Sitting in the shadow of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), this cool little town will win your heart when you take a Murwillumbah getaway. Try these eight things to do in Murwillumbah which include the amazing Margaret Olley Art Centre, a personal favourite!
Located on the southeastern foothills of the McPherson Range in the verdant Tweed Volcano valley, Murwillumbah is located on the Tweed River. UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wollumbin is the North Coast’s tallest mountain and is a volcanic plug. Don’t worry about the volcano. That last erupted 20 million years ago but it did gift the area with amazingly fertile soils.
Although only 13 km south of the Queensland border and just a 1.5 hr drive from Brisbane and 30 minutes from the Gold Coast, the town lies in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia and is part of The Tweed shire.
What you probably didn’t know about Murwillumbah is that this town has serious art cred, a thriving artist community, awesome local food and is an art deco lovers delight.
Just a tip – the locals call it Murbah! Also remember, this is a small country town and you’ll find things are pretty quiet from 12 noon on Saturday afternoon and on Sundays. Check the opening hours of places you want to visit if you are travelling on a weekend.
You’ll see recreated rooms from Margaret Olley’s home and enjoy an interactive drawing experience at Tweed Regional Gallery. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Visit a surprising art gallery
The Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre is a showcase for local artists from the region but also displays travelling exhibitions. I managed to see the Archibald prize winners on display here. It’s well worth a visit for the panoramic view over the Tweed Valley. There is a great cafe here where you can enjoy coffee or lunch.
It does get busy so time your stop around the crowds. Also, remember if you are travelling from Queensland during daylight savings, the peak times will be one hour earlier than you expect. That one was learnt from experience!
I could not visit the Tweed Regional Gallery without stopping at the Margaret Olley Art Centre. You’ll find this section at the end of the gallery. It’s just like dropping in to see Margaret as the exhibition is a clever recreation of several rooms from her house. You’ll see that Margaret was not the most dedicated house organiser and also have the opportunity to try your skill at still life painting with an interactive experience.
Margaret Olley is one of Australia’s most celebrated painters of still life and interiors and I think her works are just glorious!
Explore Gallery DownTown M|Arts, Murwillumbah. Photo: Kerry Heaney
M’bah’s M|Arts precinct is the sort of place I could get lost in for a while. It’s got everything my heart desires from excellent food options and gallery gazing to an amazing selection of creative hubs with craft items for sale.
I started in Gallery DownTown which is part of the Tweed Regional Art Gallery. You will find it upstairs next to the 1947 Art Deco Regent Cinema in Brisbane Street. There were several exhibitions on show and a great gallery shop at the rear where I couldn’t resist the postcards.
Flowerista, Murwillumbah. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Downstairs there is a huge industrial shed with a large collection of artists’ studios in renovated shipping containers. It’s a vibrant area where you can stock up on art supplies, buy a book or flowers from Georgie at Flowerista, and visit the studios of local artists, jewellers and makers.
Don’t miss the Airstream caravan which has been converted into the coolest meeting place for work events.
This Airstream caravan has been converted into a meeting venue. Photo: Kerry Heaney
When you have finished browsing, stop for a meal at Bacaro. This café is styled as an Italian trattoria with the feel of Venice, which is the owner’s home city, but the produce is all local including the Ink Gin and Stone and Wood beers.
Facade is an Art Deco walking tour of Murwillumbah. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Do an Art Deco tour
Pick up a copy of Façade which is a self-guided Art Deco walking tour of Murwillumbah at the Tweed Regional Museum. You’ll discover many fascinating facades along with an art deco radio and a public toilet in the style.
Stock up at Keith, Murwillumbah. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Please your tastebuds with some really really really good things
Keith’s Shop of Really Really Really Good Things is the sort of place where you might walk in for a coffee and come out with a box full of goodies. Combining great cafe and a providore it is full of Tweed foodie delights. It’s where you can buy some really, really, really good things like artisan bread, brandy salted caramel, toffee apple chutney, and strawberry vodka and thyme jam (it’s delicious).
Find it in an art deco arcade at 132 Murwillumbah Street.
Colourful parkets brighten up Murwillumbah’s streets. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Relax in a Parklet
What is a parklet, you say? It’s a temporary setting on the footpath (it used to be a car parking space) with greenery, gams and seating that provides an interactive space for the community. The parklets have been decorated by local artists to provide pockets of street colour.
Buy local produce
Head to Zest Fresh Produce on the outskirts of Murwillumbah to collect delicious organic and local provisions including fresh fruit and vegetables.
Have a milkshake
It has been a Mbah institution since 1919 and the Austral Café’s milkshakes bring all the locals to the town and it’s still a thing to do in Murwillumbah. Grab some comfort food and relax in the art deco fit-out.
Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Where to stay
Views, serenity, luxury décor, swimming pool, charming hosts and just 12 minutes from Murwillumbah, Hillcrest Mountain View Retreat has it all. Craig will have you laughing, and Paul will wow you with his menus and gourmet breakfast. Be sure to sit on the patio and breathe in the countryside sunset. I stayed in the Mount Warning View Room which had a spa.
Origin House at Carool. Photo: Kerry Heaney
If you like simple, stylish design and panoramic views, you’ll love Origin House at Carool as much as I did. The house has two king bedrooms with ensuites and would be perfect for a couples weekend or getaway. The house overlooks a coffee plantation and feels like it is a long way from anywhere but it’s about 25 minutes from both Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah.
Mantra on Salt Beach Kingscliff. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Mantra on Salt Beach Kingscliff is a large resort behind the dunes of Kingscliff beach. You can see the beach from the third-floor rooms but it’s only a short walk till you hit the sand for a stroll. I had a very comfortable one-bedroom apartment with a spa bath on the second floor.
More to do in Northern NSW
While you are in the area, how about popping into a gin distillery. You’ll enjoy gin flavoured by rainforest botanicals at Brookies near Byron Bay.
Continue your Northern New South Wales road trip with these nine suggestions.
Disclaimer: Eat drink and be Kerry travelled as a guest of The Tweed Tourism Co.