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  • Di von Essen

Tranquil Tumbulgum..Australia's Hidden Riverside Gem

Image: Destination NSW
Image: Destination NSW

When Cyclone Jasper ripped through Far North Queensland in December, it devastated the local tourism industry. Roads were cut, airports closed, and holidays were cancelled (including our long-planned trip to the Great Barrier Reef). As local families cleaned up after the deluge, other families looked to relocate their annual holidays elsewhere.


Had it not been for Jasper, though, we may never have found the enchanting little town of Tumbulgum (pronounced Tum-bowl-gum– not Tumble-gum, as we soon found out!) in northern NSW. Tucked away in the lush Tweed Valley, the tiny, charming village of Tumbulgum offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle. This hidden gem, nestled along the banks of the Tweed River, invites visitors to slow down and savour the simple pleasures of a quintessential Australian country town.

Tumbulgum is where the Tweed and Rous Rivers intersect and is said to take its name from a local indigenous word for ‘meeting of the waters.’ Our hastily booked, ideally situated Airbnb (another little gem) was back from the water but still had views of the picnic table- lined riverbank and the houseboats bobbing lazily offshore.

News of heavy rain on the Gold Coast felt irrelevant until we arose the following day to houseboats moving downriver at speeds that would have kept a water skier upright.

We consulted the locals for the low-down. “Houseboats re-called”, we were informed. “Park your cars on the bridge” was the other piece of local wisdom we received – a tip we were very grateful for as the picnic tables became submerged and water crept across the road.

One thing to know about Tumbulgum is that floods are a frequent occurrence. Another thing to know is that no amount of water will deter locals from the Tumbulgum Tavern, where we also became locals for a week. Affectionately known as the ‘Tumby-Pub,’ the venue exudes old-world charm, was consistently packed (where did all those people come from?), and the food was not only excellent value – but really, really good.

Image: Destination NSW
Image: Destination NSW

With walls that could tell a tale or two thousand, the fish mounted on the verandah is undoubtedly just one such story from the days when the pub was the epicentre of the local timber trade. A half-size model of the 800lb Groper caught in the river in 1828 using a meat hook and a cow's hind as bait for fears that it would take a small child from the riverbanks seems like a tall tale—but we are assured it's true. Make sure you save a night away from the pub to enjoy The House of Gabriel's gorgeous surroundings and delicious wood-fired pizza.

No visit to the area would be complete without a lazy afternoon at Husk Farm Distillery. Home to the notorious Ink Gin, the distillery is also Australia’s first agricultural rum distillery and boasts an impressive range.Inspired by Caribbean rum culture, distiller Paul Messenger and hisfamily embarked oncreating a plantation distillery with a vision of creating a uniquely Australian agricole rum. Now eight years in, they've adapted specialised cultivation and distillation methods, resulting in a rum that captures the taste of the local sugar cane farming area.

In late 2016, they began building an expanded distillery with a cellar door and barrel house to meet demand. Visitors can now enjoy distillery tours, flight tastings, and a delicious al fresco dining menu—a great way to while away the day!

Image: Destination NSW

While you’re in the area, don’t forget to take a tour of Tropical Fruit World and be amazed at the vast array of fruits you never knew existed! Allow plenty of time to take a tractor tour of the farm and visit the fruit market. It doesn’t get any more fresh, healthy, and tasty than buying farm-fresh local produce directly from the grower, and most of the fruit you can see in the store has been freshly picked that morning.

If you get tired of putting your feet up, enjoying the tranquillity of nature, and unwinding, Tumblegum is a mere

25-minute drive to the glittering lights of the Gold Coast and all of its attractions.

Tumbulgum is a truly tranquil hidden gem where time seems to slow down, and life's simple pleasures take centre stage.


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