Tweed Heads is as far north as you can get in NSW, with the town abutting the Queensland border, and turning into Coolangatta on the other side, with both known as the Twin Towns. Whilst the area is a hotbed of activity, with tourism, shopping, surfing and some of the fastest residential growth in the state, this activity is nothing compared to the fireworks of some 20 million years ago, when volcanic action resulted in the largest caldera (volcanic rim) in the southern hemisphere.
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The most obvious souvenir of those long-gone hot times is the dramatic peak of Mount Warning (1157m), named by Captain Cook after having escaped nearby "dangerous shoals" of nearby Point Danger, which he also named as a warning to future mariners. (Point Danger now has a memorial to Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavour.) The mountain is the remnant magma chamber and central vent of the ancient volcano, and the lava flow reached as far as Kyogle in the west, Ballina in the south, and 100 kilometres out to sea. Over the millennia, wind and rain have carved out some spectacular scenery, and much of it is preserved in the six World Heritage listed areas in the region.
With a temperate climate and relaxed lifestyle, Tweed Heads has grown considerably over the past few decades, with the large licensed clubs the dominant features. However, the highrise development which marks the Gold Coast further north, is largely absent from Tweed Heads and the residential areas have tended to spread out across newer regions rather than skywards. The population has grown at the rate of 4% a year, with many retirees drawn from down south along with families seeking a more relaxed environment. With more than 37 kilometres of beaches in the shire, there is still lots of space to enjoy.
Originally the area was lush, sub-tropical rainforest and was home to the Bundjalung and Midjungbal peoples, who enjoyed comfortable and culturally rich lifestyles because little time had to be devoted to collecting food. Many of the place names in the region are based on local Aboriginal names, including Mooball, Murwillumbah, Burringbar, Tyalgum, Condong, Uki and Chinderah. However Tweed Heads is taken from the Tweed River, which was discovered by Lieut. John Oxley and named after the River Tweed, which forms the boundary between England and Scotland.
By 1844, the first white timber getters had arrived, and the major changes were on their way. Once the timber was being cleared, new settlers moved in to set up farms on the rich volcanic soils of the region and dairy farming, cane, bananas, fruit and vegetables were grown; while a fishing industry developed around the Tweed River.
The town of Tweed Heads was for many years just a sleepy coastal service centre, but as the adjoining Gold Coast grew more and more popular, the simple facilities of the middle of last century became more sophisticated, with the revenue from poker machines building and lavishly maintaining large clubs. The famous Twin Towns Services and the South Tweed Bowling Club have both just emerged from major renovations taking them into the new century, and the international entertainment and low-priced meals makes them popular for tourists and locals alike. Large function and conference facilities draw added visitors to the clubs.
The two main shopping centres now include a movie complex and a multitude of major national stores as well as local specialty shops. In the new industrial area off Greenway Drive, there are a group of large homewares stores as well as other local industries. The town itself revolves around tourism and the retail and service sector, and with Murwillumbah, is the central focus for the many smaller towns and villages in the shire. Recent on-going streetscaping is making the central areas more comfortable and shaded.
There is a flourishing arts community in the shire, and the Tweed River Regional Art Gallery, at nearby Murwillumbah, is the focus for many major exhibitions as well as the home of the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, the world's richest art prize.
Sports enthusiasts are well provided for, lots of sports fields, excellent golf courses, plenty of swimming pools, including indoor pools and the swimming and surfing beaches which make the area so famous. Recreational fishing is also very popular, from the river, beach or estuaries of the area.
Tweed Shire Council has a commitment to ecologically sustainable development and has approximately 17% of the total shire as National Park or State Environmental Protection lands, along with many threatened and endangered species. The Council encourages economic development opportunities based on arts, crafts and cottage industries of the area.
Apart from the traditional favourite past-times of sun, surf, fishing and clubs, there are many other attractions in and around Tweed Heads. Aside from some relaxing retail therapy in the many shops, there are cinemas and galleries in town. Further out is the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, with a museum, a sacred bora ring and a half hour bushwalk. The Razorback Lookout just behind the town takes in both the Tweed Valley and Gold Coast. Tweed River cruises offer a range of sightseeing, along with coffee or meals, and even the opportunity to catch a crab.
Regional attractions include Tropical Fruit World, the Melaleuca Tea Tree Plantation, Pioneer Plantation and Condong Sugar Mill. The glitz of Surfers Paradise is just another half hour up the road, and a little further on are the theme parks so popular with children and teenagers. Country drives inland offer a totally different perspective, and the many national parks are ideal for bushwalking. Travelling south down the coast, the many little towns and villages offer great places for a swim or a coffee, and in the farming areas there are many roadside fruit stalls with local fruit in season.
Tweed Head is one hour by air from Sydney (Coolangatta has an international airport) and one hour's driving time from Brisbane.
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