35 Unmissable Things To Do In Yamba: A Complete 2023 Guide
Home to stunning beaches, award-winning restaurants and boutique stores, Yamba is rapidly asserting itself as the “new Byron”. This attractive coastal town lies at the mouth of the Clarence River, partway between Brisbane and Port Macquarie, and is easily accessible by air or by road. In order for you to make the most of your time in this beautiful town, we have written our ultimate guide of exciting things to do in Yamba.
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What is Yamba Famous for?
The Yaegl and Bundjalung people are the traditional custodians of Yamba, with the name “Yamba” believed to be an Indigenous word for a type of edible shellfish. In 1799, Matthew Flinders stopped in Yamba Bay for six days, although it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the town was officially founded. By the 1880s, fishing and oyster industries were established in the area, followed by prawn trawling. Today, sugar cane farming is a major money-maker for Yamba, along with the town’s flourishing tourism industry.
While Yamba has transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a sought-after holiday destination, it has managed to do so without losing its authenticity. It boasts a wide choice of accommodation to suit all budgets and enough to keep singles, couples and families entertained. Aside from everything, there is to do in the town of Yamba itself, it’s also on the doorstep of Iluka’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest, the riverside town of Maclean and the legendary surf breaks of Angourie.
Best things to do in Yamba
#1. Shop at the Yamba Farmers and Producers Market
On Wednesday mornings, the carpark between Whiting and Turners beaches is the place to be when around 45 stallholders descend for the weekly Yamba Farmers and Producers Market. Here you’ll find everything from fresh fruit and veggies to baked goods and local relishes. It’s held between 7 am and 11 am.
#2. Explore Bundjalung National Park
Right on Yamba’s doorstep is Bundjalung National Park, a 210-square-kilometre protected area that encompasses coastal plains, heathland and deserted beaches. It is named after its traditional custodians, the Bundjalung people, and is a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking and fishing. You can canoe along Jerusalem Creek, walk the length of Ten Mile Beach or don a mask and snorkel to explore the shallow reefs.
#3. Hike through Yuraygir National Park
Around an hour’s drive south of Yamba is Yuraygir National Park, which protects New South Wales’ largest stretch of undeveloped coastline. In addition to isolated beaches and pristine lakes, you’ll find dramatic cliffs, dense forests and wildlife-filled wetlands. One of the best ways to discover everything this natural wonderland has to offer is on the four-day Yuraygir Coastal Walk, although there are also plenty of shorter trails to explore.
Free things to do in Yamba
#4. Watch the sunset from the break wall
At the mouth of the Clarence River (between Whiting Beach and Turners Beach) is Yamba’s break wall, which was constructed between 1950 and 1971 to prevent sand buildup, as well as to buffer against large waves that might otherwise have damaged the town’s fishing fleet. In the evenings, it is a popular spot to stroll and watch the sun go down to the west.
#5. Whale watch from the Yamba Lighthouse
One of Yamba’s most iconic landmarks is its whitewashed tower, which has been guiding ships along the coast since 1880. From its grassy base on Pilot Hill, there are magnificent views across the surrounding coastline, with occasional sightings of whales during the annual migration season (June to October). Below the lighthouse is Yamba Point where seals can sometimes be seen sunning themselves on the rocks.
#6. Follow the Historic Yamba Hill Walk
This three-kilometre-long walking trail takes in some of the most significant historic sights on Yamba Hill. Beginning at the Yamba Museum on River Street, you’ll traverse Norfolk Park and Turners Beach before taking in the Pacific Hotel and the site of the Star of the Sea Convent. The route continues through Flinders Park and the Yamba Cemetery where many of the town’s most prominent residents are laid to rest.
#7. Follow the Historic Yamba Flat Walk
Also beginning and ending at the Yamba Museum is this easier walk, which takes you past the Yamba Golf Club, the local fire station and the town’s sporting oval. Admire the Yamba Lighthouse and the School Master’s Residence, then visit the Yamba Bowling Club before strolling beneath the Norfolk Island Pines that line Wooli Street.
Swim, surf and sunbathe on the beaches of Yamba
#8. Yamba Beach (Main Beach)
Closest to the town centre is Yamba Beach, which is home to the Yamba Surf Lifesaving Club and the photogenic Yamba Ocean Pool where locals come to do their morning laps. While it’s generally safe for swimming (and is patrolled on weekends and during school holidays), the shore break can be heavy on big swells. If you just want to watch all the action, head to the clifftop Pacific Hotel for a drink or grab a bite to eat at the Yamba Surf Lifesaving Club’s cafe. There are toilets and outdoor showers where you can rinse off after your swim, as well as wheelchair access down to the sand.
#9. Convent Beach
Directly south of Yamba Beach is Convent Beach, which takes its name from a convent that overlooked the sand during the early 20th century. It tends to be a bit quieter than the beaches on either side due to the rocks and boulders that make swimming more difficult than it first appears. That being said, there’s plenty of vegetation backing the sand if you’re after shade and you don’t have to worry about dangerous surf.
