Yamba may not have the super luxurious beachfront apartments and boutiques of Noosa or the celebrity status of Byron Bay but there’s no doubt there’s a bit of a buzz happening around the seaside town of Yamba. Like most seaside towns on Australia’s east coast, this lovely coastal destination is rapidly changing from a surfing destination to a holiday destination and there’s a growing number of things to do in Yamba.
Although Yamba is on the north coast of New South Wales, it’s closer in weather, distance and beach culture to Brisbane than it is to Sydney. In some ways, Yamba feels like Noosa before the boom.
Surrounded by national park, the Clarence River and beautiful beaches, it’s easy to see why Yamba is becoming a go-to spot for a quintessential Aussie beach holiday.
A population of 7000 swells over Christmas and Easter when Yamba’s motels and caravan parks are packed with summer holidaymakers.
- Amazing surf beaches and great weather.
- Yamba prawns are famous and you should definitely try them.
- It’s not as packed (or as expensive) as more developed beach destinations in northern NSW or Queensland
- Why Yamba?
- Where is Yamba?
- 20 Fun Things to do in Yamba
- 1- Visit the Yamba lighthouse
- 2- Enjoy a Yamba beach
- 3- Go surfing in Angourie
- 4- Walk along the breakwall
- 5- Go Game Fishing
- 6- Go Whale Watching
- 7- Relax on a Clarence River cruise
- 8- Explore Iluka
- 9- Visit Angourie’s Green and Blue Pools
- 10- Discover Yuraygir National Park
- 11- Shop at a Yamba market
- 12- See a show at the Yamba cinema
- 13- Walk the Yamba historic trail
- 14- Visit the Port of Yamba Historical Museum
- 15- Go lawn bowling
- 16- Go ten pin bowling
- 17- Make new friends in a Yamba pub
- 18- Delve into Scottish history in Maclean
- 19- Go for a drive to Grafton
- 20- Play Golf at the Yamba Golf & Country Club
- Yamba restaurants
- Accommodation in Yamba
Where is Yamba?
Yamba is 670km from Sydney on the north coast of New South Wales and 300km from Brisbane.
The closest airports are Grafton, which is a regional airport that has flights from Sydney, and the Gold Coast airport is a 2.5-hour drive away.
Surfers started visiting Yamba in the 1960s and a National Surfing Reserve was established in Angourie in 2007.
20 Fun Things to do in Yamba
1- Visit the Yamba lighthouse
The Yamba lighthouse on Pilot Hill, which is a grassy area with amazing ocean views should be your first stop in Yamba.
The hill is the perfect spot for a lighthouse and the first one was built here in 1880. The current one was built in 1955.
Yamba Point is a popular spot for a picnic (grab some fish and chips) and it’s a good place to spot whales from the shore when they swim past during the annual migration back to Antarctica.
2- Enjoy a Yamba beach
Yamba’s main drawcard is its amazing beaches and there are 11 to choose from between Yamba and Angourie, which is a smaller town 5km to the south of Yamba.
Spend the day sunbathing and swimming at Turners Beach or Main Beach or discover one of the quieter beaches.
Here are the top beaches to explore around Yamba.
The beach below the historic Pacific Hotel is patrolled in summer and has a salt water rock pool that is great for kids.
Main Beach is also home to the Surf Life Saving Club.
The rock pools are great for kids to look for crabs and facilities at the beach include a kiosk, picnic tables and toilets.
Between the break wall and the lighthouse, Turners Beach is also patrolled in summer and has toilets, showers and picnic tables.
The northern and southern ends of Turners Beach is popular for surfing. The surf break is protected from the wind by the point and is a relatively safe surf break for younger surfers.
Rock fishing or fishing off the break wall is also a fun thing to do.
When the surf’s up and if you’re looking for a calm beach for the kids, head to Whiting Beach.
This river beach is a great spot to cool off without the waves and is a popular place to go fishing.
3- Go surfing in Angourie
Any keen surfer will tell you that Angourie is an internationally recognised surfing destination with several challenging breaks. And if you’re a surfer you already know that surfing is the top thing to do in Yamba.
Back Beach (south of Angourie Point) is the beach to go if you’re an experienced surfer and Angourie Point is the place that draws serious surfers.
