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I guess you could say that the Nambucca Valley offers the best of both worlds. There’s a long 23 kilometre stretch of coastline with gorgeous beaches, the superb Nambucca River that is brimming with marine life and water birds, a delectable range of fresh produce growing in the Nambucca Valley and picture postcard scenery from towering headlands and lookouts. We recently spent a week exploring the Nambucca Valley & beaches and were won over by this Mid North Coast New South Wales region.
Our place of choice to settle for a week was in the coastal town of Nambucca Heads, that as the name denotes is situated at the head of the Nambucca River. Geographically it’s located a short distance off the Pacific Highway halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, so it makes it a perfect spot to break up the long drive between the two state capitals.
Driving into the town we were immediately struck by how pretty this place is, as we wound our way down with a rain-forested clad hill on one side and the river on the other. Once we reached the river mouth we saw the wide expanse of aqua water, sandy and heavily vegetated river islands and the breakwall known as the V-Wall with it’s colourful outdoor gallery of rock art/graffiti.
The town itself has everything to make your stay comfortable and keep you entertained without wanting for anything. It has a variety of shops, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs, cinema, golf course, boat ramps, parks, walking paths along the river and through the rainforest, library, galleries, museum and gym.
Being beachgoers for most of our lives, we were very impressed with Nambucca’s choice of beaches. It does in fact boast six beautiful beaches that are perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing or playing!
This beach is patrolled by the Surf Club on weekends and holidays so is probably one of the safest options for swimming. It’s very popular for surfing, wind surfing, parasailing and sea kayaking. Whales are spotted close to shore during the season and there are also pods of dolphins year round.
We took the 10 kilometre return beach walk from Main Beach to Deep Creek at Valla Beach one morning and found it to be fairly easy going on the low to mid tide.
A pretty shaded beach that is protected one end by Wellington Rocks and also has a boat ramp for ocean access.
A less populated beach accessible from the river mouth, with a large expanse of sand for kids to play in and is also suitable for beach fishing.
A small safe beach for swimming or fishing on the river protected by a V-wall.
A perfect spot on the river for a picnic or BBQ with a calm water beach ideal for small children to swim and with a pontoon for throwing a line in.
Only accessible by boat or 4WD on the southern side of the river mouth, South Beach is remote and unpatrolled.
We find it’s always a good idea to get our bearings and absorb the magnificent views by visiting lookouts and viewing platforms in town. There are a few of these in Nambucca Heads that offer panoramic views of the beaches and river. During whale migration season from May to October these lookouts are also the perfect place to whale watch.
Captain Cook Lookout – Best for views over both the river mouth and beaches to the north and south.
Rotary Lookout – Best for views over the river and river mouth.
Lions Lookout – Best for views over Beilby’s Beach and Main Beach
Headland Lookout – Best for views over Main Beach up to Valla Beach.
Known as the winding or crooked river, the Nambucca River begins its journey in the hinterland near Bowraville, through farmland to Macksville, and then to Nambucca Heads where it enters the ocean. It really is a pretty river with an abundance of marine life, including dolphins; waterbirds galore – with my favourite the cheeky pelican; a variety of fish from Bass, Bream, Flathead to Snapper; masses of rock oysters and mud crabs.
The best way to see the river is by boat or paddling a kayak, however if you prefer you can jump on a boat cruise. Nambucca River Cruises & Houseboats do a 2 hour morning tea cruise every Wednesday morning. Otherwise take the river boardwalk that hugs the river from the Visitor Information Centre all the way to the river mouth.
During our stay in Nambucca we jumped into our car over two separate days and explored the surrounding area.
Heading north of Nambucca it’s only a short drive to Valla Beach. This place has kilometres of literally unspoilt beaches, the estuarine Deep Creek, rocky headlands and low tide rockpools. There is also the Jagun Nature Reserve that is ideal for hiking or mountain biking.
Valla Beach village offers a small general store, modern cafes, tavern and few other shops. The Valla Beach Tourist Park is a great place to camp for holidaymakers.
Probably the pick of the beach towns in the region, Scotts Head with its rocky promontories is an idyllic beachside hamlet. We headed 30 kilometres south from Nambucca through Macksville where we turned off towards the coast. This surfing mecca has a choice of three great beaches: Forster or Main Beach that arcs around in a crescent shape, Little Beach wedged between two rocky headlands, and the more exposed Wakki Beach for experienced surfers only.
The caravan park here sits on Main Beach and opposite there are a few little shops and cafes. We took a stroll from the Surf Club carpark around the headland where there is a platform and seating for whale watching, around to another lookout overlooking the pretty Little Beach. Afterwards we enjoyed the laid back ambience of the village with a rejuvenating coffee at Scotts Hub Cafe. We both vowed that we would return here for a longer stay.
