A cheat sheet to northern NSW – your handy guide

Simply put, the top of New South Wales is top class.

The Northern Rivers region represents everything that’s great about holidays. Long stretches of glittering coastline. Sparkling beaches. Easy access to treasured national parks. A laidback vibe. Superb climate.

And to top it all off, northern NSW is home to some of Australia’s favourite holiday hotspots, like Byron Bay and Tweed Heads.

Want to know more? Check out our northern NSW cheat sheet – you’ll fall in love with the region in no time.

Byron Bay Beach in New South Wales.

It’s sunny – what should I do?

Join a river cruise. 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 Mount Warning, among other impressive scenery, when boarding this cruise from Tweed Heads.  
Beach at Tweed Heads in New South Wales.

What about a great beach?

You’re in luck – Northern Rivers is blessed with a huge collection of brilliant beaches that suit surfing, swimming, fishing, or a scenic stroll. Among the highlights are:

  • Byron Bay: Belongil, Tallow, and Wategoes Beach.
  • Ballina: Main and Shelly Beach.
  • Yamba: Pippi and Angourie Beach.
  • Lennox Head: Boulder Beach.
  • Hastings Point: Cabarita and Pottsville Beach (nearby).
  • Tweed Heads: This is such a great base for beach lovers, as you have easy access to a huge strip of fantastic coastline either side of the NSW/QLD border.
Beach at Yamba, in New South Wales.

I’d like to explore – tell me about nearby national parks?

Wildlife, walks, and wonderful views abound in Northern Rivers’ national parks. Choose from the following:

  • Broadwater National Park: Head to Broadwater Headland for impressive vistas, witness a carpet of wildflowers in spring, or watch for a wide variety of wildlife and bird life. Accessible from Ballina.
  • Bundjalung National Park: Take a rainforest walk, enjoy sparkling views from Iluka Bluff lookout, or canoe or kayak. Accessible from Yamba or Iluka.
  • Lamington National Park: Part of the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, the park’s highlights include volcanic features, waterfalls, and rainforest walks. Accessible from Tweed Heads via Broadbeach, Gold Coast.
  • Yuraygir National Park: Ideal for coastal walks that reveal funky rock creations. Accessible from Yamba or Wooli.
Waterfall flows at Lamington National Park.

I’m feeling really energetic

Tackle the Cape Byron walking track in Byron Bay. This 3.7km loop showcases outstanding, variable scenery: wander along the clifftops for stunning coastline views – and the chance to spot marine life – and mix that with beautiful rainforest.

Allow at least a couple of hours to take on this track: it’s graded ‘hard’.

The spectacular Cape Byron, in Byron Bay.

But I’m time poor

Then head straight for Cape Byron Lighthouse, a major feature along the Cape Bryon walking track. Not only does this mark the spot of the most eastern point of mainland Australia but it’s just minutes from the centre of Byron Bay.

While here, take a historical lighthouse guided tour or simply soak up breathtaking coastal views.

All steps lead to Cape Byron Lighthouse in Byron Bay.

Anywhere else for great views?

Just 15 minutes north of Ballina you’ll find Pat Morton Lookout at Lennox Point. This top spot provides outstanding ocean views, with the chance to glimpse marine life. From here, you can also watch surfers and hang gliders in action.

Seven Miles Beach in Lennox Head.

Oh no, it’s raining. What is there to do indoors?

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 in to the town’s maritime past among other historical themes.
  • Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre: Retrace local Indigenous culture through art, relics, dance, song, and more at this South Tweed Heads attraction.
  • Tweed Regional Gallery: One of Australia’s best regional galleries with a top-notch portrait collection. It’s located in Murwillumbah, about a half-hour drive inland from both Hastings Point and Tweed Heads.
  • Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum: An extensive and fascinating collection detailing the area’s rich naval past.
The Yamba Museum. Image Credit: Yamba Museum

What are the 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.
  • Amaze ‘n’ Place: Near Ballina, this is home to the largest living lattice labyrinth maze on the planet.

Where can I take my partner?

Couples will love the chance to unwind and relax at Buddha Gardens Day Spa in Byron Bay. How’s the serenity?

What about something a bit different?

Explore the Scottish-influenced town of Maclean, just 15 minutes’ drive 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.

The Big Prawn in Ballina is a great photo opportunity.

Where are some great photo ops?

If there’s memory left on the camera after you’ve snapped at beaches, national parks, and other sensational scenery, then try these:

  • The Big Prawn: This Ballina attraction 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. 
Farmers markets abound in New South Wales.

I love markets

So does the Northern Rivers region! Here’s a handful to check out:

  • Brunswick Heads Market: First Saturday of the month.
  • Byron Bay Farmers’ Market: Byron Bay every Thursday; Bangalow every Saturday.
  • Kingscliff Markets: Second and fourth Saturday of the month.
  • Lennox Head Community Market: Second and fifth Sunday of the month.
  • Missingham Farmers' Market, Ballina: Every Sunday.
  • North Coast Village Market, Brunswick Heads: First Saturday of the month.
  • Plateau Market at Alstonville: Second Sunday of the month.
  • Pottsville Beach Markets: First and third Sunday of the month.
  • Tweed Head Markets: Every Sunday.

Where can I quench a thirst?

Head straight for Stone & Wood brewery in Byron Bay and sip on its flagship Pacific Ale. Brewery tours are available but should be booked in advanced.

Stone and Wood Brewery. Image Credit: Shantanu Starrick

I want to spot a celebrity

You could be in luck! Byron Bay is home to a Hemsworth. That’s right, Hollywood heartthrob Chris Hemsworth recently bought a multi-million-dollar pad in town, and you might just catch a glimpse of him.

Where can I stay?

With us, of course! When you’re looking for accommodation in the Northern Rivers region, BIG4 has you covered.

Isn’t it time you explored the wonders of northern NSW? 

Related Parks

Become a Perks+ member and

SAVE up to $50 (10%) on your BIG4 bookings, plus loads more
for two years!

Join today for $50