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Things to do in Northern NSW 

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. 

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

A prized patch. Location: Yamba Beach. Credit: Destination NSW.

The best beaches of Northern NSW

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.

Duranbah Beach in Tweed Heads is among many magnificent strips 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. 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 Wollumbin (Mt Warning), among other impressive scenery, when boarding this cruise from Tweed Heads.  

Cruising the Clarence is an essential experience. Credit: Destination NSW.

Northern NSW 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, 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 that's part of 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 great find. 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. 

Pat Morton Lookout

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 attractions in Northern NSW

The region has many family-friendly attractions, and among them are these beauties:

  • Byron Bay Wildlife Sanctuary: 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.
  • Summerland Farm: Located in the Ballina-Byron hinterland, this working macadamia and avocado farm features plenty of family fun that includes a water park.
  • Casino Mini Rail: Scenic rides on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Tropical Fruit World, Duranbah: Spotted south of Tweed Heads, the working farm is filled with interactive experiences and plenty of chances to sample a wide variety of fruit.

Sweet attraction: Tropical Fruit World. Credit: Destination NSW.

Cultural attractions in Northern NSW

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

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

Australia’s Scottish Town

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 in Northern NSW

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.

Northern NSW heritage walks

Two locations stand out for their eye-catching architecture, best admired on self-guided heritage walks. Glorious Grafton has a rich assortment of striking Victorian and Edwardian buildings, many of which are National Trust listed. Meanwhile, Casino reveals a high concentration of federation and art deco-style structures.

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

You can bet on spying stunning structures in Casino. Credit: Destination NSW.

Iconic Northern NSW brewery

To quench a thirst, head straight for Stone & Wood in Byron Bay and sip on its tasty microbrews. Tours of this iconic brewery 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.

Want more? Check out this excellent guide to North Coast NSW.

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