Located on a ridge, north of the estuary of the Nambucca River, Nambucca Heads is a relaxed coastal town perfect for those seeking some breezy R&R. It is one of a series of underrated beach towns in New South Wales. Comparable to the likes of Forester, Port Stephens and Yamba, it helps make a long drive from Sydney to Brisbane or the lesser journey from Sydney to Byron Bay more attractive.
With 23kms of coastline, finding things to do in Nambucca Heads won’t be difficult. Think late afternoon swims, spending the week eating nothing but fresh seafood and watching the sunset on a nearby jetty every single day.
What Makes Nambucca Heads Special?
Found just a few minutes off the motorway, Nambucca Heads (also known natively as Ngambagabaga) isn’t so much a hidden gem but more like a forgotten gem. Overlooked by many in a hurry to get to the more popular towns such as Coffs harbour or the famous beauty that is Byron Bay; despite being one of the most picturesque spots on the east coast of Australia.
You won’t find high-rise buildings or ritzy resorts that will cost you a small fortune. The shopping scene is laid back and practical; there is a notable absence of tourist tat for sale. In fact, Nambucca Heads feels more like a real town than a tourist town.
What’s more, it’s the perfect location to make your base for day tripping to the likes of Nambucca valley and Coffs Coast.
How To Get To Nambucca Heads
Nambucca Heads is a comfortable drive from both Sydney and Brisbane, ideally located between the two cities. From Brisbane, it is roughly a 4 and a half hour drive (431km) and just over a 5-hour drive from Sydney (494km).
For those who wish to travel by train, it takes roughly 8 and a half hours and departs from Central Station in Sydney. You may need an opal card for this journey.
Alternatively, Greyhound Australia operates a bus from Sydney to Nambucca Heads with tickets costing around $75-$140AUD.
Visitors from further afield can take a flight to Coffs Harbour Airport, which is a short 40-minute drive away from Nambucca Heads. Direct flights operate from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
When is the best time To visit Nambucca Heads?
Nambucca Heads has warm, humid and wet summers whilst the winters are short and much cooler.
The best time to visit Nambucca Heads is from early November to April with the peak of the best weather happening around December. If you are going to Nambucca heads for surfing or other water-based activities, December to February is when the water is at its warmest.
Things to do in Nambucca Heads
Walk along the famous Nambucca Heads V-wall
At the entrance of the Nambucca River lies a 500-metre break wall which has become a colourful creative space for locals and visitors. The V-Wall is a visual history of thousand of visitors who have stopped to engrain a piece of their story into the wall. Filled with inspirational quotes, holiday messages and the occasional declaration of love, the break wall is an evolving monument to the people of Nambucca Heads. Being one of the most creative things to do in Nambucca Heads, everyone that visits is encouraged to take a paintbrush and add to the iconic landmark.
Not only is the V-wall visually exciting, but The V-Wall walk is also a worthwhile stroll that takes you along the river mouth, where Warrell Creek and Nambucca River meet the ocean. The views of Scotts Heads and South West Rocks are truly breathtaking.
To get there take a delightful stroll along the 3km of the boardwalk. Alternatively, The V-Wall is easily accessible by car, with ample parking right next to the wall.
After your walk, why not visit the V-Wall tavern for a classic pub meal with spectacular ocean views, overlooking the V-Wall gallery.
Go for a swim at Main Beach
Whether you’re swimming, surfing or fishing, Nambucca’s Main Beach is undeniably beautiful. Occasionally you will catch a glimpse of dolphins close to the shore!
Main Beach is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer holidays and on weekends, making it a great option for families. There is also parking right next to the beach, which makes life easier.
Kayak the Nambucca River
Described as a natural playground, the Nambucca River and its estuary provide a perfect environment for an abundance of things to do in Nambucca Heads. There are water sports to enjoy such as paddle boarding, snorkelling, waterskiing and kayaking.
Due to the mild sub-tropical climate, you can Kayak and swim in the river all year round.
Get Cultural with Unkya Cultural Eco Tours
Approximately a half-hour drive south from Nambucca you’ll find Unkya LALC Cultural Eco Tours. The tours offer an authentic Aboriginal experience.
