• Natalie Bannister

48 hours in the Border Zone

The New South Wales/Queensland border is (finally!) open, and there’s no better time to hit the road and spend a few days exploring the region — minus the bubble! — to support the local communities between Northern Rivers and South Gold Coast that are bouncing back after a tough few years.

Day 1:

Crossing the line

Start your morning by fuelling up with brunch and fresh coffee at Cubby Bakehouse (cubbybakehouse.com) at Chinderah, just a stone’s throw from the banks of the Tweed River. This traditional French-style bakery is incredibly popular with locals who know they pump out some of the flakiest, most delicious croissants and artisan bread this side of Paris! Take a seat at one of the timber tables outside (if you can get one) and wrap your hands around a bacon and egg banh mi or French toast baguette.

Grab an extra takeaway brew before strolling up the road to Chinderah Bay Antiques (facebook.com/ChinderahBayAntiques) for a treasure hunt — this place is a deep dive into all things curio and collectable, and we defy you not to leave laden with quirky finds!

Don’t leave this charming coastal strip without continuing the drive further along Fingal Road to Fingal Head, where the Fingal Head Lighthouse, built in 1872, reminds seafarers to steer clear of Cook Island, located around 600m offshore from the headland. A popular dive spot, the Cook Island Aquatic Reserve is home to a variety of marine species, from tropical fish to the majestic grey nurse shark, and is a protected breeding ground for the large population of sea birds that nest on the island, such as terns and Shearwaters.

Walk around the headland, a hexagonal basalt rock formation made by lava flows more than 20 million years ago, and through the remains of the coastal rainforest to find the secluded solitude of Dreamtime Beach. Hidden away on the southern side of Fingal Head, you’ll be greeted by low lying sand dunes and the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean and spoiled with an almost empty spot on the sand to enjoy all to yourself.

When you can pull yourself away from this little slice of paradise, head back out to the Pacific Motorway crossing over the Tweed River to continue the road trip/freedom parade with a stop at Duranbah. D’bah (as the locals call it) may officially be in New South Wales, but is just metres over the Queensland border — walk a few metres up onto the headland, and you’ll find yourself in a different time-zone, which pretty much sums up the mess that was brought by the border closures!

Situated between the mouth of the Tweed River and the rocky headland Point Danger, the beach here faces due east, exposed to swell from pretty much anywhere. So on those days when it’s flat on both sides of the border, keen surfers know to head to D’Bah where there’s usually a solid wave to be found.

Not to be outshone, Snapper Rocks is just around the small rocky outcrop on the northern side of Point Danger at the southern end of Rainbow Bay on the Gold Coast and is the home break of Aussie surfing world champions Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. Snapper’s legendary point break forms the first part of the man-made Superbank, renowned as one of the most consistent breaks in Queensland, extending from Snapper Rocks through Rainbow Bay, Greenmount Point, Coolangatta Beach, and Kirra (that’s why the Quicksilver and Roxy Pro are held at Snapper Rocks every year!).

The Rainbow Bay Surf Club (rainbowbayslsc.com.au) is the best place to view the iconic surf breaks while enjoying a relaxed meal on the deck overlooking the ocean, with panoramic views of the Gold Coast skyline and the green hinterland beyond.

If you’re ready to check in to your accommodation, take your pick! This end of the Gold Coast has fabulous options for every budget, taste and lifestyle need.

Reflections Coolangatta Beach (reflectionscoolangattabeach.com.au) is ideally located in the heart of Coolangatta, directly across the road from Greenmount Beach, and is an ideal choice for those seeking relaxed luxury. With one, two and three-bedroom apartments and luxurious sky homes and sub-penthouse, the two towers at Reflections allow guests to relax in comfort with stunning views, and it’s only a short stroll from The Strand shopping precinct and Griffith Street for the area’s best shopping and dining.

