Ask a local: Clark Webb
Clark owns Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours and leads stand-up paddleboard expeditions in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, near Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast.
Here, he reveals how visitors can gain a deep understanding of the area – traditionally known as Gumbaynggirr country – and where to go for good food, great views and family fun.
Your company offers tours with a twist. What’s the story?
Our tours combine stand-up paddleboarding with an overview of the original culture and stories of the area. It’s something fun and active that also engages the mind.
Do you need prior paddle boarding experience?
No. We provide training at the start of the tour for those who need it. Most people get up on their feet, but some people are happy just to kneel, which is completely fine. You can make your own rules.
The protected area off the coast is known as the Solitary Islands Marine Park. What makes it special?
The Solitary Islands are the southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef. The marine park is where the warm currents from the north meet the cold currents from the south, which means we have a really interesting reef system. Onshore, there are beautiful beaches and a combination of tropical and sub-tropical rainforests. And we have a really nice climate: even in winter, there are lovely warm days.
How else can visitors immerse themselves in the local environment?
I’d recommend the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk, which runs from Angourie, up near Yamba, down to Sawtell. The entire walk takes a few days, but you can easily do smaller sections. It’s an excellent showcase of our stunning coastline and rainforests.
What’s your pick for a hearty meal after a long walk or paddle?
I’m a fan of Ernie’s Kitchen in Coffs Harbour. They have really beautiful, healthy meals that incorporate native herbs and spices alongside local produce.
Can you share with us a destination or landmark that only locals know about?
Head into the Orara East State Forest and find the Gumgali Track. A lot of people don’t walk down the track because they think it’s private, but it’s actually accessible to the public, and it leads to Korora Lookout, which has this really amazing north-east aspect across the coast and up to Woolgoolga. It’s just beautiful.
Is there anywhere nearby for a drink or a snack?
Within the forest there’s Nyanggan Gapi Cafe near Sealy Lookout. The cafe is operated by the Aboriginal corporation I’m a part of, Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, and it makes great coffee. Then you can go to the lookout, which has a beautiful long view to the south.
Can you tell us a bit about the Aboriginal corporation?
We’ve been running for about 10 years and we operate after-school learning centres, cultural camps and Gumbaynggirr language-revitalisation initiatives. A huge goal for us in 2022 is to open up the first bilingual schools in Aboriginal language in New South Wales. We also run the Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience on the second Saturday of every month up at Sealy Lookout.
What does the cultural experience involve?
A dance performance and the telling of traditional stories at the two lookouts. It’s about a 1 km walk from Sealy Lookout to Korora Lookout, and along the way we’ll sample different plants and talk about their uses.
The forest sounds like a must-visit. Any other recommendations nearby?
If you visit Sealy Lookout, don’t miss TreeTops Adventure Park, which has rope courses and flying foxes. Kids love it, but adults love it as well. If you’re tight on time, you can do an early-morning paddle with us, then the cultural experience, then TreeTops. It’s a big day but it’s worth it.