The stretch from Yamba to Coffs Harbour might be short (just under 1.5 hours), but there are some great little stop-offs worth considering if you’re making a day of it.
Most people drive from Yamba to Coffs Harbour in one stretch – but because it’s such a short route, it’s easy to miss all the quaint country towns and potential beach detours on offer. If you’ve got the time, meander through the countryside and enjoy the trip slowly. We’ve covered all our favourite places to visit between Yamba and Coffs Harbour below.
Drag yourself away from Yamba for a day exploring the towns en route to Coffs Harbour. (Image: Destination NSW)
Yamba to Maclean: 23 minutes
Your first stop outside of Yamba should be in the country town of Maclean. Well, Maclean and Townsend, since they’re right next to each other.
The sun setting over the Clarence River at Maclean. (Image: My Clarence Valley)
You’ll find Sanctus Brewery in Townsend if craft beer is up your alley, including experimental picks like pineapple coconut sour.
Depending on the time of day, Sanctus Brewery in Townsend is an excellent lunch stop. (Image: Destination NSW)
If you’re up early and in need of a coffee, Botero Roastery and Cafe is where the locals go – you’ve probably noticed their beans in Yamba’s best cafes.
Passing through Maclean early? Get your caffeine hit at Bottero. (Image: Destination NSW)
Maclean to Ulmarra: 24 minutes
After Tyndale, follow signs to Grafton and take a detour to Ulmarra, a picturesque riverside town steeped in history, that also has the perfect pub for a lunch break.
Pass through the cane fields on the outskirts of Maclean on your way to Ulmarra. (Image: Destination NSW)
The Ulmarra Hotel has been around since the late 1800s, and while from the front it might just look like just another quaint historic pub, head through to the back garden and you’ll find the perfect riverside oasis to enjoy as you chow down on pub fare like Cooper’s beer battered fish and chips, rump steak and an extensive list of classic Aussie burgers. The garden is also pet friendly if you’ve brought your dog along.
3. Minnie Water
Ulmarra to Minnie Water: 37 minutes
It doesn’t get any more retro than Minnie Water for a Yamba to Coffs Harbour road trip. Yes, it’s off the main route, but only by about thirty minutes. After driving back to the highway from Ulmarra, you’ll pass through Tucabia (there’s a cute antique store here if you’ve got time).
Then, head to the coast and enjoy one of the oldest fishing towns in NSW, with its lengthy beach and calm surroundings. In the summer there is surf lifesaving set up in the north area, or if you prefer your swims a little more relaxed, head to Minnie Lagoon, which is just down from the Tree Of Knowledge lookout.
4. Corindi Beach
Minnie Water to Corindi Beach: 50 minutes
Snorkellers will love Corindi Beach, which sits at the very north of Coffs Harbour. It has a huge reserve filled with walking trails and picnic areas, so settle in for a little while and enjoy the late afternoon here. If you’re done with swimming and surfing for the day, head to the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Centre, a gallery and museum that celebrates the Gumbaynggirr people, and also has a cafe that specialises in bush tucker.
Corindi Beach is a hidden gem spot for snorkelling. (Image: Destination NSW)
Corindi Beach to Woolgoolga: 11 minutes
Woolgoolga is another of those coastal NSW towns that were once a sleepy hamlet for fishermen and are now a thriving tourism hub. It maintains its charm, but you’ll find plenty to do, from swims at the beach (some of the best whale watching in the region can be found here) to a damn fine craft brewery, the Woolgoolga Brewing Co., which is worth spending a few hours at so you can enjoy the spacious lawns and plethora of brews on tap.
Woolgoolga Beach is a beautiful spot for a swim or a walk along the shore. (Image: Destination NSW)
You can bring your dog, too – the brewery is pet friendly. If you’re going to be up north in September, try and time your visit to Woolgoolga to coincide with Curryfest – a celebration of local Punjabi heritage in the region, it features over 100 stalls serving up curries (what else?) alongside other multicultural dishes, plus entertainment and traditional dance.
6. Emerald Beach
Woolgoolga to Emerald Beach: 10 minutes
A stone’s throw from Woolgoolga is where you’ll find Emerald Beach, a local surfer’s haven and a great area for fishing and swimming, too. It’s a great place to stop if you’re travelling with kids, thanks to easy conditions in the surf and a playground for when they’re bored of swimming.
Emerald Beach boasts some pretty special lookout spots. (Image: Destination NSW)
North of Fiddamans Creek there is a dog-friendly beach area (as long as your pup stays on a lead), and plenty of cafes around if you’re keen for some downtime or a bite to eat – try Surf Street Cafe or Emerald Beach General Store, known for their great coffee.
7. Coffs Harbour
Emerald Beach to Coffs Harbour: 17 minutes
You’ve made it to Coffs Harbour – if you’re still looking for accommodation, check out our guide to budget options in the area, or our tips on where to go camping in Coffs Harbour if that’s more your style. Hit the beach and relax, or get your adventure on with our list of what to do in the region.
Head straight to Jetty Beach once you hit Coffs Harbour. (Image: Destination NSW)
Looking for more attractions to squeeze into your day trip itinerary? Check out these incredible waterfalls near Yamba.