Or, for those who love their Gold Coast stay served up with a slice of nostalgia, the revitalised Greenmount Beach House (greenmountbeachhouse.com.au), nestled on a headland between Rainbow Bay and Coolangatta, offers affordable, casual comfort, while the cotton candy-hued Pink Hotel (thepinkhotelcoolangatta.com), formerly the Coolangatta Ocean View Motel, boasts rooms that are a mix of rockstar and retro (think neon-lit signage, shag rugs, vinyl players and velvet!).

The Pink Hotel was lovingly refurbished back to her former glory by the talented team at much-loved Coolangatta dive bar, Eddie’s Grub House (eddiesgrubhouse.com), which is located right next door. So once you’ve dropped the bags, you can hop on over for some live music, whiskey or craft beer, and their gravity-defying burgers and loaded fries (they also handle the in-room dining at The Pink Hotel). Or, just stay put at the hotel and head on up to the rooftop where cabana beds, dreamy coastline views and cocktails from the rooftop bar, Santeria, await.

Cooly is renowned for its bars and live music, and you’re never short of a good time as night falls. Moxy’s Rooftop Bar (moxysrooftopbar.com.au) on Griffith Street is the ultimate place for those looking for a fun, memorable night out, with a rooftop bar offering live music and DJ sets and casual dining options from their Mexican-style menu, including tacos, nachos and dips. Meanwhile, The Coolangatta Hotel (thecoolyhotel.com.au) should be your last port of call — this classic Aussie pub and live music joint features a year-round lineup of local and international bands and DJs (check out our gig guide on pages 60/61).

Day 2:

Destination degustation

Start the day right by heading to nearby Tweed Heads to the waterfront bakehouse, Baked at Ancora (bakedatancora.com.au), which is run by the same team behind Kiosk at Casuarina and Pastry Bread Espresso. On top of their freshly baked artisan breads and sweet and savoury treats, Baked at Ancora also has a full a-la-carte breakfast and lunch menu, featuring everything from breaky salad and Korean cheese toasties to Belgian waffles and tasty milk bun burgers.

You’ll also find crusty delights at The Bread Social (breadsocial.com.au) on Bay Street in Tweed Heads, run by the same gang that has their bakehouse at The Farm in Byron Bay. Local baking legends Tom Scott, Sam Saulwick and Paul Giddings create everything from bio-dynamic sourdoughs to light buttery pastries, offering up an impressive pastry cabinet to entice you (be sure to take home some goodies home, too). But save room for later, because today is all about wining and dining!

Seafood lovers should swing by The Oyster Shed (theoystershed.com.au) if you’re around Tweed at lunchtime. Located on the absolute riverfront at Tweed River’s beautiful Birds Bay, The Oyster Shed offers casual, relaxed waterfront dining that showcases the freshest of farm oysters and wild-caught local seafood. Run by a local oyster farming family, lunch here provides you with a rare opportunity to learn about their farm and dine on their own freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oysters — all while overlooking the oyster leases that are just a stone’s throw from shore.

Or, save some appetite for a meal to remember back at Coolangatta, and a rooftop dining experience served up with equally sensational views at Cooly Breeze Rooftop Restaurant & Bar (coolybreezerooftop.com), which offers Mediterranean flavours and a stunning lookout from Coolangatta Beach to Tweed Coast. Focusing on fresh, locally sourced and produced ingredients, the Executive Chef at Cooly Breeze, Marcondes Almeida Neto, draws on European culinary influences for the carefully-crafted menu with a major focus on fresh seafood, all washed down with an innovative drinks list.

For a waterfront feast, you can’t get much closer to the ocean than a meal at south Gold Coast’s latest restaurant, Siblings Kirra (siblingskirra.com.au), which has taken up residence in the heritage-listed Kirra Pavilion building (formerly home to the old Pizza Hut) overlooking beautiful Kirra beach.

Siblings Kirra is open for brunch, lunch and dinner, showcasing modern-Australian cuisine, fresh seafood and share plates, and the drinks list is as impressive as that breathtaking view of ocean and sand — a ‘Liquid Journey’ has been meticulously crafted to include no less than 52 signature cocktails! Settle in for a long, languid lunch that leads into sundowners, and finish off your border town short break in style.

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