It might not be the easiest time for a "getaway" right now thanks to COVID-19, but that doesn't mean you can't explore your own state (if government restrictions allow) or even get your travel bucket list started for when our borders open back up.
And we've got the destination you're going to want to add to it – the Tweed region.
This coastal metropolis (which I'm dubbing the new Byron Bay!) is nestled in north-eastern New South Wales, backing on to the Queensland border. It's bustling with top-notch eateries, experiences and accommodation. Picture the perfect concoction of beach, rainforest and hinterland.
I was lucky enough to spend 48 hours in some of the most gorgeous parts of the region, and even though that mightn't sound like a stack of time to really immerse yourself in a destination, this trip was absolutely quality over the quantity!
The first thing you'll need to sort out, like with any trip, is your accommodation.
For me, I couldn't go past the rustic-chic option of glamping at The Hideaway in Cabarita Beach, which was just a mere two-minute walk to the beach and also to nearby cafes and stores. Convenience – tick!
By the way, Cabarita Beach is the most pristine stretch of sand and sea and is near the whimsical Norries headland, which boasts 360 degree views of the valley below along with Wollumbin Mount Warning.
The Hideaway offers three styles of bell tents – Classic Bell, Plush Deluxe and Bigger is Better – with just 23 in total on site.
They're all fitted with cloud-like Koala beds, lighting (yes, there's electricity!), a mini fridge, plush bath towels and even air-conditioning in selected tents. As for your amenities there are full kitchen and laundry facilities and of course private toilets and shower, all of which are built into shipping containers.
You can also rent bikes from the front desk and take a five minute ride to Norries or beyond. When you return of an evening, gather around the communal fire pit (adhering to social distancing of course) and toast some marshmallows!
This accommodation is great for those on a budget, but as you can tell there's no scrimping on the little luxuries. Tents start from $155 per night. Visit hideawaycarbaritabeach.com or call 1300 611 392 to book.
For those with deeper pockets, the next-level-glamorous, five-star Halcyon House is only a couple hundred metres down the road, smack bang on the beachfront.
This boutique hotel is home to a quaint 21 rooms and all rates are inclusive of daily a la carte breakfast, a pre-dinner aperitif and a four-course dinner each night at their very own Paper Daisy restaurant (which is divine, but I'll get into that later!). Prices from $605 a night.
If you're a water and animal lover, then you need to go on a turtle snorkelling expedition with Watersports Guru in Kingscliff.
My friends and I were taken out to Cook Island (formerly Turtle Island, fitting right?!) near Fingal Head for about an hour and a half of snorkelling and we saw a handful of turtles, puffer fish and other reef natives.
If you're lucky – or unlucky depending on your fear levels! – you might even see Wobbegong or Grey Nurse sharks, harmless when you keep your distance of course. Tours start from $99 per person.
For on-land activities, visit the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Centre in Murwillumbuh for a cultural fix or opt for a tour at the gorgeous Husk Distillers – who created the world's first sugar cane rum, Husk Rum. Pre or post tour you can enjoy a delicious lunch and some drinks on the rolling green grounds.
I'm not going to lie, this 48 hours was essentially a culinary tour of the best the Tweed region has to offer!
First stop on day one of the trip was lunch at Tucker, a sweet little café nestled in food, fashion and retail precinct, The Commons Casuarina. These guys make most of their menu items in house including some beautiful breads. I recommend their beef burger with a side of their chunky hot chips – they're to die for!
Dinner was at the aforementioned Paper Daisy restaurant at Halcyon House. This 4-course meal is not to be missed, and the cocktails are just divine, too.
The standout for me was the Bay lobster entrée with celery, apple, green garlic and desert lime. Just WOW! The man behind the menu Jason Barratt has spent years in the industry, working at the likes of Raes on Wategos in Byron Bay and the 3 Hatted restaurant Attica in Melbourne's Ripponlea.
Day two breakfast was at Farm & Co in Kingscliff, run by Michele Stephens and her partner Ian Kettle. The café itself has only been open for around a year (and do delicious food and smoothies FYI), however the acreage it's on has been in the hands of Michele and Ian since 2002.
They live and breathe an organic and sustainable farming philosophy, growing and cultivating all of their fresh produce on the grounds – including avocados, tomatoes and free-range eggs.
They also grow their own sunflowers which you can pick for yourself. And I have to give a special mention to the charming pig pair Hank and Pepe who live in the sunflower patch – so cute! So make sure you take a stroll around post feed.
Night two's dinner was one for the seafood lovers. Fins Restaurant and Bar in South Kingscliff was dubbed the country's best seafood restaurant in Australia in the 2020 Seafood Excellence Awards. And let me tell you, the Celebration of Spice dish (a spicy fish sambal with rice and a green papaya salad) I had certainly lived up to that reputation, it was mind-blowing!
The holiday food finale was a bacon, egg and hash brown roll at Fuel Bakehouse Cabarita Beach on my last morning before driving back to Byron to fly home to Sydney. This bakery is known for their pies, sausage rolls, donuts and pastries – all of which they bake fresh on site every morning.
My parting advice if you're now thinking of spending 48 hours – or more! – in the Tweed region, go with an empty stomach and an open mind, you're going to absolutely fall in love.
Go to visitnsw.com for more information