Tucked in between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, the Tweed Coast is a foodie destination all its own. The Tweed Fusion Festival, held annually in October, invites us away from our all-too-comfortable armchairs to explore and experience the environs just beyond our back door. Tweed Fusion is a two-day celebration of arts, music, food and culture, presented by Caldera Institute and Destination Tweed.
A weekend drive is one of our favourite activities, so we accepted the invitation to experience some of the Tweed Coast’s cuisine and striking scenery with lunch at House of Gabriel at Tumbulgum followed by a river trip on a pontoon boat.
Tumbulgum is a ‘sleepy hollow town’ slouched along the Tweed River, a 35 minute drive from the middle of the Gold Coast. House of Gabriel, a 120 year old house and former bakery, would have many tales to tell if it could speak. Tumbulgum, the first European village to be settled in the Tweed area, once had five pubs which were watering holes to a succession of timber workers, bullock drivers, cane cutters and dairy farmers.
In an unusual twist of fate, House of Gabriel’s new owner, Lee Kuhnell, who bought the property with his wife Joanne in February 2015, is the great great grandson of one of the original bullock drivers of the area. He brings to the restaurant his extensive experience as a chef. After initially training on the Tweed, he moved on to RPR’s (now Videre), Lizard Island, Il Centro, before his role as Executive Chef at Brisbane’s Treasury Casino and Jupiter’s Hotel and Casino.
“Returning to the Tweed, we’ve chosen to make a lifestyle change and we couldn’t be happier,” Lee tells us. “There’s everything we need here. We use great local produce, and we make everything in house. Yet we’re not far from either the Gold Coast or Byron. We’re typical of many people in the area who’ve come back to live in this environment.”
What a gorgeous place to settle! House of Gabriel is very genteel, with rambling gardens and wisteria-covered alfresco areas overlooking the lazy river. Chef Lee has prepared individual seafood platters for us: Tasmanian oysters, Tweed prawns and crab, a Moreton Bay bug, smoked salmon, some Panko crumbed prawns and crumbed Mooloolaba whiting with chips and side salad, served with a glass of wine. Delicious fresh seafood, crisp tasty hot seafood and chips. Perfect!
As we leave House of Gabriel, a table of twenty ladies gather for a High Tea, exquisitely set out along the veranda overlooking the river. For us, though, it’s time for another journey…
Our pontoon boat The Lady Austra Tatiana is waiting across the road with Michael Simmons, of Mount Warning Tours, our guide. Michael’s the ‘go to’ man for special events, group kayak trips, boat hire, and even a surprise proposal or two!
The boat trip takes us up the Rous River, which meets the Tweed River at Tumbulgum – ‘the meeting place of the waters’. We’re taking the journey travelled by red cedar logs which, after being felled by hand saws and axes, were dragged out by bullocks to the river and floated down to the mill. There are only about ten stands of red cedar left, and limited original rainforest, but there’s still plenty of bird life to see and enough remnants of past human settlement to stir the imagination. We pass groups fishing from the banks, holidaymakers relaxed on their houseboats, even teens swimming in the river.
Michael points out the views of landmarks which dot the ancient caldera, adding historical points of interest. Recognised as one of Australia’s National Landscapes, the area was once an ancient volcano, with Mt Warning its volcanic plug, the ring of surrounding mountains the rim of the volcanic area now known as Australia’s Green Cauldron.
It’s a perfect day out at Tumbulgum: a bit of local history, some bird watching and stunning views of the ancient volcanic area. Most of all, though, it’s relaxing; a chance to enjoy a taste of a far less hectic lifestyle just beyond our back door.
Tweed Fusion is holding a number of events next weekend. Consider joining one, or enjoy a self-drive tour through the area, guided by Tweed Fusion’s cultural map.
Tweed Fusion’s Sunday Country Picnic is a journey into the unexpected. Picnickers will be transported by coach to a ‘secret location’ somewhere within the ancient caldera.
Chefs will create a sumptuous picnic, set OUT on white clothed tables with all the trimmings in a picture-perfect setting. Their Tweed-inspired menu will give diners a taste of the high quality fresh produce that is abundant in the region.
One of our favourite spots is the Tweed Regional Art Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, Mistral Road, South Murwillumbah. Visit the gallery as part of the SELF DRIVE GALLERY TRAIL – TWEED AND NORTHERN RIVERS which takes you from Café D’Bar on Point Danger to Flutterbies at Tyalgum. Have a light lunch at the Gallery Café on the way, or pop into the Modern Grocer or Ju Ju’s in Murwillumbah for brunch or lunch.
Check out the Tweed Fusion website for details of more events and suggested self-drive itineraries. Now we’re into spring, fine weather begs us to be out and about. Venture out into our backyard!
106 Riverside Drive, Tumbulgum, NSW Ph: 02 6676 6477
Attribution: Photo of Mt Warning and the jetty are attributed to Michael Simmons.
Note: Good Food Gold Coast were guests of Tweed Fusion, House of Gabriel and Mount Warning Tours.