From NZ to the Tweed River - A Houseboat Holiday Journal
Saturday, 01 June 2019
We recently had some lovely guests visit from across the ditch for a week stay aboard Blue Bayou. We absolutely loved reading about their adventures and thought it was definitely worth sharing! If you are thinking of a houseboat holiday on the Tweed this will surely help make your decision much easier!
Winter holiday to Aussie - Day 1.
Flying over the Southern Alps from Christchurch to Coolangatta, we were treated to spectacular views of the snow capped peaks. Then, solid cloud all the way to the coast near Coolangatta where the cloud ended and we got a nice preview of where we would spend our next week on a houseboat. We wandered into Tweed Heads, the twin towns, half in New South Wales and half in. Queensland.
With a belly full of Aussie fish and chips fueling our feet we found the strange triangular portal that makes the state boundary. We stepped back and forwards between NSW and Queensland, but they seemed the same. If you ask a local, they might dispute that! The fancy blue lit building is the local lawn and indoor bowls club!
Winter holiday - Day 2.
The locals are probably amused that we are fascinated by the pelicans at Tweed Marina. They look even more cool when they fly - they are very big birds... After some shopping for emergency supplies (gluten free items and more wine!), we had our "How Not To Bollocks Things Up In Your Boat" briefing from Dave from Berger Houseboats. Happy that we looked vaguely competent he gave us a thumbs up and we were off down the Tweed.
On our boat the "Blue Bayou", we did some relaxing, unsuccessful fishing, eating, relaxing, and more unsuccessful fishing. We anchored up beside Chinderah Island which is nicely sheltered from the cool evening southerly breeze. Dinner was a delicious feed of salmon and potato fritters.
Winter holiday - Day 3
As we dawdled up the Tweed on our mighty houseboat, we gradually left the farming country behind, heading inland to more lush vegetation. Thick bush, mangroves, gums and fruiting fig trees with mighty buttressed roots made for interesting surroundings.
The potato quality camera on this phone isn't good enough to snap decent photos of all the birds we have seen. Apart from pelicans, Ibis, bush turkeys, egrets and herons, we have also spotted beautiful osprey with golden brown bodies and white heads. From a vantage points in a tall trees, they survey the river, swooping in to catch fish. Others glide by overhead, barely flapping as they soar above the river. Special wire structures on the top of power poles provide nesting places for the osprey in the farm areas.
Shortly before a beautiful sunset we buzzed out in our little tender for a spot of fishing along the river edge. We fed the local fish plenty of shrimp before heading back to the Blue Bayou just as it started to rain lightly.
Our night anchorage is beside Stotts island, New South Wales largest remaining area lowland subtropical rainforest. It is also apparently a floating island. It doesn't look like it's floating from here!
Winter holiday - Day 4
Our day started with nearly as much water coming down from the sky as was flowing under our boat. Torrential rain is far more interesting than dribbly bulk standard rain. But just as wet... So we stayed inside, watching the spectacular deluge until it passed. The weather quickly improved and by mid-morning and was pleasantly warm with sunny spells. We passed time with the fellas fishing, this time with some success. A few small fish were caught and released. Inside, the ladies smashed out crosswords, knitting and Sudoku puzzles.
After lunch we chugged up a lovely section of the Tweed. The forested banks had plenty of birdlife and the river was wide and lazy. We stopped at the little town of Tumbulgum, which consists of a historic tavern, a general store, a cafe and a pizza restaurant. Not bad for a town of less than 400 people... We couldn't tell if the little gnome on the sign is giving us a thumbs up or his middle finger.
After a brief exploration of the Town and it's tavern, we anchored our houseboat for the night a short distance up the Rous river, a tributary of the Tweed.
Winter holiday - Day 5
Our day started much like day 4, with us amazed again at how much and how hard it can rain in these parts. Fortunately Paul's mantra of "rain before seven, fine by eleven" proved itself correct again, and the cloud lifted leaving a warm but cloudy morning. Anchored up the Rous river, we were not far from the North Tumbulgum cemetery. Two short trips in the dinghy to the riverbank later, we were all wandering up a pleasant road to the old graveyard.
