For generations, surfers have heard the siren call of Yamba’s wave-blessed beaches, but in more recent years the North NSW coastal town has earned the moniker of ‘the new Byron Bay – without the crowds’. But that’s not to say you won’t find a great mix of accommodation to suit every budget and a restaurant hit-list to rival the other big-name towns on the North Coast.
Add to this: its enviable position on the Pacific Coast at the mouth of the Clarence River, a long list of things to do that includes the ancient emu trails in the Yuraygir National Park, weekend markets and a plentiful supply of freshly-caught seafood to devour. Keep reading to find all this and more in our travel guide to Yamba.
Coastal road trips don’t get much better than this. Drive 3.5 hours south of Brisbane, or just over 7 hours north of Sydney along the Pacific coast to reach Yamba. There will be plenty of reasons to stop along the way, so take your time reaching your final destination.
Alternatively, catch a one-hour flight from Sydney to Ballina-Byron Airport and hire a car to drive the remaining 100 kilometres. Or fly to the Gold Coast for a scenic two-hour drive south.
From beaches, surfing and fishing to markets, boutique shopping and a gorgeous Art Deco cinema, Yamba is full of memorable things to do.
There are five main beaches in Yamba, each with its own unique charms. The patrolled Main Beach has an ocean pool, surf club and café, making it a good all-rounder. The calm waters of Whiting Beach are just right for little ones to wade into. Locals love Pippi Beach for its off-leash dog area at the south end of the 1.6-kilometre stretch of sand, while Covent Beach offers lots of shelter and is more of a local secret – so expect to have the place mostly to yourself. Head to Turner’s Beach, which is patrolled during summer, to walk along the breakwall and up to the lighthouse on the hill. Or, opt to venture a short drive south of Yamba to swim in the blue and green natural pools of Angourie.
Get out of the water and onto the land to traverse the ancient emu trails in the Yuraygir National Park. The challenging 65-kilometre, multi-day Yuraygir coastal walk skirts around seaside villages on the Clarence Coast, along tracks, trails, beaches and rock platforms (passable only at low tide). Expect to spend four to five days tackling the entire walk, stay the night at any of the numerous beach campgrounds en route and take time to snorkel, swim and – if you’re lucky – spot whales and dolphins.
Throw a line the water at the beach, estuary or off the rocks for a near-guaranteed catch every time. There are also boats and fishing kayaks for hire in town, or opt for a deep sea fishing expedition with Reel Time Charters or Yamba Fishing and Charters. Expect to find flathead and jewfish in the Clarence River, rock blackfish can be found in numerous areas around Yamba, fish for bream in July during high tide, or head offshore to catch snapper. Whiting, blue groper and tailor are also in plentiful supply. Popular river fishing spots include the Clarence River, Oyster Channel, Romiaka Channel, Yamba Marina and Lake Wooloweyah. Or head to Yamba’s best beaches – including Whiting, Turners, Main, Convent, Pippi, Green Point and Spooky Beach – to see what’s biting from the shore.
Finding the best surfing spots in Yamba all depends on which way the wind is blowing. You can pretty much find good surf anywhere when it’s blowing west. Stick to the breakwall near Turner’s or head to Pippi Beach if it’s blowing north. Or Main Beach, Turner’s and Angourie Point are all a safe bet when the coast is hit with a southerly. Angourie Point, a short drive from Yamba, is renowned among surfers for its right-hand point breaks. It was also declared Australia’s second national surfing reserve in 2007.
The Yamba River Markets are held on the fourth Sunday of every month on the foreshore of the Clarence River at Ford Park. Attending the markets is a monthly ritual for locals and visitors alike. Pick up locally-grown fruit, vegetables, meat and homemade preserves. Peruse the arts and crafts stalls selling homewares, clothing, plants and more. Or let your nose guide you to one of the many food vendors cooking up a market feast for you to enjoy.
Yamba is within easy driving distance from a number of inviting north coast villages worthy of a day trip. Starting with Iluka to see its UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest, followed by Brooms Head to picnic under the Norfolk Island pines and swim in the lagoon, and the intriguing village of Maclean which is renowned as ‘The Scottish Town of Australia’, among its many other charms.
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BIG4 Saltwater at Yamba is set on the banks of the Clarence River and spread across 130 acres of parkland; making it an ideal location to set up camp for the summer just 10 minutes outside of town. Accommodation options run the gamut from large powered and unpowered sites to luxury holiday cabins.
Camp along the shaded riverfront at Fishing Haven Holiday Park Palmers Island and you’ll be within five minutes’ drive from Yamba and close to the surf, sun and freshwater swimming holes of Angourie. Features include three jetties, barbeques and a camp kitchen. Opt for caravan sites or self-contained air conditioned cabins if camping isn’t for you.
Stay at Yamba Waters Holiday Park for easy access to the best eateries and to be within 10 minutes’ drive to Yamba’s main beaches. Take your pick of studio units and villas, powered sites that cater to motorhomes, fifth wheelers, caravans, camper trailers, campervans and tents. En suite sites are also available.
Calypso Holiday Park Yamba offer riverfront cabins and units that sleep two to six guests, as well as powered and unpowered slab and grassed sites for tents and caravans. Situated in the centre of town, within walking distance to Yamba’s cafes and restaurants. Features include a pool, playground, pontoon and laundry facilities.
