4 soul-cleansing water activities on the NSW North Coast
Weave one of these activities into your next trip and discover why life is centered around the water on this magical part of the NSW North Coast.
There’s something about the healing powers of water. From walking behind cascading waterfalls to waking up right by the beach and kayaking with sea turtles, the North Coast’s incredible national parks offer an abundance of therapeutic activities that will make you feel beautifully restored.
Walk behind the misty veil of a waterfall in Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park is a lush, subtropical wonderland on Gumbaynggirr Country that has been growing for millions of years. As you breathe in the beauty of the magnificent World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest, just an hour from Coffs Harbour, you can’t help but feel connected to its ancient energy.
Among the many unmatched experiences you can have in this spectacular national park is walking behind the rainbow spray of a waterfall on the Crystal Shower Falls walk. Winding deep into the greenery from the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, the path takes you beneath the dense canopy to the pristine Crystal Shower Falls. There, a pretty suspension bridge stretches across the valley – and if you meander down the side track, you’ll find yourself in a rocky cavern behind the waterfall itself. Through a misty veil of spray, gaze out at the rejuvenating splendour of the rainforest: a rare and outstanding example of our Earth’s ongoing biological processes and evolutionary history that will leave you awestruck.
The critters that call this place home are unique and diverse, and if you keep your voice hushed, you may spy bleating tree frogs, swamp wallabies and satin bowerbirds. Note that in order to protect this precious environment, swimming isn’t allowed, but there are many other gorgeous places in the park to bathe – try the aquamarine river on the Rosewood Creek walking track.
Paddle alongside dolphins & turtles in Cape Byron State Conservation Area
Set against a startling skyline of forested mountains, Cape Byron State Conservation Area, a headland in Byron Bay that’s famously the most easterly point of Australia, has a viscerally magical quality about it. Here, local Bundjalung culture is proud and strong, with the Arakwal Bumberlin people having taken care of this special Country for millennia. At any hour, plunging or paddling out into the heavenly bay can make you feel reborn, so it’s no wonder locals’ lives tend to revolve around these waters.
With Cape Byron Kayaks, you’ll glide across the calm ocean alongside the headland in the company of charismatic guides who are fully qualified as surf life savers. From the safety of your stable craft, gaze upon the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse: dramatic sights that will fill you with wonder. As you paddle, timeworn turtles will pop their heads up and fill their lungs with salty air, and curious bottlenose dolphins will dance in the waves. If you’re here between May and November, you can expect to spot some of the 25,000-odd humpback whales that float past on their great annual migration from Antarctica, too. The likelihood of encountering one of these cetaceans is so high that if on the off chance you don’t, the crew are more than happy to whisk you out again another day.
Explore the dazzling wetlands of Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve
Straddling an idyllic cluster of beaches and the resplendent Brunswick River (known as Durrumbil in Bundjalung language), Brunswick Heads is the kind of charming, unspoiled coastal village that makes you want to kick your shoes off. Here, the pace of life is slow and pleasure filled, where one can’t help but tune in to the restorative properties of the spellbinding waters the town is built upon.
An immersive way to navigate the culturally and environmentally significant wetlands of the Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve, immediately north of the township, is with Byron Bay Eco Cruises & Kayaks. You’ll start off puttering along the snaking waterways in a gentle cruise boat before coming to rest upon the riverbank. From there, hop in a kayak and experienced guides will lead you up secret twists and turns that aren’t accessible by boat. You can also try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding, exploring the stunning mangrove-flanked scenery at your own pace.
When high tide rolls around, the reserve becomes a turquoise paradise. You’ll see snorkelers duck their heads beneath the surface to marvel at the creatures amongst the seagrass and delighted picnickers stretch out in the sunshine munching on fish and chips.
Camp right by the beach at Diamond Head Campground
Crowdy Bay National Park hugs a breathtaking sweep of beaches and coves at the northernmost tip of the sublime Barrington Coast. Sprinkled with subtropical rainforest, striking rock formations, rolling dunes and dozens of wildflower-strewn hiking trails, the coastal plains on beautiful Birpai Country offers plenty of bounty for all those who visit.
Perched right on a creamy crescent moon of beach is perhaps the gem in the crown of the park when it comes to camping spots: Diamond Head Campground. This is a place where you can fall asleep beneath the stars to the soothing sound of waves lapping serenely at the shore, then wake with the sun to find the crystal-clear ocean right at your doorstep – a tonic for your soul.
Water babies rejoice, because Crowdy Bay National Park also offers excellent surfing, snorkelling and fishing opportunities. Expect to share the water with friendly dolphins and enormous whales – the latter of which migrate north between May and July, then head back down south to feast between August and October. Back on shore, kangaroos roam and laze about without a care in the world, as well as wallabies, koalas, cockatoos, white-bellied sea eagles and lace monitors.
Stay safe in NSW national parks. Plan by checking the NPWS website for alerts and closures before visiting a park. For more safety tips and park alerts, visit nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/safety.