Country towns in northern NSW are notoriously beautiful, and Murwillumbah, NSW, is no exception. Yet few have witnessed events like this bonny backwater town, which has been descended upon by frenetic celebrities, shrewd bank robbers, historic racing cars, harrowing fires and relentless floods, all under the watchful eye of an ageless cloud catcher, towering handsomely on the horizon.
Located just 13 kilometres south of the Queensland border, Murwillumbah lies amongst forest-clad mountains, wandering rivers and fields of sugar cane. With a population of around 8,000 people, it’s a good-sized small town, which hosts the likes of an old cinema, a thunderingly good aquatic centre and a number of art-deco, clothes and antique stores.
Its size, undeniable charm and proximity to five World-Heritage national parks makes it one of my favourite towns. I also love its nuances – such as the jacaranda trees that spread beneath historic buildings, and the fun mixture of country folk and neo-hippies – which make it a solid place to sip a coffee and marvel at pedestrian life. It’s also watched over by Mount Warning, an ancient volcano termed “cloud catcher” by the local indigenous.
In 1907, almost all of Murwillumbah was destroyed by fire, and many of the town’s buildings date to this period. In 1954, the town was devastated once again by a colossal flood, and in 1978, Murwillumbah became home to the largest bank robbery in Australia’s history, when $1,763,000 was heisted from the local ANZ bank. The crime remains unsolved to this day.
Other tidbits include being home to the British TV show I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!, where British celebrities are “abandoned” in the rainforest with minimal rations and filmed. Currently, the TV series Camp, starring Rachel Griffiths, is also being filmed in and around town. Another novel event, held annually, is the Speed on Tweed festival, where people come from Europe, America and all over Australia to race historic racing cars throughout the streets of Murwillumbah.
Things to do in and around Murwillumbah, NSW
- Go to Uki for the weekend markets, rainforest and waterfalls.
- Head to Mount Warning for a day climb with stupendous views. Leave early!
- Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat lies just 20 kilometres to the north-west.
- Go to the Hare Krishna Farm for the yoga, wonderful food and flamboyant peacocks.
- Head to the nearby beaches of Cabarita and Kingscliff.
- Drive around the countryside, which will even give your gearstick goose bumps.
- Head to the Tweed Art Gallery, which now houses Margaret Olley’s entire collection, and home.
- Dip your paws into the Tweed River
- Check out the local cinema
- Go to the aquatic centre
- Head to the Sugar Beat Cafe for some delightful oven-baked goodies.