Tweed Heads and Coolangatta are twin towns located on the border between north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. Coolangatta is in Queensland and part of the Gold Coast City. Tweed Heads and neighbouring suburbs are part of the Gold Coast urban area, but are located in Tweed Shire, headquartered in Murwillumbah.
When you cross the wide Tweed River from the south, you remain in New South Wales for around 5 km before passing into Queensland. The border is in the built up retail area near the mouth of the river.
Where is the border?
The border between New South Wales and Queensland winds its way through the towns of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. With buildings, roads, and other structures spanning the border it is often not obvious which state you are in. This can be important in summer months, when New South Wales operates on daylight saving time, and Queensland does not. If you land at Coolangatta airport from the south, you will touch down in New South Wales, and taxi to the terminal in Queensland. The border is actually the 19th-century survey line of the watershed. When surveyor Evans followed the MacPherson range eastwards he was directed to mark the border and terminate it at Point Danger, however the watershed hit the coast at Currumbin headland some distance north. He drew a direct line from the hill behind Currumbin to what was thought to be Point Danger, thus the border runs parallel to the beach for some kilometres before terminating at the headland north of the Tweed River mouth.
Coolangatta is pronounced with the emphasis on the second-to-last syllable, like regatta, and unlike Talangatta.
- 1 Tweed Heads Visitor Information Centre (Tweed Tourism Inc), 7/1 Wharf Street, Tweed Heads, ☏ , (within Australia only). Providing tourism information for the Tweed region. Maps, posters and souvenirs. Accommodation, tour and cruise booking service. Open 7 days.
- 1 Gold Coast Airport (OOL IATA aka Coolangatta Airport) (in Coolangatta, about 5 km from Tweed Heads). It's a low-cost carrier hub, serviced by AirAsia X, Jetstar, Pacific Blue and others. It is not a 24-hr airport and closes at night, so don't plan on spending the night before an early morning flight. It is around 30 minutes drive to Surfers Paradise. There is a shuttle bus connecting the airport to the main Surfside buses route on the Gold Coast Highway between Tweed Heads and Surfers Paradise. Has domestic flights and international flights from New Zealand, Malaysia, and Japan.
Buses run from Brisbane and points south. The train service from Brisbane to Robina, central Gold Coast, has bus connections through to Coolangatta and Tweed Heads.
It is a comfortable 65 minutes drive from Brisbane on the Pacific Motorway. One can exit just after the Brisbane airport to hit the coast near Kirra for the short coastal drive through Coolangatta to Tweed Heads.
Frequent Surfside buses run from Tweed Heads northwards towards Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise. Frequent buses (routes 601 to 608) also operate to Kingscliff, West Tweed and Banora Point. The bus to Murwillumbah (route 605) operates hourly on weekdays (every 2 hours on weekends); the route is particularly scenic. Route 603 runs to Bogangar and Pottsville hourly every day and provides access to less developed and uncrowded beaches to the south.
Coolangatta and Tweed Heads are easily accessible from the Pacific Hwy. The highway now bypasses the whole area making the local roads much less congested. Some back streets between Coolangatta and Tweed Heads and in Currumbin are quite steep.
See the Gold Coast article for a list of car rental companies.
- 1 Point Danger, Boundary Street (Eastern end). Most prominent headland of the Gold Coast and the point where the New South Wales / Queensland border meets the sea. It features a lighthouse, parklands and a barbeque areas. Excellent views in all directions, including far out to sea where whales and dolphins are often spotted. The whale migration occurs in the winter months, and as the numbers increase they become increasingly visible from the shore. Surfers can also be seen riding the waves off Duranbah Beach and Snapper Rocks. Many Australian and world champion surfriders grew up in these waves. This isn't the point that Cook named Point Danger", that is the point to the south near the small island, now called Fingal Head. The error was made long ago, and the names are now too established to change.
