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A Gourmet Tour – Wollumbin Mt Warning Tourist Drive

November 23, 2014 - The Tweed

From Byron through to the Tweed and beyond, whenever you look west Mt Warning is in the distance. Mt Warning was named by Captain Cook as a reference point which warned of the treacherous coast line in the area.

Today we’re starting in Murwillumbah and taking the Wollumbin Mt Warning Tourist drive to have a closer look at this pristine World Heritage listed Rainforest.

Murwillumbah is a sleepy little town located on the Tweed River established by the timber industry in the 1840’s. The city centre has a large number of art deco buildings which gives it a real yesteryear charm.

We made a stop at the Murwillumbah Visitors Information Centre to get some maps and found it had so much more to offer! Look out for the “trippy hippy” Combi Van which is located downstairs with the interactive flora and fauna displays. It a hands on experience that explains the natural history of Mt Warning and the Border Ranges.

Before commencing our drive we did a lap of the town centre looking for a café that fitted the Murwillumbah vibe. After a quick glance at the Sugar Beat Café menu we knew we had found our breakfast spot. Sugar Beat is a retro, funky café which really fits the atmosphere of the town. Local artist’s works are displayed on the brightly painted walls adding real personality to the space. Speaking to staff I discovered the walls are a changing canvas.  Artists are able to reserve a gallery space on the walls.

As much as I love art, at this time in the morning, coffee is my main focus. Thankfully I was in the right place! Like me, Sugar Beat take their coffee very seriously too.  They have a dedicated two group machine for the café, and another for takeaway orders. I relaxed a little, my morning wake up cup was on the way.

The family refuelled themselves with a much more nutritious breakfast which included fruit smoothies, a green eggs and ham tortilla and breaky sliders.

It was time to hit the road!

The first stop on the tourist map was Crystal Creek. Just over the Crystal Creek Bridge, and not more than a few metres from the road we found a picturesque swimming hole. Brett noticed some little turtles happily swimming in the cool water. However they soon disappeared as the kids clambered over the rocks.  The turtle’s tranquillity was further shattered as Brett and the kids jumped from a rope swing into the water. This would make a great spot to bring a picnic lunch.

Feeling refreshed we continued along the tourist route to Chillingham, and Buck’s Farm. Buck is the “Chillingham Bush Tucker Man.” He grows acres of native and exotic food items on the property. He took us on a tour of the farm and the first thing I noticed was the rich, red volcanic soil. Buck explained the soil is so rich the farm doesn’t need fertiliser. He showed my some of the largest avocados I’ve seen, and said “See no fertiliser, and look how big they are!”

Red, green and yellow Finger Limes are also planted throughout the property. I was able to try a Finger Lime fresh from the plant. He told me the shrub we were looking at crops every day of the year. He went on to explain this is not typical of Finger Limes.  They will usually only produce fruit for a few months. The Finger Lime we were looking at is indigenous to Bucks own property and was not bought and planted!

I left the Chillingham Bush Tucker Farm with a swag of Australian Native jams, conserves and even a Lemon Myrtle flavoured honey. I bought some avocado, finger lime and a few fruits with names I don’t remember. The most valued item however was a white turmeric root ready for planting. It’s a product I haven’t come across before.  It has great medicinal qualities and is also good in curries and on salads.

We said goodbye to Buck and set off along the tourist circuit. At this point the scenery became quite dramatic.  Mt Warning is always present in distance but much more striking at this point was the western wall of the volcanic caldera. The rock forms a sheer wall and it really does look like the sides of a cauldron.  I finally had a visual understanding of why the area is known as the “Green Cauldron”.

Little towns dot the Wollumbin Mt Warning tourist drive.  They’re tiny historic towns which all add colour to the journey. Tyalgum is one such town. The historic buildings have been lovingly restored to their former glory. The main streets offers some wonderful photo opportunities.

The town maybe small but the gorgeous buildings house beautiful gift shops, cafes, art galleries, a jewellery studio and a boutique clothing shop. The gorgeous period setting even extends to the cutest wooden ice-cream cart is decorated in pastels colours and sells gourmet sorbet in the street.

Flutterbies Cottage Café serves a decadent High Tea which includes an indulgent sparkling wine sprinkled with fresh rose petals and topped with Persian floss. The Rose Bliss, as it’s called, is not only beautiful, but it’s also absolutely delicious.

Dainty sweet and savoury items are displayed on the traditional three tiered platter and tea is served in an assortment of beautifully pattern Royal Albert bone china.

The High Tea items included all the traditional favourites but with a few little interesting flavour twists.  Soft, buttery scones are served with a Chantilly cream and strawberry with rose petal jam. The traditional quiche is replaced with a modern square quiche which hides a cube of soft creamy pumpkin in the centre. Almost a namesake, butterfly cakes are an obvious inclusion to the menu and are impossibly light and sweet.

With all these wonderful distractions and delicious food you could quite easily finish the loop and head back to Murwillumbah satisfied by a day well spent.

The more energetic reader may wish to take a second day in the area and challenge themselves by hiking to the summit of Mt Warning. It may sound impossible when you are looking at the formidable mountain from a distance but the 8km round trip is completed by many each day.

We arrived at the summit climb car park, and took a look at the map. Completely surrounded by majestic, old, moss covered trees I started to wish we had time for the summit hike.  We took a short walk along the Lyrebird Track and were in awe of the huge ancient trees, gorgeous ferns and the sounds of the rainforest animals.

Watching people return from their adventure to the Mt Warning summit i noticed they were all radiating a euphoric sense of achievement. Every person I spoke to said the hike was well worth the experience and the effort. They all declared the view from the top as simply breath taking.

For the moment I will have to take their word for it, but I know we shall return.