Murwillumbah, 850km north of Sydney, is fast becoming one of the premier seachange-treechange destinations in Australia.
Originally the area was home to the indigenous Bundjalung tribe.
European settlement came in the latter 19th century, with the name Murwillumbah being first noted by pioneer settler Joshua Bray following a suggestion by Jonathon Harris and was the aboriginal name of the tribal lands between what is now the Tweed and Rous Rivers.
The first commercial maritime vessel navigated the Tweed River in 1868 and the cultivation of sugar cane and the surveying of the town soon followed.
Shortly before the turn of the century Murwillumbah became the terminus for the NSW North Coast railway line.
Subsequently, the town became a focal point for new settlers to the region and quickly established itself as the mercantile and agricultural centre for the region, rivalling Lismore to the south and as the major town between there and Brisbane.
A lift-span bridge replaced the ferry across the Tweed River in 1901 and the town was declared a municipality a year later.
Also at the turn of the century, the first Tweed River Agricultural Society Show was held at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds and is now one of the oldest continually running agricultural shows in Australia celebrating its 100th show in the year 2000. The showgrounds are considered to be some of the best in Australia.
In 1977, Prince Charles officially opened the show and according to the local paper “looked cool and relaxed despite the 32-degree temperature”.
In 1907 most of the town’s business district was razed by a devastating fire.
But typical of the Australian country people’s resilience, the town was rebuilt with many fine buildings from that period still in evidence today.
The town’s prosperity continued to grow over the decades with an emphasis on agricultural pursuits such as dairying, banana cultivation and sugar production which provided a healthy financial backdrop for local business infrastructure.
Stormy weather - In 1954 Murwillumbah faced devastation once again as the worst flood in its history inundated the business district and low lying areas around the town.
Water levels reached the awnings of many businesses in Main Street. In 1956 the town was again awash with another major flood, a scene repeated in 1974. Since then levee walls and banks have been constructed to lessen nature’s onslaught.
In 1955, the Tweed Valley Banana Festival was held for the first time with the slogan - “Hungry feelin’ -start peelin’ ”.
Today the festival is one of the much-anticipated events on the region’s calendar with the street parade, festival queen quest and other ancillary activities still proving very popular.
Also, in recent years, the annual ‘Speed on Tweed’ Festival, which sees a gathering of hundreds of historic racing cars and their drivers for a weekend of timed sprint racing through the streets of Murwillumbah, has also become an event not to be missed.
In 1978 Australia-wide attention focused on Murwillumbah when Australia’s largest-ever bank robbery took place with $1,763,000 in cash being stolen from the Bank of NSW (now Westpac). The robbery has not been solved.
The 1990s saw Murwillumbah increasingly become a town attracting a cross-cultural, eclectic mix of people wanting to live in its self-sufficient, rural atmosphere.
In August 2002, Murwillumbah was bypassed with the Pacific Highway now using the Yelgun to Chinderah motorway. Far from being a negative move, the town became an even more attractive destination for those wishing to leave the cities’ urban chaos.
Today Murwillumbah is thriving.
It boasts a wonderful climate, is 15 minutes to a number of pristine beaches, 20 minutes to a busy domestic and international airport, is surrounded by world heritage-listed national parks and is one of the most affordable places to live between Melbourne/Sydney and Brisbane.