The arrival of its first boutique hotel has helped usher in a new era of cool for Yamba. But the appeal of this quintessential coastal town remains timeless, writes Lara Picone. Discover why Yamba sailed in at no.12 on your list of Top 50 Aussie towns.
Find the complete list of the Top 50 Aussie Towns here.
For an Australian coastal town with an outstretched hand to would-be holidaymakers, Yamba is a little unique. Long has the town welcomed guests to frolic in her surfside waters, weary from road trips and keen to let the sunlight evaporate burdens of everyday life. But it remained just a faint blip on the radar for the longest time. Strange, because this northern NSW town stockpiles the holiday goods, from yawning beaches pocketed with rockpools to gentle inlets and rivers, and a collection of off-beach entertainment.
Seize the sunrise. (Image: Destination NSW)
Don’t get me wrong, people came, memories were forged, and childhoods routinely blasted with salt spray, Paddle Pop ice-creams and sunburn. But the hype never seemed to reach that of other destinations with equal assets. That has all changed now, though. And, if you haven’t yet heard, here’s the public service announcement: Yamba is the ‘it’ town. This new era of ‘hotness’ has perhaps been ushered in by the arrival of the town’s first boutique hotel, The Surf. But it’s unfair to credit one establishment with all the breathless praise, particularly when Yamba has been the ideal place to retreat into the fantasy of an endless summer for years now.
The sleepy seaside hamlet is known for its surf. (Image: Elise Hassey)
In fact, it’s not any singular entity that makes Yamba delightful; it’s more of a feeling. It’s the nostalgia of summer holidays as a kid, complete with the freedom granted by your half-tiddled parents letting you pedal through town, flanked by other emancipated youths. It’s the quiet roar of the ocean lulling you, against better judgement, to fall asleep on the beach. And it’s the vinegar on your fish and chips that cuts through your palate like a razor. All good things made better by the fact that Yamba is, to visitors at least, unaffected, sandy-footed relaxation at its best.
Here’s where to start.
Where to eat
Karrikin brings to the table an ethos that revolves around the local landscape and its harvests. Owners Clare Bourke and Zac Roberts arrange flavours with light and shade, allowing each component to impress the palate. Pair with an Australian botanical cocktail in the shaded garden and enjoy the journey.
Feast on local produce at Karrikin.
Sevtap Yuce’s incredible fare is more than lightly inspired by her home country of Turkey, but it’s clear the cornucopia of the Clarence River also find its way onto the plate. On a sun-soaked day, Beachwood is the perfect place for a lazy breakfast or even lazier lunch.
The Kiosk , Main Beach
A place to watch hardy locals wash onto shore in the brisk morning or children assembling ultimately doomed sandcastles, this little tuckshop in the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club is a wonderful spot for gazing into the blue and scrunching your toes in the sand while slurping a morning juice. Perched under a striped umbrella, you can easily let the morning roll into midday here.
Lines of swell pushing into Yamba. (Image: Destination NSW)
Yamba Farmers & Producers Market
Chances are you’re staying in apartment accommodation where you can self-cater meals pieced together with some of the area’s freshly plucked, picked and pickled produce and baked goods from Ashby Sourdough. For that, you’ll want to grab your basket and get along to the Wednesday market, held weekly.
Drop by the Ashby Sourdough to grab some organic bread. (Image: Destination NSW)
Where to drink
Sanctus Brewing Co
A sidestep from town, this brewery rolls open its barn-style doors to invite thirsty punters to sample its hoppy wares. Pull up a patch on the family-friendly grass and spend an afternoon enjoying brews and seasonally inspired bar bites. Sometimes they fire up the smoker, other times, there’s live music. Best to designate a driver from the outset.
Extending the evening options beyond the clifftop Pacific Hotel is this newish watering hole and music venue. Loosely Gothic in theme, this semi-dive bar serves up live music and late-night bites, such as pillowy bao buns and loaded pizzas, with your freely given right to drink and be merry.
Where to stay
Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort
This place is utopia for children and parents alike. Sure, it’s relatively rudimentary but its riverside location is stunning. Whether you’re camping or staying in a waterside holiday unit, you won’t regret this if you have young children, as they will talk about it for decades to come. Pools, a jumping pillow, go-karts, and a swim-up bar have everyone covered.
This breezy boutique hotel, a reimagining of a 1920s-era building, is a refreshing expression of beachside luxury. There’s no pomp or ceremony, just good, detailed design and a prime position within a sandal’s throw of Main Beach.
The Surf Yamba is a boutique hotel featuring chic and classy interiors. (Image: Elisse Hassey)
Watching the Pacific Ocean undulate between dramatic greys and serene blues is this stalwart hotel. It’s a pub first and foremost, and a great place to clink glasses in honour of the day. Upstairs, there are two basic rooms, which are perhaps earmarked for a refresh. However, there are also two stylishly refurbished ‘signature rooms’, one town-facing and the other positioned with full view of the ocean’s theatrics. This iconic pub is a great place to retreat post-Sunday session.