Stay among 15 acres of landscaped gardens alongside the Clarence River at the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort. Accommodation options vary from two bedroom spa villas on the waterfront, self-contained units and family-sized cabins to powered en suite sites and unpowered grassy sites for tents and caravans. Features include private boat ramp access, barbeque facilities and camp kitchen, multiple playgrounds and two resort pools.
The Surf Yamba is the beach town’s first boutique hotel. Situated on the southern headland of Main Beach, this 12-room architecturally-designed mini-hotel delivers a relaxed yet sophisticated vibe throughout. Standout features include the rooftop terrace with a heated plunge pool that overlooks the beach below.
Sleep in the self-catering apartments at the Sands Resort to park yourself across the road from Pippi Beach and within 10 minutes’ walk of Yamba’s town centre. Each apartment features ocean or pool views, an open-plan kitchen and a private balcony. The resort facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a heated spa, and two tennis courts.
Just 2.5 kilometres from Yamba and surrounded by subtropical rainforest, the Angourie Resort offers all the perks of a getaway with the comforts of home. Choose between one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom villas with facilities to entertain children and a day spa for the adults.
Yamba Beach Motel overlooks Main Beach located within walking distance to the centre of town but just far enough away to enjoy the peace and quiet. Each of the 4.5-star motel rooms has private balconies – request one with Pacific Ocean views.
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The Irons and Craig delivery service’s signature-made sourdough doughnuts are Yamba’s answer to the Berry Donut Van. These sweet-filled dough balls are best devoured with a steaming hot cup of the café’s crowd-pleasing Reliable No.9 coffee blend; a house blend that’s roasted exclusively for them at the Botero roastery in nearby Maclean. They deliver Australia-wide but are made fresh on Yaegl Country on the NSW north coast.
Their former space has been thoughtfully converted into a café by Yum Yum Angourie Cafe and General Store. A local favourite, relax in the sun outside while enjoying breakfast a coffee or two.
Head to Beachwood Café for a Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern inspired breakfast or lunch seated under the shade of the frangipani trees in the café’s quiet outdoor area. Expect such culinary delights as dolmades with garlic yoghurt or a serving of Yamba’s famous prawns marinated in chilli and garlic – complemented by a glass of crisp white vino of course.
You can also pick up Yamba’s world-famous prawns at the Clarence River Fisherman’s Co-operative in Iluka, Maclean and the Yamba Prawn Shack at the Yamba Marina. All seafood is caught daily – and sustainably – by the Co-op’s extensive fishing fleet.
Taste more of the region’s best seafood at Sandbar Yamba. The third generation local fishing family behind the restaurant is intent on curating a tapas-style dinner menu that uses fresh, locally-sourced seafood and produce to create mouth-watering meals that change with the season. Breakfast is an all-star lineup that includes everything from pancakes to eggs benedict, but the real winner is the banoffee French toast with banana, coffee cream and mascarpone and a generous serving of warm caramel sauce to finish it off. It’s located in front of the Yamba Motel, across from the beach car park within walking distance to the ocean pools and Yamba Beach.
The fully-licensed Drift Pizza Bar is Yamba’s go-to establishment for a boozy lunch or chilled night out. Share plates, sandwiches and a pared back list of pizzas are on the menu for lunch, while dinner shines the spotlight on the restaurant’s extensive offering of gourmet pizzas. Try the Blue Pear topped with Napoli, mozzarella, pear, free range pancetta, gorgonzola and rocket; or The Salty Bandit with Napoli, mozzarella, free range salami, n’duja, heirloom cherry tomatoes, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, olive dust; and a side of Garlic Breath. Round out the experience with a craft beer, cocktail or choose from the curated wine list.
The Pacific Hotel Yamba, a stark white 1934-building perched on the headland with Pacific Hotel painted boldly across it, is as iconic to the Main Beach landscape as the views you get looking out over the ocean from the hotel balcony. Aside from the views, the Pacific Bistro within the hotel has perfected the art of fuss-free dining with its lunch and dinner menu. Start with a half dozen of oysters and the chilli salt crispy fried squid dipped in teriyaki, aioli and lemon before moving on to a range of heartier mains or classic pub fare such as the BBQ pulled pork burger stuffed with cheese, lettuce rainbow slaw and drizzled in chipotle.
Fine dining restaurant, Karrikin, serves up artfully-plated food that fuses native flavours with the freshest local seafood and seasonal produce. The dining experience is elevated by the lush greenery of the outdoor dining area – with grass underfoot. While the earthy tones of sage, walnut and charcoal that decorate the interior of the restaurant create a warm and inviting space. The menu, which changes with the seasons, is divided into earth, land, sea and sweet – and you should aim to order at least one dish from each for the full experience.
Get the best insider tips and local fishing knowledge on a private half or full day charter with Yamba Fishing & Charters. You can also hire one of their vessels (for up to eight people) to charter your own fishing trip for a daily fee.
Choose between a guided or self-guided tour of the estuary on top a single or double kayak with Yamba Kayak. Anticipate kayaking alongside curious dolphins, spotting sea eagles overhead and more as you explore the ecosystems, flora and fauna of the Clarence River.
Book with Yamba Tours to have everything from your accommodation and dining to entertainment taken care of with a number of all-inclusive tours to choose from. You’ll meet local chefs, island-hop via a car ferry and explore more of the Clarence Valley region.
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