A Tourists Guide to Regional Australia – Part 4: Northern New South Wales

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will help tourists both local and international visiting Australia find information about locations that are not usually covered in television travel programs and magazines.

New South Wales

New South Wales is an Australian state located in the central-eastern part of the country and faces the Tasman Sea, which becomes the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales is the most populated state in Australia, and has a population of approximately 7.3 million, with 4.7 million people living in its capital city, Sydney. Explorer Captain Cook first landed in Sydney in 1788, the year to which the settlement of Australia is attributed. New South Wales has a range of climates, ranging from oceanic in the south, temperate on the central eastern seaboard, subtropical in the north and arid to semi-arid in the western areas.

Transport Options

There are many options for transport in New South Wales. Sydney has a domestic and international airport, and there are smaller airports to the north in cities like Newcastle, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. To see the areas that are mentioned in this guide, it is recommended to hire a vehicle from Sydney Airport and head north. For tips and information about driving in New South Wales, please see this site http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/usingroads/internationalinterstate/driving.html

Stop 1 – Newcastle

Newcastle is located approximately 160 kilometres north of Sydney, and is the second most populated city in New South Wales, with a population of approximately 600,000. Newcastle is home to the largest coal export port in the world, and its economy is based mainly on heavy industry and shipping. The city is renowned for its swimming and surfing beaches, and there are eight individual beaches which you can visit. For history buffs there are plenty of historic sites which can be visited, such as the Fort Scratchley Historic Site. Newcastle has a vast array of cafes and restaurants, and has a wide variety of accommodation options, ranging from caravan parks to five star hotels and resorts.


Forster is a small town which lies approximately 170 kilometres north of Newcastle and has a population of around 14,000. Forster is popular tourist destination and is positioned at the mouth of Lake Wallis. It has a great range of surfing and swimming beaches, and also calm lagoons near the lakes entrance. Forster is also renowned for its scuba diving locations, excellent land based fishing positions and its local dolphin population. Are plenty of options for food and drink, with a variety of eating outlets. It is recommended to try the local fish and chips which you can consume on the banks of Lake Wallis or by on the grass by the beach. You can also take a fishing charter which are run on a half or full day basis or go for a dolphin watching cruise. For those that enjoy nature, visit Booti Booti National Park, which is home to several native animals including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies. Please note that there are certain rules that govern national parks in New South Wales, please see this site for more details http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/

Forster Source: Author

Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie is located 110 kilometres north of Forster. It is a larger city with a population of approximately 75,000. The town is located on the mouth of the Hastings River and was once used as a major port for traders. Port Macquarie is renowned for its beautiful swimming and surf beaches and also for its oysters, which are farmed on the lower reaches of the Hastings River. You can visit the nearby Billabong Wildlife Park, which is home to many native Australian animals with which you can feed and interact. There are many fishing charters or you can take a cruise along the Hastings River and see the oyster farms and mangroves. Port Macquarie is also renowned for its restaurants, with many serving fresh local seafood and produce. For those who want to try something a little different, you can take a camel ride at sunset along the beach, or go for a horse ride in the hills at the Port Macquarie Horse Riding Centre. Port Macquarie has a wide range of accommodation options, which range from caravan parks to five star hotels and resorts.

Port Macquarie Beach Source: Author

South West Rocks

South West Rocks is an idyllic small seaside town approximately 85 kilometres north of Port Macquarie and has a population of around 5,000. South West Rocks is renowned for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. This is a must see location for either swimming or just to relax away from all the crowds. You can scuba dive around the rocks which are located a few metres off the local beach, or you can visit Trial bay Gaol, which is a former penal colony which was used to house convicts in the late 1800’s. You can take a tour of the gaol, which has been kept in its original condition, and has a magnificent view of the bay and over the Pacific Ocean. Adjoining Hat Head National Park is home to tame kangaroos which you can feed by hand. For those who want to be more daring can visit South West Rocks Diving Centre who will take you to Fish Rock Cave, which is a small island 2 kilometres offshore. Here you can scuba dive through a 125 metre underground cave which is habited by docile Grey Nurse sharks. There are only limited eating facilities at South West Rocks and a limited amount of accommodation, which is mainly holiday homes or caravan parks.

