Far enough off the highway to be readily accessible, yet still with the air of a hideaway location,
Yamba is a traditional Australian fishing/surfing town at ease with its own new cosmopolitan edge.
This is the point where the vast
Clarence River system meets the Pacific Ocean, creating a coastal playground with enticing beaches and exciting activities, a place to appreciate the best of the Australian east coast. It is remarkable that Yamba hasn't become more developed than it is - locals and visitors love it all the more for that and you will, too.
Between Grafton and Tweed Heads, on the east coast of New South Wales, you turn off the main Pacific Highway (Highway 1)
to drive to Yamba, crossing the coastal plain beside the river passing mangroves, islands, pontoons, boatsheds and oyster farms. If you enjoy seafood you won't be surprised if your taste buds start to tingle about now as Yamba is home to a large fishing fleet with the promise of fresh fish, oysters and Yamba prawns for which the area is famous.
As you reach town you'll see fishing boats moored along the river and, perched on the hill, historic
Clarence River Lighthouse and the grand old
Pacific Hotel nearby with panoramic views of the ocean and the white sand sweep of Main Beach below.
For a taste of an iconic Aussie pub you can stay at the Pacific Hotel which has a busy bar where you can meet the locals, sample pub food and listen to live bands (usually Thursdays to Sundays). You can also self-cater at a wide range of local apartments and houses or stay at the
Angourie Rainforest Resort between Angourie and Yamba, which has its own poolside café, restaurant and day spa. There's also the purpose-built new Yamba YHA Backpackers and several motels.
One look at Main Beach and it will be love at first sight and you won't be able to resist kicking off your shoes to feel the sand between your toes before you dip them into the ocean. Listen to the locals and you will hear many tales, some tall, some true and many about surfing as the area is home to legendary
Angourie Point, linked with famous surfing names such as
This could even be the home of some of Australia's oldest surfing as photos have recently come to light of a man called Tommy Walker snapped (albeit upside-down) on his surf board here in 1912.
"It's a great find," says local surfer/photographer Simon Allard who is working on a website to showcase the proposed Tommy Walker First Classic surfing competition here in 2012. Angourie is classified as a
National Surfing Reserve and has one of those surf breaks the magazines include in global 'must-ride' lists and is famous throughout the surfing world, making the area a perfect place for a surf lesson if you haven't tried before.
Not a surfer or even a wannabe? Fishing is big draw card whatever your skills - to fit in like a local you'll need to hire a
'tinny' (slang for a small aluminum boat, also Aussie slang for a can of beer) for some leisurely fishing, hire a houseboat or a charter for
some serious deep sea fishing.
Yamba's prawns are in demand by the fish markets and restaurants around Australia and the prawn boats go out at night returning with their catch in the morning. Eating local seafood is a real joy here but of course it isn't all about fish and there are many styles of dining with the mix of cafes, restaurants and hotels ever-evolving as chefs come and go.
You may even have a cooking lesson while you are here - Scott and Meredith Morschel run
Kitchen to Table, a treasure trove of a kitchen shop where you will find everything for the kitchen and dining as well as gifts and books. Scott is a surfer and the couple moved here to enjoy the lifestyle and climate as well as run their business.
"People seem to have time to shop when they come to Yamba," says Scott. "We have some great retail therapy here including clothes which means people can buy quality items here, useful things for their lifestyles, not just souvenirs".
"When we have time off we might take a tinny and go fishing, have Sunday lunch at a hotel, walk the dog on the beach (Yamba has some dog-friendly beaches). I surf and, like everyone, we love watching the whales in the season - sometimes there are so many out there it's ridiculous."
This is a wonderful spot for whale watching between July and November when whales migrate from the chilly Antarctic north to Hervey Bay to calve in the warm waters and then return. Dolphins play in the waters around Yamba all year and you just might see them in close up on a
kayaking trip from the Iluka side of the Clarence River.
Kayaking is a very special way to explore the fabulous coastline, lakes, inlets, rivers, creeks and maze of little islands and Bob Lillington has been kayaking for forty years and has run his company, Yamba Kayak, here for the last ten years. With its ocean-side location, you might think kayaking at Yamba is all about the sea, but according to Bob this is not so.
"Not everyone wants the challenge of sea kayaking," says Bob. "In fact 90% of my tours are to the pristine rivers and lakes in the area. Take Lake Wooloweyah for example - only about a third of it is visible from the land and so I take people to discover areas only accessible by boat and they love that sense of adventure."
Paddling the area for many years has made Bob very knowledgeable so a tour with him combines the kayaking experience with an insight into all you see - the mangroves, trees and other vegetation, grandiose pelicans fishing in the lake, black swans, sea eagle nests, royal spoonbills, cormorants and herons. On the eastern shore of the Yuraygir National Park you might also see dingoes, wallabies and kangaroos.
Depending on the weather, sea kayaking is a wonderful way to view the coastline and, if white water appeals, there are operators on the Nymboida River to the south east of Grafton which is one of the major white water rafting destinations in Australia.
You can do almost anything you choose in the area as there are activities including as kite surfing, abseiling, horse riding, golf, river cruising, 4WD and eco tours, rock climbing, gliding and beautiful coastal walking.
Newly opened is the four-day Yuraygir Coastal Walk through the
Yuraygir National Park, the longest stretch of protected coastline in NSW adjoining the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
You follow emu footprint markers along the 65 kilometre route between the coastal villages of Angourie and Red Rock either completing the entire walk or choosing half and single day options. The track takes you along beautiful beaches, over headlands, heath land, rock platforms and beside clear creeks and lagoons, all through the traditional lands of the Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal peoples.
Photo & Story Credits
Courtesy of Tourism Australia