Sydney to Gold Coast Drive
DAY 9: Nambucca Heads - half way point!
Calm aqua waters, kangaroos, white sand beaches, migrating whales, great surf, fish and chips, bush walks and stunning view points; the journey from Lake Macquarie to Nambucca Heads is a magical stretch that passes through Hat Head National Park, South West Rocks and Arakoon National Park.
We've put together a list of the highlights and the best places to stay in your campervan. It's all mapped at the end of the article.
- Hat Head National Park - 9 walks
- Hat Head National Park - camping
- South West Rocks - camping
- Nambucca Heads - 8 highlights
- Nambucca Heads - Best Caravan Parks
Title photo by Light Stalking via Flickr.
5 Things to do in Hat Head National Park
- Smoky Cape Lighthouse. For $15 you can take a tour of the lighthouse all the way to the top of the spiral stairs and take in the views while you hear stories of the lighthouse keepers and their families.
- Explore the old Gaol. For $12 per adult, $8 per child, take a tour of the old gaol in Arakoon National Park at the northern end of Hat Head National Park. You’ll visit the stone cells, the kitchen and climb the steep stairs to the watchtower, while hearing stories about what life was like in the gaol.
- Captain Cook Lookout, just below Smoky Cape Lighthouse, is a great spot for dolphin watching and picnics.
- Dive Fish Rock Cave. One of the best dive sites in Australia, this 125 metre long cave goes right through the centre of an island. It is rich in marine life and is a critical habitat for Grey Nurse sharks (the people friendly shark!) South West Rocks Dive will take you there.
Best Walks in Hat Head National Park
- Kinchela Trig Lookout Walk is a 15 minute walk.
- Korogoro Loop is 3.2 km, 1 – 2 hrs.
- Jack Perkins is 2km, 30 mins return.
- Rainforest walking track is 2km, 30 mins.
- Smoky Cape Walking track is 2.2 km, 1 hr one way.
- Green Island walking track is 3 km or 1-2 hrs return.
- Connors Walking Track is 3.3 km one way.
- Gap Beach Walking Track is 6 km or 2-3 hrs return.
- Little Bay to Smoky Cape is 10 km or 3-5 hrs one way.
Camping in Hat Head National Park
- Hungry Gate Campground – is an open grassy area behind sand dunes just a twenty minute walk from the ocean. Kangaroos enjoy grazing here. Facilities include picnic tables, BBQs, and toilets.
RATES: $6 per adult, $3.50 per child. No bookings.
- Smoky Cape Campground – sits in lush rainforest on an isolated stretch of coast below the Smoky Cape Lighthouse. You can select your own pocket of paradise. It’s a short walk to the beach for a swim or a spot of fishing, or a dive trip to Fish Rock. Facilities include picnic tables, BBQs and toilets.
RATES: $6 adults $3.50 children. No bookings.
- Hat Head Holiday Park – is in the town of Hat Head surrounded by national park on the coast. The area is famous for its fishing and fishing tables are provided. The calm waters of the beach are safe for swimming. Snorkel in the clear water of Korogoro Creek to see fish and the occasional sea turtle. Facilities include hot showers, BBQs, camp kitchen, dump point, playground, laundry, ice and gas.
RATES: $29 - $57 for two. Additional adults $12 - $15, children $5 - $7.
4 Best South West Rocks Caravan Parks
South West Rocks is another handy place to base your selves while exploring this region of the coast. Here you’ll find privately run caravan parks with full facilities and the conveniences of a small town.
- Big 4 Sunshine South West Rocks is a five minute walk to the ocean and is a paradise for the kids. A water park called Shipwreck Island has a skull waterfall and kids can climb right into the skull and out it’s eye sockets. There’s also a resort style swimming pool, putt putt, a fairy garden, jumping pillow, playground, games room, tennis court, volley ball, restaurant, café, camp kitchen, BBQ facilities, fire pit, laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $30 for two. Additional people $15.
- Trial Bay Gaol Campground is part of Arakoon National Park and is the best value for money for groups of four or more. It is right at the calm end of the beach, which makes it perfect for relaxed swimming. The historic ruins of the gaol are nearby. Facilities include hot showers, flush toilets, BBQs, picnic tables, kiosk and drinking water.