Only a mere 7 kilometres south of Scotts Head is the secluded and tranquil beach called Grassy Head. What a hidden treasure this place is! The beach is one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen with a grassy headland on the southern end, hence the name Grassy Head. You can scale the headland for views back over the beach to the north or towards Hat Head National Park to the south.
There is a Holiday Park located alongside the beach set amongst natural bushland with plenty of shady trees. Otherwise there is a picnic/BBQ area adjacent and a lookout at the end of the pathway to the beach.
We continued further south to where the Macleay River runs adjacent to the ocean at Stuarts Point. The fishing village of Stuarts Point is quiet and slow. Other than fishing or boating there probably isn’t much more to do in this place, as pretty as it is. We decided to walk across a footbridge that allowed us to cross the river and walk through the sand dunes to access the beach.
Around 5 kilometres south of town we arrived to an even quieter fishing village at Fishermans Reach on the Macleay River. Here there were many jetties jutting out into the river, boats and yachts moored, fishermen launching their tinnies and prolific birdlife. This town comprises of fishing huts and weekenders, with few amenities or services.
On our second day of day tripping we decided to head inland to the Nambucca Valley and explore a couple of places that had been recommended.
We headed south to Macksville and then towards the little country town of Eungai Creek specifically to visit the Eungai Creek Buffalo Farm. It was difficult to find and involved about 5 kilometres on a dirt road, however eventually we found it! Much to our disappointment it was closed. However we managed to have a look around the working farm that produces products from buffalo milk. There is also a cafe and shop on the farm where you can taste some of the products, open Wednesday to Sunday.
Nestled in the Nambucca Valley, it was a scenic drive through undulating green hills, farmland and state forest to Taylors Arm. Due to the recent bushfire crisis in New South Wales, a lot of the forests were burnt down and blackened. We saw the remnants of a few properties that had suffered at the hands of the raging bushfires.
Eventually we arrived into the little country town of Taylors Arm and The Pub With No Beer. Formerly a cedar felling town evidenced by a number of original timber feller’s cottages, a church and the pub all constructed from local timber. It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” type town but the main attraction is the pub where Slim Dusty gained his inspiration for his hit song “The Pub With No Beer”.
We checked out the Slim Dusty memorabilia in the Pub, ordered a couple of beers and a tasty steak sandwich and retreated to the verandah to enjoy the atmosphere of this historic pub.
After driving across some hilly terrain of recently burnt out state forests we reached the small country town of Bowraville. Only 17 kilometres inland from Nambucca Heads, this town was developed around the timber industry that is evidenced in its historic timber buildings. It’s worth a stop here to check out the folk museum, military museum, a historic theatre and other historic buildings.
What I loved about Bowraville was the main street lined with verandah shaded footpaths, interesting shops and cafes and a grand old country Pub taking pride of place. The country setting of this town is so picturesque, situated amongst green lush farmland and forested hills.
I’ve always enjoyed the drive into Macksville across the old bridge over the Nambucca River and the sight of the red tin-roofed Star Hotel. This once bustling river port has retained its charm with a lovely riverfront featuring parks and gardens. Adjacent to the river there are eateries and cafes, gourmet food stores, quirky boutiques and the Star Hotel, that is perfect for a cold beer on the upstairs verandah.
Worth a visit is the Mary Boulton Pioneer Cottage and Museum to see how the early timber getters of the area worked and lived. There is also some incredible street art on the eastern side of the river. Macksville is only a 14 kilometres drive south of Nambucca Heads.
We probably only scratched the surface of the wide array of activities and attractions in Nambucca Heads. Here are the top ten on Nambucca’s ultimate bucket list:
We stayed at Reflections Nambucca Headland Holiday Park and loved the peaceful bush setting of this park with beautiful views from the headland over the beach and a track down to Main Beach through a rainforest. Within the caravan park there were many trees and an abundance of birdlife, including Kookaburras that awoke us every morning.
There are four other caravan parks in town: Big 4 Nambucca Beach Holiday Park, Foreshore Caravan Park, Pelican Caravan Park and Ingenia Holidays White Albatross Holiday Centre. Alternatively there are several motels, B&Bs, guesthouses and holiday apartments available.
The Nambucca Valley exudes natural beauty and warmth. We loved our stay here and really recharged our batteries, whilst still having the choice of heaps of things to do and see. For a laid back and family friendly beach holiday I highly recommend this place.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy 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, photography, 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.