A stretch of Pacific-fringed oceanic beauty, the Macleay Valley Coast is a glittering chain of sapphire-hued beaches.
Tucked between well-loved South West Rocks, the endless summer vibes of Crescent Head and the secret allure of Hat Head, these are the best hidden beaches on Macleay Valley Coast to discover now.
1. Goolawah National Park
A vast and secluded ribbon of white sand unravels between native bushland and the undulating blues of the ocean in this lesser-known national park near Kempsey.
This hidden beauty is wonderfully unpopulated for those romantic castaway vibes, beginning at the edge of the Crescent Head township and stretching out to Racecourse Headland.
With reefs, a lagoon and a left-hand point break, there’s something to entice any beachgoer looking to slip away from the holiday crowds.
Slip away from the holiday crowds at Goolawah National Park. (Image: Alexandra Adoncello)
2. Trial Bay Beach, South West Rocks
Shielded from the ocean by the protective arm of a sea wall, Trial Bay Beach is an idyllic swim spot for families.
While nearby Horseshoe Bay Beach is ever popular, Trial Bay wins out for a sheltered dip that offers the incredible advantage of being able to watch the sunset over water from Laggers Point (a true rarity on the east coast).
It’s also a refreshing reward after a day spent in Arakoon National Park, where you can wander the fascinating and historic Trial Bay Gaol ruins. Bring your paddleboard, snorkel and esky and let an afternoon of beach play roll into sundowners.
Take in the view of Trial Bay from the goal ruins. (Image: DNSW)
3. Killick Creek, Crescent Head
Unfurl towels and sunshades on either side of the wooden footbridge at Killick Creek, then settle in for a day of Calippo-fuelled family fun.
This tidal thoroughfare flows out to the ocean at Killick Beach and offers a gentler splash for younger charges; thrilled squeals accompany the arrival of the tide as kids on inflatables are merrily wooshed downstream.
A step from Crescent Head Holiday Park, it’s close enough to the town’s amenities for full-day sessions under the cabana. At the peak of summer a carnivalesque level of excitement builds, so be sure to arrive in time to stake out your patch of sand.
Find calm water to swim, kayak or SUP board.
4. Point Plomer, Crescent Head
Pitch your tent at the popular family holiday spot Point Plomer Campground and you’ll find your neighbours are of the friendly finned variety, as you’ll see the resident pod of dolphins cavorting in the waves at this calm beach.
If you have a permit and a 4WD you can bounce along the sand to reach this serene retreat that lures surfers with its right-hand point break.
Otherwise, simply make your way by road and unpack your fishing gear, camp stove and daily worries as you take in the sparkle of the waves beyond.
bounce along the sand to reach this serene retreat. (Image: Alexandra Adoncello)
5. Gap Beach, South West Rocks
It’s Gap Beach’s limited accessibility that makes it so incredible. This spot is for the intrepid experience-chasers who scour maps for the most off-the-beaten-track gems they can find.
To truly relish a feeling of adventure and embrace rare solitude, you’ll need to hike the Smoky Cape Walking Track (or jump in a 4WD) to arrive at this mostly deserted beach.
Edged by the Smoky Cape Range, the petite beach is just 900 metres and is both beautiful and wild, with often tumultuous waters, so it’s best for walks or splashing in the shallows.
Hike the Smoky Cape Walking Track to find this mostly deserted beach and some incredible views along the way. (Image: DNSW)
6. Hat Head
Iridescent white sands and inviting waves arc for 16 kilometres along Hat Head National Park, where you can fish, swim and explore undulating sand dunes and nearby rainforest and wetlands.
While you’re camping nearby, a high-tide dip in the lagoon-like Korogoro Creek is unmissable; be sure to bring your snorkel gear, as the impossibly clear waters reveal all manner of underwater dwellers, such as crabs, octopuses and fish. The gentle creek provides pool-like conditions, making it perfect for family frolicking and relaxing in the shallows.
Be sure to bring your snorkel gear to Hat Head.
7. Grassy Head
Still surprisingly and delightfully a little bit undiscovered, Grassy Head is an idyllic beach playground with approachable waves, wonderful fishing and natural bushland beauty.
The beach is patrolled during the school holidays and is backdropped by the Way Way State Forest, which is criss-crossed with 4WD tracks, making it a good option for families and adventure-seekers alike. A hike to the headland rewards walkers with a captivating panorama of the Macleay Valley Coast laid out below.
Bunk into a cabin, caravan or pitch a tent at the beach-adjacent Grassy Head Holiday Park, then fill a week with bushwalks, snorkelling, swimming, fishing and relaxing on the sand.
Swim, fish or hike at idyllic Grassy Head.
8. Delicate Beach, Crescent Head
Set between two campgrounds, Delicate Beach is an oceanside playground for rock-hoppers, anglers and surfers.
Separated into halves by a looming rock formation, it provides waves on either side to tempt board-riders when big swells roll in; on calm days, the beach is ideal for donning a snorkel and peering beneath the waves.
Bookended by headlands, it also offers some lovely walks for those who prefer to admire the ocean from afar.
Crescent Head has many stunning hidden gems to choose from.
Discover more secluded beaches and plan your trip on the Macleay Valley Coast.