It’s one of a few protected surfing reserves in Australia.
Spooky Beach is north of Angourie Point and another option for experienced surfers but brave beginners might like to throw their boards in the water here too.
Pippi Beach has lovely views and is a popular beach for summer surfing competitions.
4- Walk along the breakwall
The Yamba breakwalls, where the Clarence River meets the ocean, were built between 1950 and 1971 to stop the sand buildup.
The walls protect the channel from the large waves that threatened boats cruising through the channel.
The Yamba breakwall is also a fantastic place to go for a walk, especially at sunset.
You’ll find the breakwall between Whiting Beach and Turners Beach.
5- Go Game Fishing
The warm waters off Australia’s east coast are perfect for fishing and it should come as no surprise that one of the top things to do in Yamba is to go fishing.
If you’re keen on sport fishing, Yamba is a good place to fish for various types of Marlin (blue, black and striped) as well as Mahi-Mahi, Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo and Mackerel.
There’s a choice of fishing charter companies that will take you out on a fishing tour or charter a boat and head off on your own game fishing adventure.
6- Go Whale Watching
See whales and dolphins on a whale-watching cruise or from the headlands during their annual migration.
You can spot the humpback whales all along the east coast and if you’re there when the whales are migrating (July to October) put whale watching as one of the things to do in Yamba on your activity list.
Although Yamba doesn’t have a well-developed whale watching industry like Hervey Bay in Queensland, it’s possible to have some amazing experiences on the water.
7- Relax on a Clarence River cruise
A history cruise on the Clarence River is a relaxing way to enjoy the waterways around Yamba.
Clarence River Ferries operates this cruise on Wednesdays, departing from Yamba (11 am) and Iluka (11.45 am) cruising the waterways for a few hours and returning to Yamba at 3 pm.
Scenic river cruises cost $25 (half price for kids) and normal ferry rides operate daily and cost $8. For more details go here.
8- Explore Iluka
On other days, catch the ferry to Iluka, where you’ll find the freshest prawns (caught by the commercial fishing fleet) at the Clarence River Fishermen’s Co-op.
Iluka is a small fishing village that is also popular for recreational fishing as there are several good fishing spots along the river.
The Iluka Rainforest walking track is a lovely 2.6km seaside rainforest walk past strangler figs and vines to stunning views from the headland. Keep an eye out for sea eagles, ospreys and oystercatchers.
9- Visit Angourie’s Green and Blue Pools
A former bluestone mine up until 1899, Angourie’s freshwater green and blue pools are popular picnic spots and swimming holes.
The former quarrying sites supplied the rock used to build the Yamba break wall.
These are fairly deep swimming holes to cool off in but is not suitable for swimming all year round due to toxic algae in the water. Check the council’s website before going.
The pools are in the Angourie Reserve (between Spooky Beach and Angourie Beach).
10- Discover Yuraygir National Park
Yuraygir National Park stretches from Angourie to Red Rock and is a coastal national park where generations of the Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr people camped and fished.
The park has a spiritual significance to the Aboriginal community and has diverse bioregions, including littoral rainforest, eucalypt forest, woodland and wetlands.
It’s the place to spot coastal emus, which are now an endangered species (there are less than 100 left in this park), squirrel gliders, eastern grass owls and rufous bettongs, which are rare marsupials.
The national park has campground facilities and short walks but if you’re a keen hiker, plan to do the four-day hike.
11- Shop at a Yamba market
The two main markets in Yamba are the Yamba River Markets and the Yamba Farmers and Producers Market.
Yamba River Markets
Yamba River Markets happens on the fourth Sunday of each month at Ford Park, River Street, Yamba, and is a great place for breakfast, coffee and to shop for fruit, vegetables, meat and jams and taste German-style bratwurst and Kransky.
Yamba Farmers and Producers Market
Yamba Farmers and Producers Market is on Wednesdays between 7 am and 11 am in the car park between Whiting and Turners Beach. Organic, chemical free and free-range are the buzz words at this market.
If you enjoy visiting markets, here are some excellent Gold Coast markets to discover to the north of Yamba.
12- See a show at the Yamba cinema
The Yamba cinema is in a quaint timber building and has three movies on rotation every week. Check out the shows here.
Yamba Cinema is at 13 Coldstream Street, Yamba.
