When I was a kid our annual holiday used to be 2 weeks on the Gold Coast. It was back in the days when there were 3 school terms, and the May holidays each year would be when we’d go to the beach. South East Queensland is at its best at that time of the year – the daytime (and ocean) temps are still warm, but the nights are cooling and the humidity is gone.
We were a family of 6 so looking back it was probably no mean feat either financially (Mum never worked outside the home – but how she did what she did still amazes me) or logistically. We’d all pile into the station wagon, us 3 girls in the back seat, my brother in the front between Mum and Dad, and off we’d head up the highway.
It was quite a drive too in those days – there weren’t the bypasses of towns then that there are now. What would now take 10 hours probably took 14 back then – longer with my middle sister throwing up.
For several years our holiday accommodation was a fibro beach house across the road from Greenmount Beach. We could cross the street to the beach where we spent most of every day and walk through the block at the back into the main street for the daily bakery run and white bread for our devon and tomato sauce sandwiches. Our annual treat was dinner at the Pizza Hut on Kirra Hill (we never went out for dinner at any other time); we’d visit places like Currumbin Bird Sanctuary, and every second year we’d go to Sea World further up the Gold Coast. At night we’d hear Dad throwing his thongs (rubber flip-flops) at cockroaches on the thin walls and as I got older, my morning ritual was to swim the length of the beach. At 15 I obviously had no fear of sharks (or Noah’s, as Dad called them – Noah’s Ark – sharks… it’s a rhyming slang thing). We used to go and watch trawlers coming in with their catches; and if we were lucky, would get to help the fishermen pull in their nets laden with mullet off the beach.
They were idyllic years, yet the last time I was in Coolangatta was the year I turned 16 – almost 40 years ago.
But I digress. We were visiting as part of a weekend away to celebrate our (28th) wedding anniversary. We’d chosen the Tweed Valley as while we’d driven through on the highway, we’d never actually stopped or explored. That was about to change.
I’m not sure what I expected. I knew the beachfront would have changed, that the old guesthouses and fibro shacks would have been replaced by something different. I wasn’t however, expecting the whole of Marine Parade to be resorts and restaurants and shopping. Progress, I guess. I’m estimating our fibro house went the same way as the other fibro houses some time in the nineties or early 2000s. There’s a massive Mantra resort there now.
I didn’t even really recognise the beach – although the pines at the southern end near the headland that goes over to Rainbow Bay hadn’t changed. It was a ridiculous sort of comfort to know that something was the same.
We stopped for lunch at a Vietnamese café on Marine Parade. Grant had a Hue-style spicy pho or noodle soup, and I went for the Vietnamese pancake – or Bánh xèo. Made from rice flour, water and turmeric powder it’s stuffed full of veg and herbs with (in this case) a little chicken.
To eat, you wrap it in a lettuce leaf and dip it into a dipping sauce. So yummy and one of those dishes that is both satisfying and accidentally healthy.
Just 15 minutes away on a hill overlooking the valley with glimpses of the sea is our home for the next 2 nights.
We have the whole lower floor of the house and it’s luxuriously beautiful- exactly as described on the Air BNB listing.
Adrienne and Peter are the perfect hosts and have thought of every detail – and Joey the cocker spaniel is an absolute delight.
We intended to use the last of the afternoon light to do some exploring, but a chair on the deck with a book and a glass of wine was way too tempting.
If you’re interested in staying here, you can find it here.
For dinner on Saturday night we wandered into Kingscliff. I’d been told that the Taverna was one of the best places to eat, but I’d left it too late to book. Instead, we ate outside at Unicorn. A Med-style seafood restaurant it reminded us so much of Plaka and Con’s in Canberra from back in the days when we were dating – and the food was good and of the sort that never really goes out of style. I started with scallops, Grant with garlic prawns, and we both went for the whole sole for our main. Simply cooked, while it’s a palaver to eat, the sole was sweet and delicate and a real treat – despite the weird blue light over everything.
We’d planned a day touring the hinterland and I’d mapped out a route that I’d hoped would allow us to see the region at its best without attempting to see too much. The weather did, however, have other ideas.
After a brekky of fresh fruit salad and yoghurt (left by our lovely host), we headed for the coast and Pottsville.
There’s a market somewhere on the coast every Sunday – and the first Sunday of the month is Pottsville. While it was raining, it was still a lovely wander.
Our next stop was Tweed Valley Whey Farmhouse Cheeses at Burringbar.
As well as selling their own curd cheeses and yoghurt, they also sell products from local artists and producers.
Also in Burringbar is Heath’s Old Wares and Collectibles.
This is an antique (and junk shop) lover’s treasure trove. I loved the packing and old ammunition boxes and this photo (below) taken in Whitby – a town in Yorkshire that features in my new Philly Barker antiques book.
Behind the counter is a veritable mountain of Akubra hat boxes under which are Singer sewing machine drawers.
While there was lots of pressed glass and some over-priced ceramic mixing bowls, I was after vintage china – but nothing really took my fancy. It was fun to have a rummage around though.
Outside I spotted this Far Out East sign and recognised it from the TV show East of Everything which had been shot not far down the road in Byron Bay in 2008.
Our proposed lunch stop was Mavis’ Kitchen in Uki. This whole area is still cleaning up after the recent floods, with parts of the road still closed after having been washed away.
My Nan’s name was Mavis, so there’s no way we could go past this place.
With a rich organic garden (that I would have loved to have wandered around had the weather been more conducive to wandering through gardens), the menu is inspired by local producers and organically grown (as far as possible) ingredients.
We, however, weren’t that hungry and felt that it was perfect weather for scones – so that’s what we ordered. Although after seeing a serve of 2 scones go past, we quickly changed our order to share a serve between us – a good move as they were huge. They also scored a perfect 5/5 on my scone score.
Husk Distillery in Tumbulgum was our final stop for the day.
With cane farms all around and a sugar mill in town, pure cane sugar rum is the order of the day here – although they also do gin (and some pretty amazing looking lunchtime platters…).
I’ve never been a fan of rum – a bad experience with Bundy rum and the smell of those premixed Bundy and cokes – but this (served with a little sugar syrup and lime) could possibly have converted me.
On the way back to Cobaki we called in quickly at Fingal Head for a look-see where the skies were still stormy, but the rain had (predictably) begun to clear.
While we’d intended to do some more touring on Monday morning before heading home (I wanted to go out to Tyalgum) as it turned out we had to head home early – but not before a stop in Tweed Heads at Bread Social for a road-trip sausage roll for breakfast and some sourdough to take home.
Need to know…
Coolangatta is at the southern end of Queensland’s Gold Coast and lies just inside the Queensland border, with Tweed Heads on the NSW side of the border. It’s about 200kms south of where we are on the Sunshine Coast.