An enchanting seaside destination, Nambucca Heads is at the mouth of the meandering Nambucca River on the mid North Coast of NSW. Natural beauty abounds, from the uncrowded beaches to the sparkling estuary where dolphins play and the littoral rainforest in the splendid coastal national park.
The name Nambucca is derived from the Aboriginal word meaning ‘entrance to waters’, and you can discover the tranquil waterway with Nambucca River Cruises. You might encounter bottlenose dolphins frolicking and hunting in the estuary as white-bellied sea eagles and ospreys soar above.
For sweeping views of the beaches, tidal mouth and beyond, visit the Captain Cook Lookout above pretty Shelly Beach. The observational deck is a superb vantage point for whale watching, with pods of majestic humpback whales migrating along the coast every year between May and November.
In a beachside reserve at Shelly Beach are picnic tables, barbecue facilities and other amenities. Beach fishing is popular, and there is a boat ramp at the southern end. Other popular beaches north of Shelly include Beilbys Beach and Main Beach, home of the Nambucca Heads Surf Life Saving Club.
South of the river mouth is Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park, jointly managed with the Gumbaynggir Aboriginal people, the traditional owners. South Beach is a favourite for experienced surfers and beach fishers. There are rainforest walking trails, and Warrell Creek is ideal for kayaking.
Plenty of waterfront accommodation is available to suit various budgets, from caravanning and camping in holiday parks to luxury retreats. You’ll discover a delicious range of restaurants and cafes, including by the riverside V-Wall Outdoor Gallery, which is part of the vibrant creative arts scene.
The River is one of Australia’s longest sculptures, stretching along Bowra Street where you’ll find Galleria, a cafe with a day spa on the first floor. The mosaic sculpture tells the tale of the Nambucca River from the mountains to the sea. Pop into the nearby Stringer Art Gallery for local creations.
Golfers will be thrilled, too. The Island Golf Club is an 18-hole course on Stuart Island in the middle of the estuary, which is halfway between Sydney and Brisbane and only 40 minutes’ drive south of Coffs Harbour Airport. Trains from Sydney and Brisbane stop regularly at Nambucca Heads Station.