13- Walk the Yamba historic trail
Spend a couple of hours on foot or hire a bicycle to explore the Yamba historic trail. Start at the Yamba Historic Museum (which is worth spending some time in, even if you’re not doing the walk – see below).
Walk past Lion’s Park and the Yamba Fire Station, which dates back to 1957 and turn left into Coldstream Street then walk past the Yamba Oval. The picket fence was erected in 1936 and is still standing.
Turn right into Claude Street and left into Wooli Street, past the fibro cottage at the corner to One Mile Peg and Fred Phillips Memorial Park. Fred Phillips was a storekeeper, oyster farmer and shire council member in Yamba who contributed to the community.
Continue along Wooli Street to the Angourie Road roundabout. The road to Angourie was built on the railway line, which was used to transport rock for the construction of the Middle Wall and the southern breakwater wall.
Walk across the bridge towards the river and turn left towards the Yamba fishing fleet and continue along to Ford Park, which was formed by filling in Blacks Bay and Barclay’s Bay (named after fisherman and oyster farmer George Barclay).
Continue following the trail to Whiting Beach on Hickey Island and Shoal Bay, which was named by Matthew Flinders in 1799, and on to the Breakwater, Turner’s Beach (named after the works paymaster who drowned here) and onto Harbour Street.
Look for the Flinders Well memorial, which is on the spot where Matthew Flinders found water when he landed in Yamba.
Other buildings to see are the Ritz Building on the original site of the Pacific Hotel, opened by Captian William Mann in 1873, the Yamba Library was once the School of Arts Hall and the place where dances and public meetings were held and the heritage-listed Yamba Police Station built in 1903.
14- Visit the Port of Yamba Historical Museum
This small museum operated by the Port of Yamba Historical Society has displays that focus on Yamba’s maritime history.
Objects include Francis Freeburn’s (the first pilot in Yamba) telescope, exhibitions on shipwrecks and submarines, and a display of the public education system in Yamba.
It’s a good place to connect with local historians and volunteers.
Yamba Museum is on River Street, Yamba. Opening hours are Tuesday to Thursday (10 am to 4.30pm), Saturday and Sunday (2 pm to 4.30pm). Entry fee is $3 (free for children).
15- Go lawn bowling
The Yamba Bowling Club allows bowlers of all levels to enjoy and learn the game, so if you’ve never tried bowling, this is the club to give it a go.
The club runs a barefoot bowls programme (for kids aged 12 years and above) during school holidays
The club offers free coaching and you can find the weekly programme and roll up times here.
Yamba Bowling Club is in the Bowlo Sports & Leisure complex, 44 Wooli Street, Yamba.
16- Go ten pin bowling
Looking for something to do in Yamba on a rainy day? If you’re visiting with kids, head to the Bowlo Sports & Leisure Club for a game of ten pin bowling.
Besides a four-lane ten pin bowling alley, the centre also has an 18-hole mini golf course (with sand bunkers and water traps) and a rock climbing wall.
Bowlo Sports & Leisure Club is at 44 Wooli Street, Yamba.
17- Make new friends in a Yamba pub
Yamba’s laid back vibe makes it a friendly place and one of the best places to meet new friends is in a Yamba pub.
Yamba Shores Tavern
Yamba Shores Tavern is a large waterfront pub and bistro. Sit on the deck for lunch or dinner. There’s a large playground for the kids and a rolling roster of bands and other live entertainment.
Yamba Shores Tavern is at 64 The Mainbrace, Yamba
18- Delve into Scottish history in Maclean
Soak up Scottish history in the historic town of Maclean, which is a mosaic of farmland, cane fields, fishing boats on the river and tartan-painted power poles.
Other attractions with a Scottish flavour are the Maclean Bicentennial Museum and the Scottish Cairn, which is a memorial built in honour of the region’s Scottish settlers.
The best time of year to visit Maclean is during thefestival at Easter time, when there are concerts on the street, kilts, bagpipe music and traditional highland games.
We happened to roll up to Maclean at the start of the ANZAC Day parade, just as an F18 flew over the town.
The flyover was followed by the parade where hundreds of people marched past cute buildings and the bagpipe band created a stirring atmosphere.