Operating out of Scotts Head and Gaagal Wanggan (South Beach) the Ocean Dreaming Tour will take you on a 90-minute stroll along Little Beach and Scotts Head Headland. Not only will you learn all about the Gumbaynggirr people’s spiritual connection, but you’ll also be lucky enough to learn snippets of the Gumbaynggirr language, which is currently being used more and more by various groups within the region.
Listen to the guides enchant you with the story of the ocean and even try your hand at catching ocean snacks by the traditional fish trap method.
Captain Cooks Lookout
Nambucca Heads has 4 great look-outs. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful coastal views in NSW can be observed from Captain Cooks Lookout.
If you are visiting between May and July you might be lucky enough to see humpback whales swimming past the headland. Not only is Captain Cooks lookout great for whale-watchers, but it is also an ideal spot for bird watchers, too.
And if you don’t fancy watching anything, just sit back and enjoy the clifftop picnic area.
Surf at Shelly Beach
Shelly beach is one of the more sheltered beaches in Nambucca Heads, perfect for those who prefer to swim in calm water. The gentle break makes it ideal for those eager to learn to surf.
The idyllic, warm blue waters and the shady trees make Shelly beach seem more private and secluded which is inviting for those who like to relax with a degree of privacy.
If you fancy taking to the water for a spot of surfing or paddleboarding but don’t have a board, you can hire a board for the day at Coastal Curves, a surf shop in Nambucca.
Tee-Off At Nambucca Heads Island Golf Club
Occupying a unique location on Stuart Island, Nambucca Heads Island Golf Club is hands down one of the most scenic public golf courses in Australia. It is entirely surrounded by the Nambucca River!
Where else can you play an 18-hole round of gold whilst watching dolphins swim in the glistening water and listening to an abundance of birdlife fly overhead? Visitors are welcome to play in any of the competitions as well as social play which is available every day.
Afterwards, treat yourself to lunch on the deck at the club’s bistro. The club caters for a variety of functions, including weddings.
Nyambagga Walking Trail
A short, easy-pace walk from Shelly Beach to the Nambucca River opening.
Although a short walk, a lot can be learned in this time. The signage along the way is interesting; learn about the vegetation changes, local wildlife and the significance of each different segment for the indigenous inhabitants.
Nambucca River Boat Cruise
A great way to explore the beauty of the Nambucca river and some of its native wildlife is by hopping on an Osprey River cruise. Sit back and soak in the beauty of Nambucca River, whilst the captain provides informative and interesting commentary.
The 2-hour morning Devonshire tea cruise is highly recommended and occurs every Wednesday. What better way to explore the beautiful Nambucca River than whilst enjoying some tea, scones and Anzac biscuits? If you’re a seafood fan, they offer a 3-hour dinner cruise with the freshest of cuisine on offer.
Stringer Art Gallery
A community-run art gallery showcasing the incredible talent of local artists. Open from Wednesday to Saturday.
There are themed exhibitions which change regularly. Most work in the gallery is for sale, alongside prints and cards.
The building is easily accessible and has ample parking in the vicinity.
Nambucca Heads Mosaic
Perhaps one of Australia’s longest art sculptures, the Nambucca Heads Mosaic stretches around 164ft long in front of the town’s police station.
The Mosaic which was created by Guy Crossley depicts the landscape of the Nambucca River winding from the mountains of the great diving range, through towns and farmland until it meets the sea. Creatures such as dolphins, fish, octopuses and even mythical creatures emerge from the concrete mosaic waves, creating a truly impactful piece of art.
The mosaic pieces are made from tiles, pottery, china and other nicknacks, adding to the spectacular allure of this art piece.
Visit the Pub with No Beer
For a slice of history and a craft brew, be sure to add The Pub with No Beer to your list of things to do in Nambucca Heads. You will be welcomed with old-fashioned hospitality with both indoor and outdoor dining. The pub is steeped in the history of a bygone era and Slim Dusty memorabilia.
Oh, there is nothing to worry about, The Pub with no Beer does in fact sell beer!
Nambucca Heads Fishing
Fishing is a popular pastime at Nambucca Heads. The area itself is quite unique in that there is a crossover from tropical species to southern cold water species.