- 2 Fingal Head. Fingal is just across the Tweed River from Tweed Heads, but you must travel south on the Pacific Highway past Sextons Hill and after the motorway crosses the river take the left exit and follow the signs. There are many kilometres of isolated and beautiful beaches to enjoy. It features as its centrepoint, Fingal Head, a volcanic rock headland originally named Point Danger by James Cook in 1770. Subsequently the headland north of the tweed River Mouth was incorrectly named Point Danger, so if you have a fetish for Cook's place names on the East Coast of Australia, this is the Point Danger you must visit. The name Fingal was chosen because of the hexagonal columns of volcanic rock. These used to be a lava finger from the shield volcano, the plug of which is Mount Warning, also named by Cook. Similar rock formations exist in Northern Ireland at Fingal, thus the name. A prominent rock formation off the point is accessed by a small surf affected causeway, and this is named Giants Causeway, also with Northern Irish connections. The surf beach on the northern side is patrolled in summer holidays and weekends. Foreign visitors should remember that inexperience in the surf can lead to trouble, so even if there are others body surfing, it is not a sign that the conditions are benign. In other words, stick to the patrolled beaches. There is a very loyal board surfer fraternity usually finding a wave on the south side of the headland. The camping ground at the main beach offers demountables, van and tent sites. The nearest pub is the Chinderah, on the river on the western side of the highway, once the ferry crossing point for all coastal road traffic. The island off the coast is Cook Island, as it was first mentioned, but not named, by Cook. Dive boats use this for charter dives from Tweed Heads, although you might also make an arranged pick up from the small river marina you pass as you enter Fingal. Camping, or overnight staying is not permitted in the Tweed Shire and this is actively enforced. Also nude bathing is prohibited, and police cars do patrol the beaches, so watch out. There is community concern about undesirable types hanging about, rather than concerns about nudity.
- 3 Tropical Fruit World, Duranbah Road, Duranbah (10 minutes drive south of the airport via Pacific Highway, take the Murwullimbah Exit 40), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-4PM Qld EST, closed Christmas Day. An educational park where tropical fruit is grown for experiments, viewing and tasting. Home of the Big Avocado. $45 adults, $25 children, $110 family pass.
- 4 Mooball. Cute little rural village in an otherwise plastic-free zone. There are plenty of black and white cow prints that can be seen.
Scuba diving There are several scuba dive companies using Cook Island as their dive location. Cook island is the small island first mentioned by James Cook when he named Point Danger and Mt. Warning in 1770, about 2km offshore. The volcanic rookery island is in unprotected water and intending divers should be aware that this is no barrier reef experience, but the reefs offer interesting diving and the waters are prolific with turtles.
Bushwalking The Tweed Shire encompasses the catchment of the Tweed River, which drains the southern slopes of the MacPherson Range, known as the Border Ranges in NSW. There are many inspiring hikes in these ranges, but most require navigation experience in rain forest, and the correct equipment for the time of year. However there are several opportunities for the visitor to taste the bushwalking opportunities. Mt Warning has been dealt with in the "Get Out" section below, and is highly recommended for the hiker who likes the surety of National Park signs and maintained paths. Mt Cougal is the twin peaked feature evident from the coast, standing in front of the larger mountainous area behind, the Springbrook Plateau. The walk to Mt Cougal is unmarked, but the following simple instructions will get you there from the Tweed Shire. Drive to Tumblegum on the Tweed River, crossing the river to the north side at the bridge over the Tweed just south of the township. Follow the signs to Murwillumbah along Dulguigan Rd until Tomewin Rd, turn right to the north. This road climbs to the border crossing at the watershed at Tomewin, but near the top of the climb take the turn left on Garden of Eden Road. Follow this to the end and the border fence, and park your car. Now on foot, follow the border fence, a combination stock and rabbit exclusion fence, west, leading to the base of the cliffs on East Cougal. There is a rough scramble to the summit of East Cougal, from where views can be had. The scramble