#10. Pippi Beach
Named after the shellfish that can be found here at low tide, Pippi Beach is one of Yamba’s most popular stretches of sand in the busy summer months. However, it can get wild during southern swells when it’s best to look for a more sheltered spot. During the summer holidays, Pippi Beach is patrolled by lifeguards and there are picnic tables and toilet facilities available. The southern part of the beach is a leash-free area for dogs and accessible to 4WDs.
#11. Turners Beach
On the other side of the lighthouse from Yamba Beach is Turners, which is a popular spot for beginner surfers due to the protective break wall. On the break wall, you’ll often see local anglers trying their luck and people strolling at sunset. A path leads up from the beach to the lighthouse, which dates from 1955 and offers magnificent views across the mouth of the Clarence River. Toilets and picnic facilities are available at Turners Beach and lifeguards patrol here during the summer months.
#12. Whiting Beach
Whiting Beach stretches along the northeast coast of Hickey Island, which is actually attached to the mainland and just a short walk from the town centre. As the beach faces the Clarence River, the waters here are calm and family-friendly for those with young children. Even during the most ferocious ocean swells, Whiting Beach is usually a safe swimming bet. There are no lifeguards here but you will find picnic tables, toilets and outdoor showers.
Things to do in Yamba when it is raining
#13. Delve into the local history at the Yamba Museum
Operated by the Port of Yamba Historical Society, this award-winning museum houses exhibits about the region’s Indigenous history and the town’s settlement in the late 19th century by Francis Freeburn. Learn about the importance of fishing to Yamba’s economy and see models of ships that once sailed its treacherous waters, then discover how the town became a hotspot for holidaymakers. A highlight of the collection is a shark-bitten surfboard!
#14. Be entertained at the Bowlo Leisure Centre
Boasting a state-of-the-art bowling alley, an 18-hole miniature golf course and a traverse rock climbing wall, the Bowlo Leisure Centre offers plenty of fun on a rainy day. There’s a soft play area that young kids and toddlers with love, as well as an abundance of arcade games. If the rain lets up, we’d also recommend a game of barefoot bowls, which takes place on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons during the summer months.
#15. Sample gin at the Clarence Distillery
The Clarence Distillery crafts some of the best gin in New South Wales and you can enjoy a leisurely tasting at their distilling shed in Yamba. In addition to tasting paddles, they can mix up creative cocktails that will appeal to all tastes. Make a day of it by ordering a delicious platter from Bowen’s Delicatessen to accompany your drinks.
#16. Yamba Cinema
This long-running local cinema shows family favourites and Hollywood blockbusters on its single screen and there’s a candy bar where you can grab drinks and snacks. Film buffs should coincide their visit with the annual Yamba Cinema International Film Festival, which features long-table dinners and screenings of films from all corners of the globe.
Dog-friendly things to do in Yamba
#17. Let loose on the dog-friendly stretch of Pippi Beach
At the southern end of Pippi Beach (near Flat Rock), there’s a stretch of sand where dogs are free to run off their leash. In the mornings, it’s abuzz with activity as locals come to walk their four-legged friends and holidaying pups are more than welcome.
#18. Explore one of Yamba’s walking trails
There are plenty of walking trails in and around Yamba where dogs can join you, provided they remain on their leash. You can explore with your pooch along the three-kilometre-long Yamba Hill Walk (which includes a medium slope) or opt for the easier Yamba Flat Walk.
#19. Relax at a dog-friendly cafe
Many of Yamba’s cafes welcome patrons with pets, so you can grab a morning coffee or lunch without leaving your beloved dog behind. For a relaxed bite to eat, head to the locals’ favourite Latitude 29 or the charming Caperberry Cafe. Modern Australian cuisine is dished up at Karrikin and Irons + Craig, both of which have pet-friendly seating.
Waterfalls near Yamba
#20. Red Cedar Falls, Dorrigo National Park
Red Cedar Falls is the largest waterfall in Dorrigo National Park and is accessible along a four-kilometre-long hiking trail (one way). It takes you past towering red cedars and Bangalow palms before the sight of the falls plunging over the escarpment greets you. There are wood barbecues and a picnic area near the base of the falls where you can stop for lunch before the return hike.
#21. Crystal Shower Falls, Dorrigo National Park
Located along the Wonga Circuit, Crystal Shower Falls is fronted by a suspension bridge that offers impressive views of the pool below. From the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, a four-kilometre (return) trail winds through a lush tract of rainforest before taking you behind the waterfall itself. If you’re after a longer walk, you can continue to Tristania Falls before returning to your starting point.
#22. Dalwood Falls
Nestled just inland from Ballina is Dalwood Falls, which tumbles into a picturesque waterhole that’s ideal for swimming. In the past, it has been a popular spot for rock jumping but several people have come away with spinal injuries, so this is not advised. Dalwood Falls can get very busy but is an oasis on a hot, windy day when the beaches aren’t their best.