19- Go for a drive to Grafton
Follow the Clarence River – past Maclean – to Grafton, which became a city in 1885.
Attractions along the way include Woodford Island and its McFarlane Bridge, which is 100 years old. There’s a quaint radio museum in Lawrence and the Grafton Heritage trail is a delight to explore.
Grafton is a handsome city with delightful heritage architecture and a number of National Trust buildings, such as the Grafton Gaol.
The best time to visit Grafton is during the Jacaranda Festival (October) when the city’s handsome avenues ablaze with purple blossoms.
20- Play Golf at the Yamba Golf & Country Club
The Yamba Golf & Country Club’s first three holes were built in 1956 and the golf course has grown from strength to strength, being named QLD PGA Regional Pro AM in 2016 and 2017, two years in a row.
Even if you’re not a golfer, you’ll enjoy the lovely view from the clubhouse and The Deck Café is a good spot for breakfast, coffee or a drink.
The club also has a live entertainment programme and social activities.
Yamba Golf & Country Club is at River Street, Yamba. Green fees for members are $12 for a social game. If you’re a beginner, a two-month introductory membership costs $50. Social membership costs $10 a year.
Drift is a modern Australian cafe that produces healthy food using produce that is sourced sustainably from local producers while supporting ethical farming and trading practises. It’s popular for breakfast and has a popular pizza menu (including gluten-free pizza) at night.
29 Yamba Street, Yamba.
Seafood, gourmet pizza and pasta are on the menu at Sassafras, which is open seven days a week and has both indoor and outdoor seating.
16 Coldstream Street, Yamba.
Nachos, enchiladas and sizzling fajitas are on the menu at this lively Mexican restaurant in Yamba. Of course, the menu also has pan-fried Yamba prawns served with Mexican rice, which you can wash down with a Margarita or a Corona.
2/25 Coldstream St, Yamba.
Irons and Craig
Irons and Craig is a great place to stop for coffee and sourdough doughnuts. The kitchen also dishes up quality food and during the day and it’s a great spot for cocktails, drinks and bar snacks on Friday and Saturday evenings.
29 Coldstream Street, Yamba.
The Block Cafe
The Block Bar Cafe shares an entrance to the Yamba YHA backpacker hostel and has a laidback feel. Frequented by surfers and solo travellers, as well as being a hangout for locals, this is an easy spot to have a drink, listen to music and sink your teeth into a juicy burger.
26 Coldstream St, Yamba
Built in 1934, the Pacific Hotel’s main drawcard is its stunning ocean views overlooking Main Beach. The Pacific Bistro has a menu of modern Australian fare and is open for lunch and dinner.
18 Pilot Stree, Yamba.
Try a Yard Bird, Botanical or Godfather pizza at the Norfolk Bistro in the Bowlo Sports & Leisure Club or pick up a sandwich or a wrap at the Bowlo Cafe.
SeaFire Steak and Seafood
If you feel like a juicy steak or fresh seafood in a golf course setting, SeaFire Stead and Seafood at the Yamba Golf & Country Club is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Accommodation in Yamba
Yamba holiday accommodation can get booked out pretty quickly so if you’re visiting during school holidays, Christmas or Easter book in advance.
Yamba accommodation options range from camping to motels and include a vast number of holiday rental properties.
Yamba caravan parks
Caravan parks in Yamba and nearby areas offer powered and unpowered sites for caravans and RVs as well as camping sites. Some also have cabin accommodation. Here are some Yamba caravan parks you might want to check out.
- Calypso Holiday Park, Harbour Street, Yamba NSW
- Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort, Yamba Road, Yamba NSW, also has two and three-bedroom waterfront cabins and spa villas.
- Clarence Head Caravan Park, 113 Charles Street, Iluka NSW
- BIG4 Saltwater @ Yamba Holiday Park, 286 O’Keefes Lane, Palmers Island NSW
Motels in Yamba
Aston Motel Yamba, 37 Coldstream Street, Yamba, has a lovely setting with comfortable rooms that open out into a courtyard with a swimming pool.
Moby Dick Waterfront Resort Motel, 27-29 Yamba RoadYamba NSW
The Pacific Hotel, 18 Pilot st Yamba, is a historic Yamba hotel with stunning ocean views, a restaurant and live entertainment.