RATES: $34 for the site (up to 7 people).
- Horseshoe Bay Holiday Park is right on Horseshoe bay, a cove of calm water and white sand and fringed with Norfolk pines. Facilities are basic – laundry, showers, toilets. There are BBQs nearby.
RATES: From $40 for two. Additional adults $12, kids $5.
- Active Holiday South West Rocks sits on a forested bend of South West Rocks creek. Facilities include BBQ cabanas, camp kitchen, games room, swimming pool, dump point, laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $40 for two. Additional adults $15, kids $10.
Nambucca Heads is a mid-sized town on a pristine stretch of coast exactly half way between Sydney and the Gold Coast. There’s plenty of places to stay here and it’s a great place to base yourself to explore the region to the north and south. The main street in town has an artsy vibe with ocean themes painted onto power poles, mosaics on planters and a large mosaic wall. Drop into the Visitor Centre to get advice, maps and brochures on the region’s attractions.
8 things to do in Nambucca Heads
- The V-Wall is a breakwall of rocks that have been spontaneously painted by artistic folks. Bring your paint can and paint a rock of your own, or just come to be inspired by the public art.
- Nyambugga Walking Track is a sandy track through coastal bush that connects the V-Wall to Shelley Beach. Interpretive boards teach you about the Baga-Baga People and the local environment. The ocean is their totem, providing them with food and healing. All their creation stories are connected to the Ocean.
- River boat tours are a great way to learn the regions history and spot wildlife. The longer tours include a hearty lunch.
- There are two lookouts to visit while you are in Nambucca Heads – Captain Cook Lookout is a place to contemplate the vast world at your feet. Rotary Lookout gives you views in the other direction south and west. Bring your camera!
- Wharf Street Café is a great spot for a coffee on a wharf over the waters of the Nambucca River.
- Whether you play golf or not, the Island Golf Club is worth a visit. The restaurant and bar is open to non-members and it has great views and reasonably priced lunches and dinners. The 18 hole golf course covers an island in the pristine waters of the Nambucca River with dolphins, birds and wildlife all around you.
- Shelley Beach is a sandy beach fringed with shady casuarinas and dotted with tidal rock pools at one end. It is protected from the wind by a bluff, which makes it a great place to swim and picnic. Sheltered picnic tables and BBQ facilities on the grassy stretch by the beach are there free for your use.
- Gulmani Boardwalk (3km one way) passes through mangroves with interpretive boards that highlight historical sights along the way.
5 Best Nambucca Heads Caravan Parks
- BIG 4 Nambucca Beach Holiday Park is located behind native bush right on the beach. Sandy tracks give direct access to the beach. It is north of the town and surrounded by bush, so it’s quiet. Facilities include a swimming pool, playground, jumping pillow, games room, BBQs and picnic tables, laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $36 for two. Additional people $15. Discount for BIG 4 members.
- North Coast Holiday Park Nambucca Beach is located behind native bush right on the beach and is the most affordable for couples. Sandy tracks give direct access to the beach. Facilities include BBQs, laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $27 for two. Additional people $15.
- Active Holidays white Albatross is right on the Nambucca River. A safe tidal swimming lagoon makes it perfect for kids. It’s close to the V-Wall, the Gulmani boardwalk, and the Nymbugga coastal walk and lookouts. Facilities include a swimming pool, water park, play ground, games room, café and tavern, modern under cover BBQ facilities, fish cleaning stations (catch your dinner!) and laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $43 for two. Additional people $12.
- Foreshore Caravan Park is located right on the Nambucca River with a private boat ramp and waterfront BBQs on which to grill your catch of the day. Additional facilities include laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $34 for two. Additional people $12.
- Pelican Caravan Park is right on the river to the south of town and is the most affordable for groups of four or more. It has its own jetty and boat ramp. Facilities include a swimming pool, playground, waterfront BBQs, laundry, showers and toilets.
RATES: From $31 for two. Additional people $10.
Map: Camping, Caravan Parks and Attractions between Myall Lakes and Dorrigo National Park.