Nambucca Heads: An authentic beach holiday experience on the NSW coast

The Nambucca River has clear blue waters that are perfect for fishing, kayaking and boating. Pictures: Supplied
The Nambucca River has clear blue waters that are perfect for fishing, kayaking and boating. Pictures: Supplied

Nambucca Heads holds a special place in my heart, having visited the quaint coastal town on the north coast of NSW every year of my young life for family holidays.

From family walks along the V-Wall (and even painting our names), making shell necklaces threaded on fishing line, camping in a huge green canvas tent to fishing trips in our old tinnie where we returned home with an esky full of whiting, there was never a dull moment.

There is nothing pretentious about Nambucca Heads.

We fished in the river from my relatives' old jetty, went prawning at the beach when there was no moon and spent our evenings frying fish and playing card games. It was well before electronics and kids spent their days swimming, exploring the river, fishing and learning how to shuck oysters.

The good news is very little has changed in this coastal hamlet since my childhood - maybe a few more houses and an increased population - but the natural beauty of the area is unchanged and there are still plenty of memories to make for yourself.

The Nambucca River

The jewel in Nambucca's crown has to be the river which is renowned for its natural beauty and ease of access.

There are a range of activities visitors can enjoy on the river including boating, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, water skiing or just swimming in the subtropical waters.

You will be amazed at how blue and clear the water is in this river system.

Beaches

Nambucca has a number of picture-perfect beaches but one of my favourites has always been the somewhat secluded Shelly Beach. Located down the hill from the town, the beach was ranked number eight in a 2016 list of the best beaches in Australia so it's not such a secret anymore.

The V-Wall

No trip to Nambucca Heads is complete without a stroll along the V-Wall.

No trip to Nambucca Heads is complete without a stroll along the V-Wall.

No visit to Nambucca would be complete without a walk along the V-Wall. Located next to the river mouth the wall is famous for its creative graffiti and has become a significant tourist attraction. It is fascinating to read people's messages and holiday memories and everybody is welcome to paint their own rock.

Captain Cook Lookout

One of the area's best viewpoints is the Captain Cook Lookout, set on a high bluff. It is a great place to view the coastal panoramas and look for whales in the migration season. A road here leads down to the tide pools of Shelly Beach.

Get hooked

Fishing is a popular pastime at Nambucca - whether it be beach, fresh water or dangling a line in the river.

The area is quite unique as there is a crossover from tropical species to the southern cool water species. The river is fairly simple to navigate and get around but some boating knowledge is required if you want to hire a tinnie as the river mouth is a dangerous one.

Pelicans regularly visit the river's boat ramps hoping for a snack.

Pelicans regularly visit the river's boat ramps hoping for a snack.

On the river, there are always plenty of different fish species to chase and the beach fishing is also great. South Beach, which is on the opposite side of the Nambucca River, is a top spot for fishing for tailor, jewfish, salmon and the odd snapper.

The whiting congregate closer to the river mouth in summer and spring but once it gets cold the fishing is better for bream and black fish.

From the middle section of the Nambucca River up to Macksville there is great bream and flathead fishing on lures and crabbing is also possible in the Warrell Creek area in the right season.

There is nothing pretentious about Nambucca Heads. It just offers visitors an affordable and authentic taste of Aussie coastal life. And like our family, it will most likely become a place you visit time and time again.

  • Getting there: Nambucca Heads is about a five-hour drive north of Sydney and a 40-minute drive south of Coffs Harbour.

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