Taste the delicious NSW Northern Rivers

a couple having a picnic on the beach.

Pack your local goodies and enjoy a picnic on the beach. Tourism Australia

When Oliver Twist sang “food glorious food”, I’m pretty sure he was dreaming of the NSW Northern Rivers. This is a rich farming area known for its dairy farming, sugar cane, bananas, fruit and vegetables and fishing industry. As a result, you can buy delicious local produce at the many markets, farm shops and roadside stalls. Be sure to have your shopping bags and coins handy for the roadside stalls, most are unmanned and rely on an honesty box system so you to pay for what you take. 

The bottom line is that you don’t have to look too far or too hard to find your next foody thing to do on the Northern Rivers. And while there are farm gates and factory tours, there’s plenty of cafes and shops selling delicious local produce.  Here’s a few suggestions to get you started. 

Visit the local farmers’ markets

 people shopping at the local farmers markets in the Northern Rivers

Visit the local farmers markets for all your fresh produce. Photo: Destination NSW

Visit the many Northern Rivers farmers markets for authentic, delicious and local seasonal produce. I’m not sure if it’s the rich red volcanic soil, temperate climate, true-blue local farmers, but your tastebuds will be singing as you wander from stall to stall. These markets connect the locals with farmers and producers, so you can get the region’s best fruit and veg, organise meat and seafoods, eggs, cheeses, olives, dips, nuts, artisan breads, honey, cakes, and more. Why not treat yourself to a freshly brewed local coffee or delicious breakfast prepared with local produce. There’s a market nearly every day of the week from 8-11am.

  • Tuesday: New Brighton Farmers’ Market (New Brighton oval)

  • Wednesday: Murwillumbah Farmers’ Market (Murwillumbah showground)

  • Thursday: Byron Bay Farmers’ Market (Butler Street reserve)

  • Friday: Mullumbimby Farmers’ Market, (Mullumbimby showground)

  • Saturday

    • Bangalow Farmers’ Market (Bangalow hotel car park)
    • Lismore Farmers’ Market (Lismore showground)
    • Kingscliff beach markets – (every 2nd and 4th Saturday, Jack Bayliss Park, Marine Parade) 

Food trails & adventures

delicious seasonal produce at a stall the farmers markets in the Northern Rivers

Buy delicious seasonal produce direct from the farm gates on the Northern Rivers

Set off on your own food trail or book an organised food tour around the northern rivers. 

There’s the food and art tour which starts at the local farmers market for local goodies and a chat with the farmers and growers. You’re then taken to some of the local restaurants to sample tasting plates of signature dishes before heading to the art gallery for an afternoon tea by the river. Another popular food trail tour takes you to the historic towns and farms where you'll meet the local farmers and sample their local organic produce and bush tucker. This is a truly delicious day out!

Below are just a few farms and restaurants to add to your food trail itinerary.

  • Farm and Co (near Kingscliff), has fields of sunflowers to explore, and delicious local organic produce to buy. Bring your own picnic or pick your goodies straight from the fruit and vegetable patches. 

  • Madura tea estate (near Byron Bay) is nestled between rainforests, farms and streams. Take a guided tour and get to know the story of tea, from plant to pack.

  • Visit Tropical Fruit World (Caldara – near Murwillumbah) and sample local seasonal fruits. Make a day of it and book a tour which includes a plantation safari tour through 500 of the world’s wackiest fruit orchards, the orchard discovery walk, wildlife cruise and train ride.

a mother and daughter in the sunflower fields at Farm & Co. at Kingscliff

Visit the sunflower fields at Farm & Co.

  • Cheese-lovers must visit the newly opened Tweed Valley Whey in Burringbar (near Murwillumbah). These local dairy farmers have been serving the community for over 100 years, and have recently opened a café and store selling delicious home-made gourmet cheeses. 

  • Head to the Farm (Byron Bay). This is a working farm where a community of growers, producers and eateries share the land and work together to create sustainable and amazing food. They are all about ‘growing great food that feeds and nourishes the people and the land, and educating the community on being part of a sustainable food movement. 

    • Grab a delicious, nutritious meal at the Three Blue Ducks restaurant. These guys only cook with what’s in season and most of it is from the local area. They also own the nearby Produce Store which is a market garden growing and selling delicious seasonal organic fruit and veg to restaurants and the community.

