Known for its Pacific beaches and fertile valleys around rivers such as the Clarence and Tweed, aptly named Northern Rivers is also a hotbed of delicious dining destinations.
Marked by a lighthouse and passed by migratory whales, Cape Byron Headland Reserve is Australia’s easternmost point, while Rainforest Way links rainforested parks with wildlife, trails and waterfalls.
Discover all this along with markets, great restaurants and cafes; as we celebrate AGFG’s 2023 Chef Hat award winners, check out these six Northern Rivers venues that are must visits:
With its unique beachside location overlooking Halcyon House’s idyllic pool, Paper Daisy
(14) on Cypress Crescent in Cabarita Beach is the perfect dining destination for intimate celebrations. This award-winning restaurant oozes elegant charm with a coastal vibe from blue and white striped chairs and an eclectic mix of artwork as guests unwind with a drink in hand to peruse an enticing menu.
Book in for lunch or dinner as breezes ruffle nearby trees and share plates such as yellowfin tuna, Davidson plum, pomelo, daikon, trout roe and ponzu to start, before dry-aged duck breast, mushrooms, Napa cabbage and duck ham.
Set next to a lush rainforest oasis, Forest Byron Bay
(13) on Broken Head Road celebrates sustainability, working hand-in-hand with local farmers, growers and artisans. Set within Crystalbrook Byron resort, this contemporary restaurant is social, approachable and distinctly Australian, embracing the region’s abundance of stunning ingredients.
From breakfast to dinner or just drinks, Forest is the ideal place to feed your soul with share plates like crispy pork hock, spiced caramel, native vinegar, fried onion, chilli and herbs or pappardelle with lamb ragu, tomato, pangrattato and Parmesan.
Born in the beauty and fire of new beginnings, Karrikin
(13) restaurant on Coldstream Street in Yamba offers an ever-changing four-course set menu, crafted from local, seasonal produce and foraged delicacies. Named for the proteins that bind to soil and renew life in the aftermath of smoke and bushfire, this elegant space blends a cool colour palette with dark wood, artwork and softly glowing pendents to set the scene for inspired dining.
Taking cues from native surroundings, expect starting plates that excite and tempt the taste buds, such as rare spiced venison, miso cream, mustard, hot butter and fried bread or Yamba prawns, pumpkin, curry and avocado.
Set on a small 10-acre farm in Carool’s picturesque countryside sits Potager - A Kitchen Garden
(13), a culinary destination popular with locals and visitors alike. While guests come to taste sumptuous cuisine, they are spoiled with a panorama across a flourishing Northern NSW valley from inside a contemporary fit-out in the stylish décor of local craftspeople.
An ever-changing menu is sure to make the mouth water, with choices such as Manjimup truffled chicken breast, smoked bunya nut velouté, celeriac fondant, black garlic ketchup and chicken gravy.
Expect an authentic Mediterranean experience served with a smile at trendy restaurant on the Byron Bay block, The Hut
(13) on Friday Hut Road in Possum Creek. This beach-chic venue calls the Old O’Possum Creek Public School home, projecting a chilled-out coastal vibe with large windows offering garden glimpses, polished wood floors and whitewashed walls softened by potted greenery and an abundance of natural light.
Open for lunch four days a week, the menu celebrates the simplicity of European flavours; think starters like burrata and figs followed by mains such as swordfish, piquillo pepper salsa and eggplant purée.
A beautiful bistro on the banks of the majestic Tweed River in picturesque Murwillumbah, Tweed River House
(13) on River Street is the place to dine, drink and socialise. With sweeping views of majestic Wollumbin, this magnificently restored century-old house evokes the gentler pace of the Northern Rivers, where you can dine on the river terrace, or inside under the statement chandelier.
From a carefully curated menu showcasing seasonal produce, start with smoked tuna tartare, pancetta, bottarga and tarragon aioli, moving onto brandy flambéed lobster tails, pomme Dauphine, fennel purée and finger lime beurre monte.