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Northern NSW cheat sheet

Northern NSW, in particular the Northern Rivers region, represents everything that’s great about holidays. 

Long stretches of glittering coastline. Sparkling beaches. Flowing rivers. A laidback vibe. Superb climate.

Want to know more? This handy cheat sheet will show you why this prized patch is so easy to fall in love with.

Duranbah Beach in Tweed Heads is among many magnificent strips of sand. Credit: Destination NSW.

The best beaches

Northern NSW is blessed with a huge collection of brilliant beaches that suit surfing, swimming, fishing, or a scenic stroll. These locations are home to some of many highlights:

  • Ballina: Main and Shelly Beach.
  • Byron Bay: Belongil, Tallow, and Wategoes Beach.
  • Hastings Point: Cabarita and Pottsville Beach (nearby).
  • Lennox Head: Boulder Beach.
  • Tweed Heads: Duranbah Beach.
  • Yamba: Pippi and Angourie Back Beach.

Angourie Back Beach is a prized patch of sand. Credit: Destination NSW.

Yamba Ocean Pool

Ocean pools are dotted along the east coast, including this one in Yamba. It's situated at the southern end of Yamba Main Beach and adds to the rich appeal of this stretch of coastline. 

Yamba Ocean Pool, Yamba. Credit: Destination NSW.

Northern NSW river cruises

Relax in style and immerse yourself in a wide variety of magnificent scenery. Choose from the following:

Clarence River cruise: Keep watch for dolphins on this scenic cruise that is accessible from Yamba or Iluka.

Tweed River cruise: Marvel at the sight of towering Mt Warning, among other impressive scenery, when boarding this cruise from Tweed Heads.  

Cruising the Clarence is an essential experience. Credit: My Clarence Valley.

Nearby national parks

Wildlife, walks, and wonderful views abound in Northern NSW's national parks. This quartet demands serious attention:

  • Broadwater National Park: Headland vistas, spring wildflowers in spring, and wildlife galore. Easily accessible from Ballina.
  • Bundjalung National Park: Rainforest walks, sparkling bluff views, and great canoeing and kayaking ops. Easily accessible from Yamba or Iluka.
  • Nightcap National Park: Stunning area part the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Easily accessible from Lismore.
  • Yuraygir National Park: Coastal walks reveal funky rock creations. Easily accessible from Yamba or Wooli.

Yuraygir National Park is a stunner. Credit: Destination NSW.

Cape Byron 

This marks the spot of the most eastern point of mainland Australia, just minutes from the centre of Byron Bay. While here, take a historical lighthouse guided tour or simply soak up breathtaking coastal views.

Those with more time and energy should tackle the Cape Byron walking track, a 3.7km loop that showcases outstanding, variable scenery.

Make a point of visiting Cape Byron. Credit: Destination NSW.

More great views...

Just 12km north of Ballina is Pat Morton Lookout at Lennox Point, which provides outstanding ocean views and the chance to glimpse marine life. From here, you can also watch surfers and hang gliders in action. A coastal walking path extends all the way from Ballina to Lennox Head for more glittering outlooks.

The coastal scenery in and around Ballina is outstanding.

Best family experiences

Northern NSW has many family-friendly attractions, and among them are these beauties:

  • Macadamia Castle: Spotted between Byron Bay and Ballina, this long-time favourite features an animal park and plenty of other family-friendly amusements. 
  • Crystal Castle and Shambhala Gardens: A delightful, colourful, beautiful attraction filled with magnificent gardens, rainforest, and huge formations within the idyllic Byron Bay hinterland.
  • Casino Mini Rail: Scenic rides on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Summerland Farm: Located in the Ballina-Byron hinterland, this working macadamia and avocado farm features plenty of family fun that includes a water park.

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Indoor activities

The options are endless! But that’s no real help to you, so we’ve narrowed it down to the following attractions:

  • Yamba Museum: Delve into the town’s maritime past among other historical themes.
  • Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Tweed Heads: Retrace local Indigenous culture through art, relics, dance, song, and more.
  • Tweed Regional Gallery, Murwillumbah: One of Australia’s best regional galleries with a top-notch portrait collection.
  • Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum: An extensive and fascinating attraction detailing the area’s rich naval past.
  • Northern Rivers Military Museum, Casino: Well-presented with a focus on local military history.
  • Grafton Regional Gallery: Explore a vast, varied, and vibrant collection.

Tweed Regional Gallery is among the country's finest. Credit: David Sandison.

Something different

Explore the Scottish-influenced town of Maclean, 15km inland from Yamba. It bills itself as ‘Australia’s Scottish Town' and backs it up with tartan-painted power poles, Gaelic street signs, and a large Scottish cairn, among other attractions.

Nimbin is another distinct town, known as Australia's alternative lifestyle capital. It's found 65km west of Byron Bay. 

Nimbin certainly stands out. Credit: Lismore City Council.

Great photo ops

After you’ve snapped at beaches, national parks, and other sensational scenery, try these attractions:

  • The Big Prawn: This Ballina icon is an obligatory photo subject.
  • Killen Falls: Spotted near Ballina, these picturesque falls are also the sight of a popular swimming spot.
  • Yamba Lighthouse: Frame this historical structure in pics that incorporate sparkling coastal views. 

Witness the bountiful beauty of Killen Falls. Credit: Destination NSW.

Heritage walk

Take a wander around glorious Grafton to admire its assortment of striking Victorian and Edwardian buildings, many of which are National Trust listed.

Grafton teems with stunning architecture. Credit: My Clarence Valley.

A local icon

To quench a thirst, head straight for Stone & Wood brewery in Byron Bay and sip on its tasty microbrews. Brewery tours are available but should be booked in advanced.

Cheers: Stone & Wood. Credit: Shantanu Starrick.

Northern NSW accommodation

When you’re looking for accommodation in the Northern Rivers region, BIG4 has you covered. Choose a park below.

Related Parks

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