The north coast of New South Wales is littered with hundreds of great little coastal villages, rivers and pristine beaches. We decided recently to travel around 3 hours south of the Gold Coast to spend a long weekend in Wooli, 50kms south-east of Grafton. We discovered we were going to be in for a treat!
It’s strange because for years and years we had been hearing good things about this coastal strip that takes in Brooms Head, Sandon, Minnie Water and Wooli. Many people we know had camped at one of these places along the coast and had nothing but praise for the region. But I guess with so many great places to stay along the long stretch of coastline we simply never got around to it.
The small coastal town of Wooli is flanked by the Wooli Wooli River to the west, the Yuraygir National Park north and south, and the Solitary Islands Marine Park out to sea. The river is recognized as one of Australia’s most pristine rivers. Hence it is one of the best nurseries for the Sydney Rock Oyster that can be purchased in Wooli along with fish, crabs and lobsters freshly harvested by the local fishing fleet.
The river can be negotiated for around 20 kilometres by canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard with kangaroos, emus, black-necked storks, brolgas, kingfishers, pelicans, parrots and all manner of wildlife abounding along the banks. Otherwise it is the ideal spot to launch your boat and fish the river or head out through the breakwater into the ocean.
We chose very wisely to stay right on the river at the Big4 Solitary Islands Resort in Wooli on a big grassy riverfront caravan site. We had a ringside seat to the life of the river, with waterbirds and fishermen in their boats or canoes trolling the waters.
This caravan park was perfectly located next to the Wooli Pub and General Store and a short driving distance away to the village and Wooli Beach. It has heaps of fantastic facilities like hire bikes, free canoes, swimming pool, jumping pillow and mini golf, so would be ideal for families with children. There is also a large camp kitchen with gas BBQs and picnic tables with the riverview bar above, where the adults can hang out (or maybe escape from the kiddies!)
The town is mainly full of holiday homes, but there is second smaller caravan park located between the river and beach. There is also a Bowling Club with a Chinese Restaurant, and a great Coffee Shop. If you’ve had no luck catching a fish, then there is a Fishing Co-op where you can purchase fresh seafood.
We set off early one morning along the walking path alongside the river that starts near the boat ramp, rambling through the vegetation on the riverbank until it reaches the river mouth and breakwater. There are some lovely little sandy beaches on the shores of the river where you can have a quick dip to cool off.
Once you reach the breakwater you can then stroll back into town along the long stretch of golden sandy beach. On our walk we never encountered one other person for the duration. Where else in the world can you do this?
It’s worth a 6km drive or cycle to the seaside village of Minnie Water, just north of Wooli. The drive takes you past Lake Hiawatha and the densely vegetated Yuraygir National Park. There’s not much in the village itself, except for holiday homes, a general store and a caravan park on the outskirts of town.
We drove up the hill to a small headland to Tree of Knowledge Lookout where we got majestic views over the beach and the natural lagoon offshore surrounded by large rocks. The calm waters of the lagoon is used to launch boats straight off the beach.
North of the town up an unsealed road there are extensive bushland campgrounds where you can enjoy a secluded bush camping site, open campfires and a real camping adventure. If you drive further along the track you can access the beach (permit required) and drive all the way along the beach to Sandon.
Yuraygir National Park has an abundance of flora and fauna with over 120 species of wildflowers identified in the area. There are some scenic walking tracks within the park.
We headed off on a small section of the walk south of Minnie Water from the headland along the coast and through sections of forest until we reached the spectacular beach, known as Back Beach.
About halfway along the walk we heard a bird call – a distinctive “kee-ow”, and stopped to observe a flock of large Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos that took flight and flew from tree to tree feasting on Banksia cones.
The new Yuraygir Coastal Walk is part of the largest stretch of protected coastline in New South Wales. It consists of a 65kms signposted walk that takes you through vast heathland plains, crystal clear creeks and lagoons and long sandy beaches from Angourie in the north to Red Rock in the South.
We had one rainy day during our stay at Wooli so decided to take a drive into the city of Grafton to take a peek at the annual purple explosion, known as Jacaranda Season. Jacarandas can be seen all throughout the region, but the epicentre is Grafton’s tree lined streets.
The inaugural Grafton Jacaranda Festival was about to kick off on the last weekend in October and the town was a sea of purple. Local shops and people alike were adorned in purple in preparation for the festival.
Our long weekend in Wooli was a wonderful immersion in some beautiful, quiet coastal nature. The place certainly deserves to be on the list of great northern New South Wales beachside holiday escapes. I would certainly return here again and again!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.