Nature experiences on the Macleay Valley Coast

With beautiful beaches, epic surf and stunning national parks, the Macleay Valley Coast is full of natural wonder. Immerse yourself in the incredible scenery and take a closer look at some of the region’s abundant wildlife.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

May 2023 -
min read

Surf at legendary beaches 

Crescent Head is a much-loved spot for surfers. The National Surfing Reserve hosts the annual Malibu Classic amateur longboarding competition and has one of the longest right-hand breaks in Australia. Beginners can book lessons with Crescent Head Learn to Surf and On Point Surf School. South of Crescent Head is Big Hill, which has beginner-friendly right-handers off a family-friendly beach. It’s a picturesque location beside a coastal rainforest. Continue south and you will find Point Plomer and Queens Head, which are both great surfing spots. Point Plomer has a campground on the beach, perfect for a few days (or more) getting away from it all.

 A lone surfer enjoys perfect waves at Crescent Head on the northern side of Racecourse Head.

Surfing, Crescent Head

Dive with endangered grey nurse sharks 

Just off the coast of South West Rocks is one of Australia’s most popular dive sites, Fish Rock Cave. This exciting dive runs 125m through fish rock and it is home to a completely unique ecosystem. At the entrance to the cave, you’ll see pink gorgonian corals, and as you travel through there is the option to surface into an air bubble and chat to your dive buddy. Some of the marine life you are likely to encounter include grey nurse sharks, black cod, large wobbegong sharks, black rays and giant cuttlefish. South West Rocks Dive Centre and Fish Rock Dive Centre both offer guided dives at the site. 

Grey nurse shark, South West Rocks Dive Centre

South West Rocks Dive Centre, South West Rocks

Spot gentle giants along the coast 

The Macleay Valley Coast is lined with fantastic coastal lookouts that make great vantage points during whale-watching season from May to November. Try the KorogoroConnors and Green Island walking tracks near Hat Head, Reservoir Lookout near Crescent Head or climb to the top of Smoky Cape Lighthouse for views along the whole coastline. Take a tour with two-hour tour with Fish Rock Dive Centre on the 7.5-metre catamaran Terror

Try stand-up paddleboarding on Back Creek 

Family-friendly Back Creek is a great spot for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. If you don’t have a board, you can hire one from South West Rocks Stand Up Paddle (SWR SUP) or even take a tour through the creek with a guide. Once you have worked up an appetite, cook up a barbecue at the picnic area, before taking a leisurely walk along the breakwall

Friends enjoying a stand up paddleboarding experience with SWR SUP along Back Creek, South West Rocks, North Coast

SWR SUP, South West Rocks

Lace-up your hiking boots in Hat Head National Park  

Hat Head National Park is a beautiful spot made up of pristine coastline and beaches, rainforest, sand dunes and wetlands. The best way to explore it is on one of the many walking trails. There are three Grade 5 walks; Connors walking track, Gap Beach walking track and Smoky Cape walking track. The first of these is a 3.3km trail that follows the coastline, passing beaches, wildflowers and a blowhole, as well as some great whale-watching opportunities in winter. The rest of the trails are Grade 4 and include Korogoro walking track, a loop the circles the headland on the easternmost tip, and the short but scenic Jack Perkins walking track

The Jack Perkins walking track  North Smoky Beach, Hat Head National Park

Jack Perkins walking track to North Smoky Beach, Hat Head National Park - Credit: John Spencer/DPE

Go snorkelling in Korogoro Creek  

Located in Hat Head National Park, Korogoro Creek is an excellent snorkelling spot. Time your visit just before high tide when the creek is full of life. You might be lucky enough to spot hermit crabs, flat head, mullet and even octopus. Confident swimmers can snorkel around Hat Head Mountain, where you may also see Wobbegong Sharks. 

The mouth of Korogoro Creek, Hat Head

Snorkel Korogoro Creek, Hat Head - Credit: Aero Aus

Set up camp in Arakoon National Park 

Spend a few nights camping in the idyllic Arakoon National Park. Here you will find the historic Trial Bay Gaol, dating from the 19th century, which housed prison labourers. The prison has an incredible setting overlooking the water and you can explore the ruins and visit the memorial and museum to learn more about its history. Nearby Trial Bay is sheltered and great for families, with picnic spots, good fishing, and sandy beaches – Trial Bay Gaol Campground and Smoky Cape Campground are both excellent spots to pitch up a tent – and Little Bay Picnic Area is a great spot for a day of sun, sand and surf (and kangaroo spotting!). 

Couple watching the kangaroos grazing near Little Bay Picnic Area, Arakoon National Park

Little Bay Picnic Area, Arakoon National Park

Get away from the crowds at Goolawah National Park 

It’s impossible not to be captivated by this lesser-known national park connecting Crescent Head village and Racecourse Headland. Mostly made up of a vast and secluded stretch of white sand nestled between native bushland and the ocean – reefs, a lagoon perfect for snorkelling and swimming, and a left-hand surf break entice those looking to escape the crowds. Spot dolphins, turtles, whales and koalas; stay overnight at Delicate or Racecourse campgrounds; or simply lap up the Castaway vibes. 

Aerial view of Goolawah National Park, Crescent Head

Goolawah National Park, Crescent Head


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