    • The Bread Social is probably my favourite bakery in the world. These guys bake incredible, sourdoughs, light buttery pastries, pies, cakes and tarts. If you love a Portuguese tart, you can’t go past their ‘custard tart’. My mouth waters at the thought of it. If you’re in Tweed Heads, Bread Social also has a café on Bay Street. 

    • Baylato make homemade gelato, smoothies, mini pancakes and more!

    • Poppy & Fern grows and sells beautiful organic flowers, picked straight from The Farm. 

    • Wormticklers and the Garden Shed is an organic nursery where you can buy seasonal herbs, vegetables, companion plants and edible flowers and all kinds of seedlings for your own garden.

a couple dining at the Farm at Byron Bay.
Add a visit to the Farm at Byron Bay to your itinerary. Photo: Destination NSW
  • Visit Puremelt Chocolate Lounge in Mullumbimby for some hellishly delicious and guilt-free chocolate. I’m not saying it’s calorie-free, but all ingredients are organic, ethically sourced, and hand-made. Sample the chocolate, brownies, organic fudge or drinking chocolate. 

  • Summerland House Farm (Alstonville Plateau) is a macadamia and avocado farm. Take the Tractor Farm Tour and explore the orchards on the farm.

  • The Macadamia Castle (Knockrow – near Byron Bay) is totally nuts! (you get the joke.) Get all things macadamia such as roasted or flavoured nuts and oils plus local coffees, jams, and relishes. 

Wineries, breweries & distilleries

A cocktail bar with locally distilled gin on the counter in the Northern Rivers

Enjoy a cocktail at one of the local distilleries

NSW Northern Rivers some of the best craft breweries and distilleries of gin and rum. My suggestion is to do a few different food and wine day trips where you check out a farm gate or two, a distillery or two, and an art gallery or coastal walk.

  • Husk Distillery  (Tumbulgum) is one of the coolest places to hang out. This distillery is set on the family cattle & cane farm, and creates delicious and colourful Ink Gin. This purple gin gets its colour from the butterfly pea flower, and when you add tonic water, it turns pink. They also make Husk Rum.

  • Cape Byron Distillery is on a 96-acre farm (owned by the Brook’s family), in Byron Bay’s hinterland. They make a range of spirits including their signature 

  • Brookies Gin with its subtle flavours of rose, watermelon and plum. Book a distillery tour or enjoy a tasting session and see how the magic happens.

  • Winding Road Distilling – (Tintenbar) creates hand-crafting whiskies, rums, and gins that are uniquely Northern Rivers. This is a family-run business that products reflect their curiosity and sense of adventure. There’s no cellar door or tours at the moment but their products are available in local bottle shops.

people enjoying freshly brewed beer at Stone & Wood in Byron Bay
Enjoy a freshly brewed beer at Stone & Wood in Byron Bay. Photo: Destination NSW
  • Stone and Wood brewery (Byron Bay) is proudly owned by three local guys (Brad, Ross and Jamie) who have created a village brewery. Book a brewery tour or drop by their tasting room or sample their award-winning brews including the popular Pacific Ale, Green Coast Lager, and Cloud Catcher pale ale.

  • The Byron Bay Brewery has a range of local craft beer brewed on-site. It has a pub feel to it with an inside dining area and a beer garden, so plonk yourself down and sample a few local brews.

North Coast restaurants & cafes

People enjoying a drink at the Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Byron Bay

While you're at The Farm in Byron Bay, grab a drink or bite to eat the Three Blue Ducks. Photo: Destination NSW

There’s so many amazing restaurants and cafes to choose from. My honest advice is to walk along the streets and let your sense of smell decide what's on your next menu. The other great option is to pick up some take-away and head to the beaches or parks for your own alfresco dining experience. A few suggestions are:

  • House of Gabriel café serves up food and views of the Tweed River at Tumbulgum. This is family-friendly with a cubby house and plenty of things for kids to explore while you're dining.

  • Flutterbies Cottage Cafe is at the bottom of Mount Warning and has old-world-charm. A key feature is its teahouse and delicious high teas.

  • Mavis's Kitchen is a lovely old homestead at the foothills of Mount Warning. The restaurant is surrounded with vegetable patches and produce is picked fresh and used to create delicious dishes.