across to the top of West Cougal is an option, but remember you are in steep country. Pay attention to where you go, because you have to come back this way to get back to the fence for the return journey. From Tomewin you can drive into the Currumbin valley and then west for a swim at the Currumbin rock pool, a large deep stream fed popular pool. Further up this valley, 1 km from the end of the road is the Currumbin Rock Slide for the brave. Wagawn is a mountain accessed by taking Queensland Road out of Murwillumbah, and turning left into Numinbah Rd, should be well sign posted. Follow on to the Queensland border, and on the other side of the border gate turn hard left on a dirt road and park. The border fence is a sturdy fence on the top of the ridge and so you follow this in a large arc toward to the obvious mountain to the west; this is Wagawn. The fence terminates at the cliffs so then you follow the well worn path to the right which enters the section called the Bushrangers Cave, a large eroded overhang with sometimes a trickle of water dropping from above. To ascend the mountain above, continue on until a cliff break and it is possible to climb up through the trees and rocks. This is slippery and steep. Pay heed to the way you come, because many parties become uncertain of the track on descent, and end up in steeper circumstances than they wish. There may be some tape on the trees that will help. The track contours to the left high above the cave below, ascending all the time until the border ridge is again attained. Continue up this ridge until it flattens out and you are pretty much at the top and on the National Park track system linking Binna Burra Lodge with O'Reilleys Lodge. Nice place for lunch before the return for a total time 3-4 hours plus stops. Now it occurs that backpackers could arrange to be dropped off at the border gate with their gear and continue on to either of the two mentioned lodges, about 11 km further, where camping and accommodation is available, and transport back to the Gold Coast. This would be an interesting way to get a feel for the Lamington National Park. The best activity is the beach. Coolangatta and Rainbow Bay face north. To get the same wave break you have to go to either Byron Bay or Noosa Heads.
- Centro Tweed Heads (Tweed Mall), Cnr. Wharf & Bay Streets. Contains small speciality shops together with larger well-known retailers like Target, Coles and Woolworths.
- Showcase on the Beach, 72-80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta. A shopping centre with entrances on both Marine Parade and Griffith Street, Showcase on the Beach houses many sit-down restaurants, coffee shops, a liquor store, Aldi grocery store, clothes stores, surf shops, art store, medical center, movie cinema, and some white-collar shops on the upper levels.
- Haven Spa & Bathhouse, 5/131 Minjungbal Drive, Tweed Heads South, ☏ . 10AM-6PM. Haven Spa & Bathhouse comes from the creator of Kiva spa and is an organic day spa. It offers the highest quality spa treatments at affordable prices. The bathhouse consists of a Finnish hot rock sauna, an oxygenated hot spa and a monsoon shower. They use Eminence an organic skin care range from Hungary. You can enjoy a bathhouse visit for only $25 or stay longer and have a treatment. Whatever you choose, your visit at Haven will leave you feeling refreshed and renewed, as if you have been away on holiday. From $25.
Tweed Heads has a vibrant club scene based on service and sporting clubs, much larger than the shire would normally sustain. The background to these establishments is that for many years poker machines were prohibited in Queensland, but allowable in clubs in New South Wales. Thus clubs proliferated just over the border in Tweed Heads, thriving on holiday traffic from the Gold Coast and on day trippers from Brisbane. Visitors to the shire may be signed in by the doorman, otherwise entry is restricted to members. The clubs all have much the same offer, larges lounges, bars, dining areas and poker machine areas (foreign visitors please note that poker machines are called "pokies") and entertainment. Some quite big stars often turn out at these venues. The big ones are the Tweed Heads Services Club, 100 metres from Queensland, the Tweed Heads Bowls Club, a bit further on, Seagulls Leagues Club on the Terranora Road and Tweed Heads Golf Club in South Tweed Heads. But this information is placed here in the eat category, because these clubs offer exceptional value for money restaurants.
- Coolangatta / Kirra Beach YHA. Adjacent to some of the best beaches in Australia and walking distance from the airport. Hostel with pool, BBQ area, games room.
