Twenty years ago, if you were looking for a laid-back beach holiday in New South Wales, Byron Bay was your best bet. But with Byron Bay becoming increasingly overcrowded and overpriced, many have started to declare Yamba, 120 kilometres to the south, ‘the new Byron’.
As a Yamba local, I’ve watched the sleepy fishing town of my childhood mature into an impressive beachside destination, which still manages to maintain its unpretentious essence and strong sense of community.
Where is it?
Yamba is located on the coast of northern NSW at the mouth of the Clarence River. It’s about a three-hour drive from Brisbane. Visitors arriving from Sydney can catch a one-hour flight to Ballina-Byron Airport and drive the remaining 100 kilometres down to Yamba, otherwise it’s around a seven-hour drive along the NSW coastline.
Yamba is located at the mouth of the Clarence River. Expect some killer sunsets here! (Image: Destination NSW)
Other towns worth visiting within day-trip distance of Yamba include the charming riverside town of Maclean; Iluka with its UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest; the rugged, unspoilt beaches of Brooms Head; and the surfing hamlet of Angourie.
Factor in a visit to the surfing hamlet of Angourie. (Image: Destination NSW)
What to do
Even if you’re not a beach lover, there are plenty of things to do in Yamba that don’t involve sand and surf. From sun-soaked bike rides to the surf town of Angourie to meandering through produce markets and browsing local boutiques, Yamba really does have something for everyone. Oh, and for those craving a salty dip, the plentiful beaches that range from kid-friendly protected coves to gold-standard surfing destinations will have you set all holidays.
With five options to choose from, Yamba has a beach to suit everyone. Main Beach is the most popular, with a surf club, cafe and ocean pool.
The ocean pool at Yamba Main Beach.
Located directly beneath the Pacific Hotel, it’s the perfect choice for a late-afternoon dip – just walk up the steps for your post-swim drink as the sun sets and casts its warm hues over the ocean below. Brought fur babies with you? The off-leash area at Pippi beach’s southern end is doggie nirvana.
Pristine Pippi Beach stretches for 1.6 kilometres.
If you prefer a wave-free swimming experience or need somewhere for the little ones to paddle, the flat, peaceful Whiting Beach is just a short 10-minute walk from the centre of town. It’s also a favourite with kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders. Alternatively, skip the crowds at the lesser-known Convent Beach or take a post-lunch dip at Turners, just moments from the centre of town.
Hit the surf at Turners Beach. (Image: Destination NSW)
Surf Tip: Surfers love Yamba because there is (almost) always good surf on at least one of the beaches. If the wind is blowing north, head to Pippi or Turner’s near the breakwall. For a southerly, Angourie Point, Turner’s or Main Beach are your best bet and if it’s blowing west you can surf anywhere.
Dive into all the details on Yamba’s pristine beaches with our comprehensive guide.
Yamba Farmers & Producers Market
Held in the car park between Whiting and Turner’s every Wednesday morning from 7am to 11am, this quaint market is a favourite among locals.
Yamba Farmers & Producers Market is a local favourite. (Image: Destination NSW)
You’ll be able to pick up everything from organic fruit and veg grown in backyards and high-quality meat like Dorper Lamb and Gracemere Farmstead pasture-raised chicken, to artisanal products like Ashby Sourdough and Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation’s Bakarindi Bush Foods.
Pick up some freshly-baked goods at the Ashby Sourdough stall. (Image: Destination NSW)
The Break Wall at Turners Beach
Grab a smoothie and breakfast burger from the farmers market and head off for a walk down to Turners Breakwall.
Walk along the Break Wall in Yamba. (Image: Destination NSW)
On your right you’ll get a great view of Turners Beach and the lighthouse on the hill, while on your left you’ll see the open water where the ocean meets the Clarence River and, if you look carefully enough, you’re likely to spot a dolphin or two.
Spot dolphins at play near the Break Wall. (Image: Destination NSW)
Blue and Green Pools Angourie
Though it’s not technically in Yamba, the quiet coastal village of Angourie, just an eight-minute drive from town is well worth a visit. While die-hard surfers will love the challenging break at Angourie Point, the whole family will enjoy a visit to Blue and Green Pools.
The emerald Blue and Green Pools make an escape to Yamba even more magical. (Image: Destination NSW)
Follow the lead of the local kids who expertly climb the rocky cliff face to dive into the freshwater pools below. Just be sure to check sign postings as both pools close temporarily from time to time due to algae blooms, a natural occurrence that typically happens more often during the warmer months.