#23. Boundary Falls, Gibraltar Range National Park
Located within Gibraltar Range National Park, Boundary Falls is a picturesque cascade surrounded by dry eucalypt forest. It can be reached along a 200-metre-long walking trail from a picnic area and camping ground, which also offers access to Lyrebird Falls. At the base of Boundary Falls is a small pool where you can refresh with a dip.
Day trips from Yamba
#24. Angourie | 5.8km 6mins
Just a stone’s throw from Yamba is the sleepy coastal village of Angourie, which is famed for its stunning beach and legendary surf break. You can watch the pros tackling the right-hander of Angourie Point while trying to avoid the rock shelf that’s known as “Life or Death”. If you want to swim, head around the corner to Spooky Beach or Back Beach. Back Beach marks the start of the 65-kilometre Yuraygir Coastal Walk that extends all the way to Red Rock. Angourie’s Green and Blue Pools are also not to miss, with these freshwater swimming holes originally created for mining purposes.
#25. MacLean | 19km 20mins
Around 20 minutes’ drive west of Yamba is the riverside town of Maclean, which has a rich Scottish history dating back to the 1840s. This is when Caledonians attracted by the gold rush began flocking to Maclean and the town has been hosting a Highland Gathering ever since. Maclean is clustered with charming architecture and tartan-covered power poles, as well as great places to eat and drink. Coincide your visit with the monthly community markets or experience the Plunge, a month-long festival celebrating the Clarence Valley’s cultural scene.
#26. Iluka | 42km 35mins
Just across the mouth of the Clarence River from Yamba is Iluka, a tiny fishing hamlet that is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and one of the last remaining littoral rainforests in the Southern Hemisphere. Now UNESCO World Heritage-listed, the Iluka Nature Reserve offers wonderful walking opportunities and sightings of native wildlife. If you prefer to explore from the water, you can hire a kayak or standup paddleboard to journey along the Clarence River or grab the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins.
Where to eat in Yamba
#27. Breakfast: The Kiosk Yamba
Housed within Yamba’s Surf Lifesaving Club, this great cafe serves up acai bowls and cold-pressed juices with direct views of Main Beach.
#28. Breakfast: Beachwood Cafe
Delicious coffee and Turkish-inspired dishes are the mainstays at this homely cafe, which is a go-to for locals.
#29. Lunch: Sweet N Spicy Cafe
With its pan-Asian dishes, this unassuming cafe is a great lunch spot, with friendly service and affordable prices.
#30. Lunch: BRGR Spot
Once you’ve built up an appetite at the beach, the hearty burgers at this spot just back from Main Beach will hit the spot or you can opt for something lighter with one of their salads.
#31. Dinner: Karrikin Yamba
Karrikin is one of Yamba’s most famous eateries, with locally sourced, seasonal and native ingredients on show as part of their four-course set menus.
#32. Dinner: Drift
Delicious pizzas are what you can expect at Drift, which uses free-range, organic and artisanal ingredients for a high-end take on a tried-and-tested favourite.
Where to stay in Yamba
#32. The Surf Yamba
Perched on a headland overlooking Yamba Beach, this five-star boutique hotel is all about creating a relaxed, coastal vibe. All of its beautifully designed rooms come with balconies that offer panoramic views and there’s a heated plunge pool on the rooftop terrace.
#33. [email protected]
If you’re after a dog-friendly property for the whole family, then you can’t go past this classic mint-green shack. It’s equipped with everything you need, including hammocks and day beds for lounging in the gardens, while being just a stone’s throw from all the action.
#35. Pacific Hotel Yamba
This iconic hotel not only boasts some of the best views in Yamba but also budget-friendly backpacker accommodation. Aside from dorms with access to shared bathrooms, there are also comfortable private rooms with ensuites. There’s an onsite restaurant and live music on weekends.
Yamba Visitors Guide
Getting to Yamba
Clarence Valley Regional Airport near Grafton is just under an hour’s drive from Yamba and has regular flights with REX Airlines from Sydney. By road, the New South Wales capital is around seven hours’ drive from Yamba. Brisbane is just over three hours away while the Gold Coast Airport is a two-hour drive and has flights from destinations across Australia and Asia.
When is the best time to visit Yamba?
September through to April is considered the best time to visit Yamba when the weather is ideal for enjoying everything this beachside destination has to offer. During April/May and September/October, you can expect temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius before things heat up to the mid-30s by late December/early January. If you plan on travelling over the Christmas/New Year period, keep in mind that the summer school holidays are in full swing and accommodation books out well in advance.
Where can I snorkel in Yamba?
It might not be the Great Barrier Reef, but Yamba still boasts plenty of marine life to discover. Spooky Beach in neighbouring Angourie is a great snorkelling spot, as are Woody Head and Diggers Camp on the high tides.
Is Yamba the next Byron Bay?
According to many people, Yamba is the next Byron Bay. Located around 130 kilometres to the south, it shares many traits with its Northern Rivers neighbour, albeit without the crowds and sky-high real estate prices. While Yamba has transformed from a sleeping fishing town to a popular beachside destination in recent years, it has still managed to maintain its strong sense of community.