In the late nineties a local restoration group had done a lot of work tidying the cemetery, identifying and marking graves, and putting paths through the site. Unfortunately twenty years later, it finds itself in need of some love again. The surrounding bush is slowly but surely reclaiming the site. It is still a fascinating place to explore, with a mix of ornate and expensive marble headstones beside simple homemade ones.
After lunch and some more fishing, we set off up the Tweed again. The surrounding forest slowly gave way to farmland again, and we were soon gliding past fields of sugarcane and the houses of the farmers that work them. The sugarcane is vivid green and stands about three metres tall, filling field after field along the river.
We anchored in Condong shortly before sunset and a few hundred metres from the sugar refinery that dominates the riverbank ahead of the Condong bridge. Enjoying kangaroo and beef steaks of the barbeque and watching the sunset from the top deck of our boat was a lovely way to end another great day on the Tweed.
Winter holiday - Day 6
Continuing our morning precipitation theme, at breakfast time we were treated to a series of brilliant rainbows rising out of the river, arcing across the cloud covered Mount Warning.
Word on the street was Condong has a great little coffee shop. So we buzzed our trusty little tender back and forwards to the boat ramp to do some exploring.
There isn't much to the little town. But it is nice. Some cute cottages in a row nestled between larger Aussie bungalows all face endless fields of sugar cane across the road.
It turns out the Condong sugar refinery is connected to a power station. From the river it all looks like a single factory. Sugar cane husks feed the power station furnaces, which in turn provides steam back to the refinery. A symbiotic relationship.
The rumours about the cafe were correct. The Condong store is a super friendly little establishment and they do great coffee. After lunch we motored back down the river to Stotts Island, with each of the womenfolk taking a turn at the helm with the captains had on.
Winter holiday - Day 7
Beginning with my usual weather report, we had our brightest start to a day so far, with mostly blue skies and lovely warm sun shining into the Blue Bayou.
The boys liked the idea of pumping a few yabbies and fishing near the sand bars down the river. And so, with the boat anchored in relatively shallow water, the lads took the tender out. It was a triumphant expedition with yabbies successfully pumped and a flathead fish caught and released.
After lunch we mosied down the river from our fishing anchorage to Chinderah, another small town on the banks of the Tweed.
Once all on land, we wandered the short distance to Chinderah Bay antiques. This amazing place is part shop and part museum, with a larger than life proprietor who enjoys a good chat. Inside is an astonishing array of weird and wonderful artifacts, mostly but not all of maritime origin. The photos here pretty much tell what a thousand words won't.
We decided to stay anchored off Chinderah for the night, enjoying another BBQ dinner as the sun sank behind the low hills.
Winter holiday - Day 8
Our last morning on the houseboat was a mix of photographing yet more rainbows and getting the boat tidy ready for returning to Berger Houseboats at the Tweed Marina.
Once the trusty Blue Bayou was safely tied at the marina, there was time to do a little exploring... We decided to follow the river towards town. Along the way we bumped into some cold blooded locals sunning themselves on the rocks along the river. While admiring the scaly reptiles we chatted to a friendly local retiree who told us he regularly strolls down to feed the lizards little meat treats.
Our walk took us along Coolangatta beach to snapper rocks. It was a lovely hot afternoon and the locals were out in force enjoying the day. A big southerly swell was making for excellent surfing.
But... Gold coast weather is changeable. Before we made it back to the marina we were caught in a passing downpour. It didn't get colder, just a lot wetter! We were glad to have packed jackets in our backpacks.
At 3pm the sun was out again and we were back at the marina. Our adventure was over. Two Uber cars were talking us to the airport. The end of a really brilliant holiday. Thanks Clark's and Bradbury's for being such excellent shipmates!!!!