Clarence Valley Natural Wonders
In the Northern Rivers region of North Coast NSW, sitting pretty between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay, the Clarence Valley is nature writ large, a place where rivers carve the countryside into dramatic gorges, all enveloped by World Heritage-listed rainforest and golden beaches along the Pacific coast. The region is the gateway to all manner of wild and wonderful wilderness areas. Whether you’re into kayaking and rafting, bushwalking and mountain biking, surfing and diving, an outdoor pursuit for every enthusiast awaits in this part of the state.
On the water
Eight wild waterways flow through the Clarence Valley, all part of the Clarence River catchment, Australia’s largest east-coast river system. Here you’ll find the country’s longest whitewater trail, covering 195km between and the township of Copmanhurst. Your route is broken into eight official sections, delivering everything from challenging rapids – the upper Nymboida River is considered one of the most exhilarating whitewater rivers in Australia – to calm waters through empty wilderness.
The Mann River joins the Nymboida in the Nymboida National Park, where forest-clad escarpments create a striking backdrop for paddling, hiking, camping and 4WD touring. Twitchers will revel in the birdwatching opportunities, with white-bellied sea eagles and osprey a regular sight over the waterways.
On the ocean, catch a wave at the legendary Angourie Point in Yamba, one of Australia’s first National Surfing Reserves. The right-hand break here is consistently good, challenging even experienced surfers with swell from southwest winds.
Wildlife & walks
Iluka may be small, but what it lacks in population it more than compensates in wilderness areas. This is the ideal base for exploring the Iluka Nature Reserve, one of the largest remaining littoral rainforest regions in the state, and part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.
Spot noisy pittas and whipbirds through the lush canopy of strangler figs and vines that characterise the Iluka Rainforest walking track, leading you past deserted beaches that beckon for a cooling swim or snorkel to break up your trek.
One of the state’s most epic multi-day hikes begins in Yamba. The 65km Yuraygir coastal walk follows ancient emu trails within the Yuraygir National Park, over rocky escarpments, through bird-filled wetlands and beside postcard-perfect stretches of sand. The hamlet of Wooli sits at the southern end of the trail, its narrow peninsula surrounded by forest, beaches, and by the Wooli Wooli River (known for providing perfect growing conditions for Sydney rock oysters).
Just offshore, the Solitary Islands Marine Park covers 71,000 hectares, the protected reserve a haven for corals, fish, dolphins, grey nurse sharks and whales during migration (May through November). Snorkel or dive through this immense ecosystem with Wooli Dive Centre.