The Tweed coast gets its time to shine
In the far northern corner of New South Wales is an underrated time capsule, wedged in between the glitz and glamour of the Gold Coast and the linen-loving crowds of Byron Bay.
Like a middle child overshadowed by a privileged senior sibling and outshone by the cuteness of the smaller member, the Tweed coast is often overlooked by tourists and passers-by.
The seaside destination adjacent to Queensland's border is a classic mix of old and new. Pockets of 1960s beachside fibro shacks are sandwiched among sprawling modern homes as the region holds on to yesteryear.
New developments and growing housing estates to cater for an influx of sea-changers from the south are an indication that this sweet surf town is no longer a secret.
The region is home to some great surf breaks and a burgeoning restaurant scene is complemented by its own local food bowl. It's also backdropped by Mt Warning, one of the largest shield volcanoes in the southern hemisphere.
A weekend here can feel like you're on holiday even when you call this postcode "home.”
It might only be 15 minutes from our own door, but Santai Resort Casuarina feels like a short drive to Bali.
Giant, carved timber doors open to the lobby and our eyes are locked on the incredible palm and frangipani-fringed pool on the resort perimeters.
The short stroll to our top floor room has our little two-year-old gatecrasher declaring "I love holidays” through the corridors.
The sea breeze is cleansing from the rooftop. Once inside, we're smacked with the relief of air-conditioning, swinging back the blinds to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows with a bird's eye view of the pool below. Burnt chocolate slated roofs surround us, and there are glittering glimpses of ocean on the horizon.
Behind us, the rolling red hills of farmland sew a patchwork blanket and the majestic Mount Warning makes its mighty presence known.
Feeling like celebrities in our own backyard, we're quickly snapped back to reality by a snack-demanding toddler. For the mum who packs everything, thankfully the kitchen has everything you need for a short getaway.
The bath tub is most inviting - a spa with a view overlooking the room. There's room for glasses of bubbles and a cheese plate, and a double vanity so you don't have to share - but with a child in tow we all know that isn't going to happen.
We could settle for a slumber but a swim beckons. There are two pools, the main with jacuzzi to dip in and out of, if you can split from your shady banana lounge.
A more private, heated pool at the resort's southern end is dotted with water features providing a calming soundtrack among the ornamental ginger and shaded by your own curtained pavilion.
By chance, we have this private oasis to ourselves while loved up and baby-mooning couples enjoy the larger pool.
As the sun sets, you don't have to venture far from your Balinese-inspired apartment to the aromatic streets of Thailand at the on-site restaurant, Spice Den.
By day, you can order cocktails by the pool from here. By night, it becomes an intimate setting with Thai food to make your taste buds tango. Do order the duck pancakes, red penang curry and wagyu beef with hand-cut noodles.
It's only a two-minute stroll to Casuarina beach to burn off your over-indulgences, and boy does this sandpit put on a sunset with sweeping ombre skies of an evening.
As far as vantage points go, Farm and Co is a popular Instagram backdrop when its sunflowers fields are abloom. Stop by the farm stall to pick up some fresh, organic produce.
It's one of many roadside stands where you can pick up fruit and vegetables - also try Palmer's Vegie Shack or time your stay with a visit to the Kingscliff Markets on Saturday mornings at the Tafe. For a more authentic countryside experience, try the Murwillumbah Markets held every Wednesday morning at the showgrounds.
For magnificent views of the Tweed Valley and a fruit platter to feast your eyes on, pay a visit to Tropical Fruit World. Here you can climb aboard a tractor train for a plantation safari of a 66ha family farm where more than 500 fruits from around the world are grown, sampled and sold.
Gather your pickings and take a picnic to Cudgen-Fingal Headland to watch the sunset.
The walk to Dreamtime Beach is as magical as its name. In fact, it was voted Australia's third best beach last year by 101BestBeaches.com. Savour the views but avoid swimming here as it's notorious for rips.
There are many snorkelling and diving tours run at the Cook Island Aquatic Reserve, a playground for green sea turtles, giant gropers and grey nurse sharks.
For the younger kids, you can hire kayaks, stand-up paddle boards or surfboards from Watersports Guru from the water's edge of Kingscliff Creek. There's no need for photo filters here, the water colour and clarity is spectacular most days.
Follow the sugarcane fields further south to enjoy bakery delights by the river at Tumbulgum or a counter lunch overlooking the Tweed River at the Tumbulgum Pub.
Like a ham and salad sandwich, it's never complete without the centre.
The same can be said about the Tweed. This family holiday spot is dishing the Gold Coast and Byron Bay a good dose of sibling rivalry.
The writer was a guest of Oaks Santai Resort Casuarina.