shop to return home with your very own crystal and special keepsake of your visit to this enriching attraction.
FOOD SCENE – WHERE TO EAT
With all the above sightseeing, there is no doubt you will work up an appetite during your travels. Luckily the north coast NSW area has no shortage of trendy cafes, delicious restaurants, and tasty takeaway options. We can recommend the below based on their location, menu options, and of course, value for money:
BRUNSWICK HEADS BAKERY
The Brunswick Heads Bakery is much more than your stock standard bakery, it is, in fact, one of the most popular eatery options in the town. Large enough to accommodate indoor dining, the open cafe has a long glass filled display selling all types of tasty delicacies from salad wraps, fruit salad, cakes, desserts, and of course, some of the best pies and pastries around. A popular choice for those who want to grab a takeaway lunch and picnic down by the river. Due to the popularity of the bakery, it does sell out of their freshly baked goods, so get in quick.
Brunswick Hotel is a local landmark in the small town and dates back to the early 1900s. Taking advantage of the supreme weather in the area and picturesque views over the river Brunswick Hotel has a huge alfresco dining area where you can sit under the shady poinciana trees or picnic umbrellas while having a drink or something to eat from their bistro, which delivers classic pub food. There is a kid’s menu to appease the fussiest of eaters, and it’s perfectly located across the road from a children’s playground.
When a café is busy on a Monday morning, you know you have selected well. This small café may go unnoticed if you were driving past, but it is a popular choice by the locals – which is the reason why we stopped in for breakfast one morning. Good things come in small packages, and this is what can be said about the Pottsville Pantry. What they lack in overall space they make up for with their portion sizes and delicious meals. Their quick counter style service, kid’s menu, and little children’s corner cater well to families.
Opened for breakfast and lunch, we stopped into the bakehouse for a sweet and savoury afternoon tea. The hardest decision was what to choose with so many delicious options available from pies, sausage rolls, quiches, cakes, and tarts. Fresh, fast, and fabulous, it ticked all the boxes.
CHOOSING YOUR ACCOMMODATION BASE
The question many people ask when travelling to northern New South Wales is what coastal town should we use as our base? There are several factors you need to consider before hitting search on the Google browser.
YOUR ACTIVITIES – If you are staying in a location for a short period, you may want to stay central to all the activities available for convenience.
TRANSPORTATION – Will you have a car on your getaway? If not, consider accommodation venues close to public transport.
POPULARITY OF DESTINATION – Do you like crowds, or would you prefer to be located somewhere away from the hustle and bustle?
NEARBY DINING – If you are foodies, you may want to consider staying somewhere close to nearby dining.
TYPES OF ACCOMMODATION
There is a variety of accommodation options in Hastings Point, Pottsville, and Brunswick Heads from hotels, motels, caravan holiday parks, serviced apartments, Airbnbs, and more. Similar to the above, there are factors to consider before choosing the type of accommodation.
FACILITIES – What facilities do you need during your stay and can the type of accommodation you choose provide what is needed?
BUDGET – It is recommended to know your budget before searching, as accommodation is one of the areas that can make a significant impact on the cost of a trip.
SIZE OF YOUR GROUP – Are you travelling as a couple, family, or large group? The number of people can influence what type of accommodation you choose.
WHERE TO STAY?
To make the process simpler, you may like to read the latest reviews on TripAdvisor on where to stay along the north coast of NSW.
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