Blue and Green pools are well worth a visit.
Where to eat and drink
Yamba has two main spots where you’ll find a mix of casual cafes and restaurants – up the top of Coldstream Street above Main beach, and through the centre of town.
Whether you’re after a sunset cocktail and fresh local seafood or a simple takeaway ice cream of an afternoon, the town has a venue catering to that growling tummy.
Our exhaustive list of the best cafes in Yamba covers all the best spots for brunch and lunch, as does our pick of best restaurants for dinner in the area. Below, however, there are some top standouts.
Yum Yum Angourie General Store & Cafe
This quaint, friendly cafe-cum-gourmet grocer has moved from its quiet corner in Angourie to the bustling Coldstream Street location that used to house Irons and Craig.
Make a beeline to Yum Yum Angourie Cafe and General Store for their delicious food. (Image: Destination NSW)
Pull up a chair at the long, sun-drenched front bench, enjoy that perfect Yamba weather, and watch the world go by as you enjoy some of the best coffee in town alongside a delicious modern Australian breakfast. Later, head inside to pick up a few goodies for gifts or the kitchen.
The dessert offering is just as good! (Image: Destination NSW)
Is this the best coffee in Yamba? Many locals would passionately say yes. Once you’ve ordered your oat milk cappuccino, browse the capsule fashion collections that feature stretchy summer midi dresses and terry-towelling sets – the Summi Summi label has cult status in fashion circles.
By far the best burgers in town, the juicy patties, clever flavour combos and high-quality toppings really hit the spot here. The knowledgeable, laid-back staff at this street-inspired venue are more than happy to guide you through their broad selection of craft tinnies.
The best burgers in town.
After your burger, cross the road to the cliff-top Pacific Hotel for one more beer and enjoy the best view in town, looking out over the magnificent coastline below.
The Pacific Hotel provides the best views in town. (Image: Destination NSW)
After the roaring success of their cafe Leche, local couple Clare Bourke and Zac Roberts turned their attention to evening food, opening Karrikin a few years ago. Karrikin manages to encapsulate the very essence of Yamba with its stylish, laid-back decor, unpretentious but accomplished staff and surprisingly inventive share plates showcasing local produce and native Australian ingredients.
Karrikin is the place to celebrate special occasions.
Chef Zac can be found at the local farmers’ markets every Wednesday, stocking up on fresh seasonal produce from the Clarence Valley and Northern Rivers. The menu is somewhat cryptic, with only the key ingredients listed, making each dish a delicious surprise.
The food at Karrikin is divine.
If you’re looking for a change of pace, take a 20-minute drive to the quiet riverside town of Maclean. Fish off the wharf, head to the lookout for panoramic views of the Clarence Valley or simply sit and read a book on the riverbank before checking out some of these eateries.
Palmers Island General Store, Palmers Island
Stop by this unassuming roadside shop, located between Yamba and Maclean, to try one of their delicious house-made pies or load up on gourmet goodies like imported cheese, charcuterie and craft beers. Palmers Island is the second largest of the 100 islands dotted along the Clarence River.
Botero Roastery and Cafe, Maclean
Ask any local where to get the best coffee and they’ll proudly point you to Botero, Maclean’s very own roastery, which supplies beans to cafes throughout Australia. The floor-to-ceiling windows inside the cafe give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the roastery in action, while the outdoor seating offers a fenced in play-area so you can supervise your kids while enjoying your coffee.
Get acquainted with Maclean’s very own roastery. (Image: Destination NSW)
On the Bite, Maclean
This tiny cafe in the centre of Maclean is run by a husband and wife team who serve up an inventive, diverse menu. Choose between signature dishes such as a rich lamb korma, light and refreshing Asian salad, or Turkish plate with fresh, crunchy falafels.
On the Bite serves up an inventive, diverse menu
Sanctus Brewery Co., Townsend
This craft brewery has become an instant hit with the locals the moment it opened its doors (you’ll notice a much younger, trendier crowd here than at the town’s pubs).
Stop by Sanctus Brewery in Townsend for great pizza and craft beers to match. (Image: Destination NSW)
The venue offers wide, open spaces, live music and experimental brews like pineapple coconut sour and blueberry crush as well as pale ale, lager and XPA. The large fenced field also makes Sanctus perfect for kids and pets.
Depending on the time of day, Sanctus Brewery in Townsend is an excellent lunch stop. (Image: Destination NSW)
Looking for more attractions to squeeze into your day trip itinerary? Check out these incredible waterfalls near Yamba.