- 1 City Lights Motel (City Lights Motel in Tweed Heads), 35 Minjungbal Drive, Tweed Heads South (10 minutes south from Gold Coast Airport), ☏ . Budget Accommodation in Tweed Heads South, 10 minutes from Gold Coast Airport. 18 rooms with deluxe, budget and family style accommodation - both motel style and self contained accommodation with cooking facilities. City Lights Motel is wheelchair-friendly. $95.
- Letitia Spit Letitia Rd continues on past Fingal camping ground on its way to the southern head of the Tweed River. The 4 or 5 km road passes a collection of new and old houses which is what remains of the settlement of Fijians who were settled here after working as indentured labourers in the cane fields. There are many descendants in the area. The then rough road continues to the river mouth for a walk to the end of the river training walls (see the late article) and sand pumping system. At different times there is a good board break here and wide beaches. Also a favourite spot for fishermen is on the rock walls.
- Tweed River This river, named by John Oxley, is the northernmost of the Northern Rivers of NSW. Rising in the Border Ranges, it is navigable inland to the bustling alternative town of Murwillumbah, some 30 km up river. Murwillumbah is worth a visit; it was once a timber town and positioned so to ship the highly valued rain forest timbers down river to be picked up at wharves once at the mouth of the river. High on the south side of the river is the Murwillumbah art gallery in a new well positioned building. It is surprisingly worth a visit; there is also a coffee shop/cafe on site. At Kondong is a sugar mill, the river previously being the transport option for the carriage of cane to the mill. At Tumbulgum is a bridge to the north, which offers an alternative drive to Murwillumbah, and another road that leads over the MacPherson Range to the Currumbin Valley in Queensland. The pub at Tumbulgum is a popular watering hole, and the town now boasts a coffee shop and restaurant. The boat ramp at Tumbulgum makes this spot also a popular spot for water skiers. The river has always been a favorite for fishermen, but for an innocent newcomer to catch a feed would be a minor miracle. House boats are available in the Tweed Heads marina, and there are endless peaceful and beautiful reaches of the river to explore. Dinghies are also available for hire at Boyds Bay inlet and at Fingal Head. The river is full of shoals, so care must be taken of navigation marks and buoys.
- Mount Warning Named by James Cook in 1770 to warn sailors of the Danger Reefs off Point Danger (now named Fingal Head in error), this prominent 1156 metre peak towers over the Tweed River valley, the coast line and offers great views of the Macpherson Range to the north. Drive there via Murwillumbah and follow the signs up the Tweed River valley. The access road rises to about the 500 metre mark, and a graded switchback foot track continues to the top. Allow for about 2 hours for the walk to the top, which finishes with a chain up slabby sections to the summit. National Parks have constructed a 360-degree viewing platform on the summit, which slightly jars, but which is quite practical. The nearest pub to the base of the mountain is at Uki, the Mount Warning Hotel.
- Kingscliff This coastal town is at the next headland south of Fingal head, about 6 km further. Until about 10 years ago it was a sleepy campers mecca, but now boasts a vibrant real estate industry, and a busy coffee shop and restaurant strip, and a shopping centre containing a Woolworths. Camping sites are still available right on the beach. The surf is generally on the small side and board surfers are rarely seen out. Cudgeon Creek enters at the point, and offers blue water fisherman relatively easy access to the ocean, weather dependent of course. The mouth of the river is a favorite swimming place for all ages. There are numerous ocean front parks and facilities. The pub is the popular Grand Pacific Hotel. Further south from Kingscliff is the newish Salt real estate development featuring ocean front hotel, restaurants and bar. Further south from there is Casuarina, a newish development designed to have minimal impact on the environment and which boasts many beach houses of original design, and a surfing beach. One of the features of this development was the apparent requirement that no beach front homes were to have a view of the ocean, so from the beach there is no sign of near habitation.
Continue further south to Cabarita, Hastings Point and Pottsville, all very nice ocean front townships with surf beaches. There are several camping grounds to be found. The only pub is the Cabarita Hotel at Bogangar.