4-Day Northern Rivers and Tweed Tropical Delights

    Two individuals, each wearing a blue shirt and beige pants, are seated in an old black Ford convertible displayed at an exhibition. The background features Ford logos and two feather flags. The indoor scene, perfect for day trips for seniors, showcases various historical artifacts.

    What a relaxing way to explore new regions – someone to take care of the driving, bookings and route, when all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the experience. Had you joined us and the Funtastic Tour Company on their recent adventure, you would have been part of it too.

    After a very welcome morning tea stop at North Lakes Sports Club, we headed south for the first feature of the day – Tambourine Rainforest Skywalk, for a walk high among the trees to Cedar Creek Falls. So while these are less than impressive during this dry spell, the walk was peaceful and calming. Even those of us with limited mobility were able to enjoy it from the raised steel bridges high above the forest floor.

    After all that activity, or just enjoyment of the Eco Gallery, it was time for lunch and wandering the interesting retail outlets of the Gallery Walk.

    In the hands of the Funtastic crew, we were more than happy with their choice of accommodation for the next three nights – Ballina Byron Islander Resort, where our comfy rooms and sumptuous breakfasts and dinners meant we were fully fueled for each days’ activities.

    The highlight of Day Two was the leisurely cruise on the Tweed River with a delicious lunch, featuring more prawns than we could eat, alongside a grazing platter worthy of any restaurant, served as we puttered along the river, admiring the scenery and passing birdlife.

    What a great choice the following day was the Australian Seabird and Turtle Rescue Centre, where we were both informed of and shocked by the number of turtles and seabirds that require intervention to save them from the carelessness of humans, with fishing hooks and lines and discarded plastics causing suffering to these beautiful creatures. Staffed by marine biologists and a team of volunteers, this centre does invaluable work, all without any government funding. We were privileged to meet the author and illustrator of a range of colourful children’s books with a marine environment theme.

    Once again the Funtastic boys had chosen an entertaining and unique activity for us for the afternoon – a ride on the world’s first solar train.

    While the journey wasn’t lengthy – a mere three kilometres into the heart of Byron Bay from North Beach Station, the return journey gave us the chance to take in the scenery through beachside and rainforest, seated comfortably in restored 1949 heritage carriages, while gleaning information about its inception and history.

    You could say the best was saved till last, but that’s not strictly true, as the Funtastic boys had arranged an itinerary that was special on each of the four days of the Northern Rivers trip. Having read about the renowned artist, Margaret Olley, a national treasure, I was excited to see the section of the Tweed Valley Regional Art Gallery devoted to her life and works. A sumptuous morning tea in the café there, complete with views over the valley, provided the fuel we needed to wander the gallery and take in the re-creation of some of the disordered, yet quirkily unique rooms from her home studio in Paddington, Sydney. Thousands of her precious objects are on display, more held in storage; these give an insight into the life and legacy of this remarkable artist.

    The Funtastic crew had designed an enjoyable four days, visiting interesting places, taking the stress out of planning and travelling, while building memories with the new friends we’d spent time with. The final visit did not disappoint, particularly as it was designed for the car lovers amongst us and featured things older than we are – always a positive – the Gold Coast Motor Museum. With more shiny duco and chrome than we’ve ever seen at one location, it was truly a testament to the owners’ passion.

    Included in the vast array of treasures is the 1935 blue Packard, presented to Amelia Earhart following her solo crossing of the Atlantic. It is one of only four in the world, so truly remarkable to be on display here.

    As all good things must come to an end, so must this trip. With an exceptional attention to detail and care of patrons, the boys from Funtastic are to be congratulated and I’m eagerly scanning their brochure for where they can take me next – watch this space.

    -Jan Kent