  • Fins restaurant at Salt (Kingscliff) serves up a 7-course degustation menu.

  • Grab a cheap and cheerful meal at one of the many licensed clubs and surf clubs that are dotted along the beaches.  

  • Harvest café and deli (Newrybar) has delicious pastries, breads, coffee and a deli selling all things local and seasonal. If it isn’t grown from their own edible gardens, it’s come from the local providores. This is one very popular spot to hang out so be ready for the crowds. Harvest is just down the road from Byron Bay.

Celebrate all-things-food

a table set up with lots of delicious food created by great chefs on the Northern Rivers
Enjoy great food created by great chefs on the Northern Rivers. Photo: Destination NSW

The Northern Rivers has a few foody festivals throughout the year, and generally adds art and culture into the mix. For those wondering why we need food festivals, the big question is: why wouldn’t you celebrate food on the Northern Rivers. 

  • Join the Harvest festival every May when local farmers and food producers host events, dinners, workshops and all things fabulously food-related.

  • September is ‘Sample Food Festival’ brings together chefs, restaurants and producers so we mere mortals can taste and try their creations. It’s like dining alfresco at the best restaurants on a single day.

NSW North Coast museums & galleries

Look inside the hat factory at the Margaret Olley Art Centre
Look inside the hat factory at the Margaret Olley Art Centre. Photo: Ryan Fowler, Destination Tweed

Many artists flock to Northern NSW because they’re inspired by the area’s natural beauty. In keeping with the theme of art blending into the local environment, you can visit studios and artists residence’s, enjoy a make-shift exhibition of paintings hanging in cafes and restaurants, and self-guided heritage walks. 

Art & culture around the Tweed

  • Explore the Tweed Regional Gallery and its program of art exhibitions, concerts, and artists’ talks. The gallery has a wide range of contemporary and historical exhibitions by national and local artists. Check out the gallery’s collection of portraits representing Australians from all walks of life.  

  • Visit the Tweed Regional Museum and get a glimpse into how industry and agricultural have shaped the area. It's free and open every day except Mondays.

  • While you’re in Murwillumbah, take a self-guided historical walk through Murwillumbah and its many art deco buildings. Finish up at the Austral Café for a milkshake (which has been there since the town’s earliest days).

  • Visit the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Tweed Heads and explore the museum, sacred bora ring, followed by a half hour bushwalk.

  • Do the annual Northern Rivers Art Trail Tour (scheduled for 25–31 March 2021).

  • Head to the LAC (in Lennox Heads) where seven artists share this hub and have regular exhibitions, events and talks. Drop by and meet painters Mark Waller, Christine Read, Fiona Reddoch and Narelle Bretherton; Frankie Sharman (solargraphy); Julian Jett (photographer); and Jen Banks (jeweller).

  • The Northern Rivers Community Gallery (Ballina) connects artists, makers and audiences. Explore the four exhibition spaces showing works by emerging and established artists.

  • Nimbin Artists Gallery exhibits works including sculpture, glass, jewellery, ceramics, by over 100 local artists. 

Artists & galleries in Byron Bay

Delicious pastries and sweet treats to eat on the Northern Rivers
Art comes in all shapes and sizes including pastries and sweet treats
  • Gallery Cosmosis Byron Bay features prints and original paintings by local, national and international artists.

  • Joe Helmore Contemporary Art Studio (paintings) 

  • Craig Parry Gallery (oceanic and nature photographer.)

  • Gallery 7 – owned by Andrew Hmelnitsky who comes from a long line of Russian artists and musicians. Andrew said: “My art is about love, about life and about time. It is about a journey, about memory and about loss.”

  • Jules Hunt Gallery works include pottery, sculptures, photography and women’s fashion. 

  • Retrospect Galleries is a hub for contemporary and innovative local artists. 

  • David Lane's Studio Gallery in Tintenbar (near Byron Bay), for stunning paintings. 

  • JinxE designs studio (in Bangalow). Artist Jodi Green creates stunning handmade pieces using reclaimed wood, vintage objects, and items found in alleyways.

  • Ninbella art gallery (in Bangalow) – houses contemporary Indigenous artists as well as talented locals.