February 27, 2023
9 mins Read
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grab a smoothie and breakfast burger from the farmers market and head off for a walk down to Turners Breakwall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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Great to read a locals comments, before visiting.
Especially good, when you have limited time to check a lot of things out.
Best town in Australia to live in.