A freelance writer with an interest in just about everything.
Published September 13th 2016
From the rainforest to the sea
If you're thinking of heading south for a weekend road trip, it's worth looking a little further than the bright lights of the Gold Coast. Just across the border in northern NSW you will find some of the best natural scenery anywhere in Australia, and all within a couple of hours' drive from Brisbane.
Nimbin Rocks. Image courtesy Lismore City Council, Destination NSW.
The headline act on any northern NSW holiday is always going to be Byron Bay. There's nothing you can say about Byron Bay that hasn't been said countless times before - it really is a place of stunning natural beauty, home to a pristine stretch of coastline that draws travellers from all over the world. It's just a shame it's so bloody crowded. From bongo-tapping hippies to a veritable United Nations of backpackers, you need to be prepared to share the world-class natural scenery with plenty of others.
You need to look further afield if you want to escape the crowds. Kingscliff sits just south of Tweed Heads and combines coastal rainforests with golden beaches and a still-developing tourism scene. There are some great cafes and restaurants along the main street, plus plenty of accommodation options to choose from.
Looking further south, Ballina is a popular family holiday destination with an abundance of caravan parks, swimming locations and fishing spots. It's also home to the highlight of many an Aussie road trip, the Big Prawn.
Lennox Head is another seaside town worth a visit. It's another increasingly popular spot with travellers from all points of the compass, but it still has the laid-back, relaxed vibe (and the great waves) you'd expect of any surfie town.
Lennox Head, the Legendary Pacific Coast. Image courtesy Destination NSW.
But the north-eastern corner of NSW is about more than just beaches; in fact, there's plenty of beautiful scenery to be found if you turn west and head inland. Think rolling green hills, sleepy villages and remnants of hippie culture and you'll get the idea of the experiences on offer.
There's the Hemp Embassy and always unique vibe in Nimbin, the arty and historic surrounds of Alstonville, and a few national parks well worth exploring. Detour to take in spectacular waterfalls in Nightcap National Park or immerse yourself in the Border Ranges National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area.
Thanks to nearby Mt Warning, this area of Australia is home to incredibly fertile red volcanic soil. It seems that just around every corner you'll find that soil being put to work to grow beautiful local produce, from avocadoes and macadamia nuts to coffee and tropical fruits. The grass really does seem a little bit greener in this part of the world, especially after recent rains, and combined with the pockets of lush rainforest dotted around the landscape, it' creates the sort of scenery that'll have you struggling to keep your eyes on the road.
You can pick a route yourself, simply following your nose and pointing the car in whatever direction your mood takes you, or head out along Tourism NSW's Rainforest Way route. It's a remarkably scenic and memorable drive, and it's all just a couple of hours' drive away.