The trek along the east coast of Australia is always very popular with visitors from overseas. There is so much to see on a trip from Sydney to Cairns it is not possible to see everything along the way, but I am going to highlight a few must sees from northern river area of New South Wales. I always recommend these places to everyone travelling up or down the coast, as they encompass so much to see and do in a short distance.
The northern rivers area of New South Wales is stunning country with great waterways, unbelievable beaches, and just amazing country to view along the way. If you are doing the road trip from Sydney I recommend a campervan hire as this will allow you to unpack once and explore at your own pace.
Let’s start from south going north, with the first place I recommend visiting being Lennox Heads. Lennox Heads has never been as high on visitors’ priority list as Byron Bay, just up the road, but it should hold its own for anyone who loves the beach, or who loves to surf. Lennox heads is a quiet seaside town, something that Byron has not been for a long time.
What Lennox heads boasts is a rocky headland that works perfectly to create world renowned surf breaks. Lennox is one of Australia’s National Surfing Reserves. You can get a little surfing done, take a surf lesson from one of the local surf schools, or just watch the surfing from the Lennox Point lookout. You might also be lucky enough to visit when they are having one of the multiple surf tournaments that are held each year at Lennox heads, such as the Lennox Long board Classic.
With a great beach also come plenty of sunbaking, swimming, beach walks. Seven mile beach runs from Lennox Head to Broken Head and is a prime example of why Northern New South Wales has some of the best beaches in the world.
Lennox head also boasts Lake Ainsworth with its Tea tree lined shores, calm flat water to kayak and stand-up paddle board on. Lake Ainsworth is also popular with families for kids to safely swim in, out of any rough surf that may come along.
Lennox boasts plenty of cafes and restaurants to enjoy, as well the surf club and a classic waterside pub. Only twenty minutes south of Byron Bay but a definite stop along the way to experience a quiet seaside town.
Byron Bay is so much busier than it was 20 years ago, but one thing the local council has done to help keep its unique character is to stop large towers being built. It still retains a village like feel, but a very busy little village. Even so, Byron is quite special. Cape Byron is the easterly most point of Australia. The headlands of Byron have created a north facing beach which is gives these long waves that just roll along the beach or bay and provide a great swimming environment. This is a busy beach, very popular with travellers and families.
The headland also means that one of the beaches is usually sheltered in pretty much most weather. The views from Cape Byron are always stunning, up and down the coast. From the headlands there are multiple walking tracks over the headlands to various vantage points for sightseeing. The headlands are also a popular spot to watch for whales as they migrate north from Antarctica to Hervey Bay for their mating season.
Byron Bay is also the point where the warm waters coming down the coast meet the cold waters coming up the coast. It is this diversity of water temperatures that also makes Byron Bay a great dive destination. In the middle of the Bay sits Julian Rocks, these rocks provide a natural spot for sea life to both live and visit. If you are a diver then Julian Rocks at Byron bay is a must dive spot.
Byron Bay has a lot of restaurants, cafes and eateries catering to all budgets. It also has multiple accommodation options including camping & caravan parks, backpacker hostels, hotels and apartments. Whatever your budget there is something for you in Byron Bay.
There are so many activities in Byron Bay to do, including surfing, swimming, diving, visiting close by national parks, sky diving etc…. Byron Bay also hosts two very popular music festivals each year. The Byron Bays Bluesfest held each Easter, and the Splendour in the Grass which is held in July most years. Both of these festivals sell out early, if you are thinking to attend one, get your tickets early.
Located 65kms inland from Byron Bay is the town of Nimbin. Nimbin is known as the hippie capital of Australia, somewhere that you can find a more relaxed and alternative lifestyle and holiday destination. The town of Nimbin is surrounded by farmland and rainforest and is nestled in the hills west of Byron Bay.
The alternative culture of Nimbin has generated a selection of fabulous food and dining experiences. There are eateries offering original organic creations, vegetarian, contemporary Asian and modern Australian cuisine. There are plenty of food options in Nimbin that are worth the experience.
Located in Nimbin and local villages are a number of galleries. The northern rivers area is home to the largest number of practising artists in regional Australia. If browsing galleries is your thing, then you can explore your time away in Nimbin
Nimbin is very close to quite a few national parks including
- The Border Ranges National Park
- Bundjulang National Park
- Mebbin National Park
- Nightcap National Park
- Wollumbin National Park
With so many national parks close to Nimbin, there are plenty of bushwalks, long and short to try. There are also many great scenic drives to be found from Nimbin as well.
Only 18km north of Byron Bay is Brunswick Heads which is a quiet little town that is centred on the river mouth of the Brunswick River. The Brunswick River is joined by Marshalls Creek and Simpson Creek at the river mouth, creating the feeling the town centre is surrounded by water. The lay back atmosphere of the town and the town not being right on the beach creates a totally different feel to it than Byron Bay has, so close and yet so different.
To gain access to the beach area from Brunswick Heads, you have to cross the Simpson creek bridge and then access the beach from there. The way the mouth of the river flows it creates a small beach inside the river mouth which is very popular with families to swim at due to its protected nature from the open ocean. You can access the main ocean beach which runs all the way down to Byron Bay just a few feet further along. The area just south of the town and up to the beach is national park, meaning there are not houses built overlooking the beach. This gives the ocean beach at Brunswick a much greater seclusion and the feel of a remote beach.
Because of the easy access to both the ocean and river system for boats, the village of Brunswick has long been a favourite destination for those that love to fish. Brunswick also has several commercial trawlers that work from Brunswick, bringing in fresh sea food each day.
The town of Brunswick Heads is quite small and easily walked around. There are multiple restaurants and cafes to eat at, as well as the very popular Brunswick Heads Hotel with its ever enjoyable beer garden area (and often live music). Brunswick Heads does have several motels to stay at and multiple caravan parks that have prime spots on the rivers and creeks.
Four separate towns all close together but all very different in feel and things to do. Not everyone is going to like all the four separate places, but everyone will find something they like.
Travelling the east coast of Australia is a great way to experience some of the best Australia has to offer. There are a few alternatives of how to travel, bus, car hire or campervan hire are all great options, so why not get planning that big trip now.