South West Rocks Beach Source: Author

Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour is located 100 kilometres north of South West Rocks and has a population of approximately 72,000. The city was originally used as a port city which was used to export large volumes of timber. Coffs Harbour is a very popular tourist destination due to its pristine beaches, abundance of activities and its temperate climate. There are also several beaches where you can surf or kitesurf, or if you are looking for calmer waters you can take a dip in the sheltered marina and jetty area. Inside the city you will find an interactive dolphin park, where you can play with, feed and interact with animals such as dolphin, seals, penguins, stingrays and Port Jackson sharks. Coffs Harbour is also home to the iconic Big Banana, which is a large fibreglass banana which is beside the Pacific Motorway. At the Big Banana you can take a walk around the banana plantation while the kids play at the adventure park. You can also purchase fresh bananas and other specialties at the cafeteria.


Overview of Coffs Harbour Source: Author

Also worth visiting is Sawtell, which is a seaside town a few kilometres south of Coffs Harbour. Sawtell is renowned for its beautiful swimming beaches and restaurants and cafes. There are also many options for food in Coffs Harbour which has a vast array of restaurants and cafes. You can find all types of accommodation in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell, ranging from caravan parks to beachside resorts, or if you prefer you can stay a short distance away in an idyllic forest resort.

Yamba, Wooli and Angourie

Yamba is located 150 kilometres north of Coffs Harbour and is located at the mouth of the Clarence River. Yamba is on the south side of the river and Wooli is on the north side of the river. Yamba and Wooli are popular tourist destinations and have a combined population of around 8,000. The towns are renowned for their fishing and water sports. There are surf and safe swimming beaches along with areas where you can water ski on the Clarence River. You can also hire a flat bottomed boat and cruise up and down the river whilst having a barbecue on board, or join one of the many sightseeing cruises. It is recommended that you do not leave here without trying the local prawns, which are widely touted as being the best in Australia. There are plenty of accommodation and food options in both Yamba and Wooli.


Yamba Source: Author

Only 5 kilometres south of Yamba you will find the small seaside town of Angourie. Angourie has a population of only a few hundred, however is world renowned for its excellent surfing beaches, with many keen surfers from both Australia and abroad migrating here in order to surf these waves. You will also find some nice swimming beaches, and also Blue Lake and Green Lake, which are two freshwater pools near the beach. These two pools were originally intended to become sandstone quarries, however when the water table was breached the holes filled with fresh water. These pools are great for swimming and diving from the rocks above. Angourie is also at the northern end of Yuraygir National Park, which is one of the largest in Australia.


Angourie Beach Source: Author

Byron Bay

Byron Bay is located 125 kilometres north of Yamba and is the last town in the guide. It has a population of approximately 6,000 people in the town, but has approximately 30,000 people living in close proximity. Byron Bay is a popular tourist destination, and is the easternmost point of the Australian Mainland. The area is renowned for its arts and crafts along with its alternative lifestyle population. Surfers also enjoy coming here, as it has some excellent surf beaches. There are always markets and fairs, and the whole town is always immersed in a festival type atmosphere. There is a very nice swimming beach in the bay, or you can travel up to the top of the Byron Bay headland and visit the lighthouse. From here you can often see migrating whales, whilst you can almost always see dolphin pods surfing the waves or giant manta rays majestically gliding by. After dark you can visit one of the many pubs, which are a popular venue for many top Australian and international acts. There are some excellent restaurants and cafes here, and many health food shops with lots of variety. There are plenty of accommodation options in Byron Bay, however it is advised to book early as the town is full most times of the year.


Byron Bay Lighthouse

This concludes our guide of northern New South Wales. All information is correct to the knowledge of the author at the time of publication. Please note that weather events or factors could affect the information given here so please ensure that you check with local authorities and media upon arrival.


When swimming anywhere in Australia please be aware that certain beaches can be prone to rips and strong currents. Please always read and follow the relevant signs. More information can be found here http://www.australia.com/about/australias-landscapes/australian-beaches.aspx

New South Wales waters are home to several species of sharks. Whilst shark attacks and fatalities are extremely rare, it is suggested that all swimmers remain vigilant and swim at patrolled beaches and follow any signs that are placed at beaches. Avoid swimming at dawn and dusk as this has been identified as the high risk times for shark attacks. For more information, please see this site http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/info/sharksmart

New South Wales is also home to several venomous animal species, including spiders and snakes. Whilst bites and fatalities are extremely rare, it is advised that caution is taken and a first aid kit which includes a snake bite kit is carried at all times. Please visit this site for more information http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Australia_and_Oceania/Australia/State_of_New_South_Wales/Warnings_or_Dangers-State_of_New_South_Wales-TG-C-1.html

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