The Nambucca River boast a variety of fish species to chase, whilst beach fishing can also be great fun. South Beach, which is opposite the Nambucca River, is a great spot to fish salmon, tailor and jewfish.
Crabbing is possible in the Warrell Creek area, depending upon the season.
Rotary Point Lookout
Rotary Point Lookout overlooks the V-Wall and is where you will find the best views over the Nambucca River, the coast and the mountains. It is a great vantage point to see whales migrating up the coast.
Swimming Creek Beach
If you are looking for dog-friendly things to do in Nambucca, Swimming Creek Beach makes an ideal daily haunt. Let your four-legged companion jump amongst the waves. Dogs are allowed off-leash at Swimming Creek Beach at any time of the day!
The endless soft sand beneath your feet and absolutely breathtaking views is just what you need if you have been craving some quiet R&R; the beach is so endless you’ll easily feel like you have the whole beach to yourself. It is an absolute paradise, made even better knowing your furry friend is welcome.
Valla Beach and Community Markets
10km north of Nambucca Heads lies one of the best beaches in New South Wales, Valla Beach. After a walk along Valla Beach head over to the Valla Beach Community Markets and have a stroll through the many stalls on offer. It has become a great social event for locals and visitors alike.
The Valla Beach Community Markets are held bi-monthly on the first Saturday of every even month. The Stalls offer everything from fresh produce and homemade treats to clothes, crafts and plants. Entertainment is provided by local musicians who play music throughout the day.
Rock Pools at Wellington Rocks
Located at the end of the V-Wall, Wellington Rocks is one of the best things to do in Nambucca Heads if you are a keen photographer. The picturesque views over the ocean and native wildlife in the rock pools create endless photo opportunities.
Things to do in Nambucca Heads: Places to visit nearby
Half-way between Sydney and Brisbane, and just half an hour’s drive from Coffs Harbour lies the quaint, free-spirited town of Bellingen.
Bellingen is located along the picturesque Waterfall Way, which covers five national parks; meaning there are plenty of waterfalls, bushwalking trails and an abundance of wildlife. If you love exploring the outdoors, you definitely won’t be short of things to do in Bellingen.
It would be easy to spend whole afternoons hopping from one great restaurant to another, but if you can tear yourself away from the rich food scene, you’ll discover sensational wild swimming spots, ancient rainforest and even a nearby winery!
South West Rocks
An hour’s drive south of Nambucca is South West Rocks, a perfect stop if you are travelling from Nambucca to Sydney.
Be sure to visit South West Rocks’ most popular beach, Horseshoe Bay and take a step back in time by visiting Trial Bay Gaol, a former prison and now museum and memorial to those who lived and died there.
Port Macquarie is one of New South Wales’s most popular holiday destinations. It boasts 17 glistening beaches and a diverse variety of things to do such as visiting the Koala Hospital, which is highly recommended.
Where to eat in Nambucca Heads
Coffee at Good Time Charlie’s
22 Bowra Street, Shop 1 Nambucca Heads, 2448, New South Wales
Before you start your day be sure to head to Good Time Charlie’s to get your morning caffeine fix. Located in the middle of the town, it is the perfect place to cool down with one of their iced coffees or delicious smoothie options. Don’t forget to leave without trying some of their breakfast and lunch options, the Good Time Roll is insanely good!
Lunch at Wharf Street Cafe
1 Wellington Dr, Nambucca Heads NSW 2448, Australia
You can’t come to Nambucca without sampling some seafood and the Wharf Street Cafe has that covered. Their panko-covered fresh fish and crispy golden chips are divine.
Not only is the food delicious, but the location is also pretty special too. Perched on the jetty of the Nambucca River you might want to phone ahead to see if you can bag yourself a table next to the window!
Nambucca Heads Accommodation
A great family-friendly and pet-friendly option located in the centre of Nambucca heads. Set on 5 acres of Tropical garden, there are plenty of on-site amenities such as an outdoor swimming pool and sauna. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. There is also an onsite restaurant called Hemmingways. Check it out here.
These secluded cottages with breathtaking ocean views are only a 5-minute drive to Valla Beach and a 10-minute drive to Nambucca Heads’ town centre. Massage serves are available to request. This retreat makes a spectacular stay if you are planning a romantic getaway in New South Wales.