“Look boys,” I said, “See that headland way back in the distance? Not the first one, but the one you can hardly see … that is where we were this morning!”
It was dusk and we were just setting up our tents and enjoying the amazing view, having had a long day hiking about 19km with our camping gear, food and water in our packs. It was very satisfying for our three boys, Zach (13), Eli (11) and Cadel (9) to see how much distance we had covered on the third day of our hike.
It was September school holidays and Scott and I had found the perfect adventure for our family – the 65km Yuraygir Coastal Walk, a five day hike along the longest stretch of protected coastline in New South Wales. We started out at the small coastal village of Angourie and headed south to Red Rock, journeying through the traditional homelands of the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl Aboriginal people.
The hike was made up of long stretches of sandy beaches, heathland plains, tidal rock shelves and headlands with amazing views of whales breaching off the coast. Some stretches are remote and we felt like we were the only people in the world. There’s nothing better than when your sets of footprints are the only ones on the entire beach.
The wildlife and birdlife were abundant. We saw osprey and black cockatoos and we had kangaroos around our camp one morning. The kids loved spotting coral and colourful creatures in the rock pools as we hiked on rugged rock shelves. We kept an eye out for the endangered Coastal Emus but we weren’t lucky enough for that.
- Seeing two beached whales on the first day. They were decomposing and smelt terrible, it was very sad. For some reason, though, this is the first thing that the boys mention when people ask them about the hike. I guess it was memorable (and sad).
- The views. This is a stunning piece of coastline.
- Listening to the next chapter of an audiobook together each night. Surprisingly, this really added to the trip.
- The boys exploring and nearly getting stranded on Plover Island near Sandon River. Watch this video, filmed and edited by Eli about the experience.
- The start of our last day when we had to cross a crystal clear creek at high tide. We waded through chest deep water with our packs on our heads. It was exciting and that’s what the boys love!
- Spending the day at Red Rock when our hike was finished. We swam in the blue river, and spent the day resting in the park. The burgers from the takeaway shop were outstanding and the caravan park there looks awesome too. I’d love to return here for a nice relaxing beach holiday sometime. Beautiful!
- Eli had a tick bite on his shoulder on the first night. It swelled up quite a bit and carrying his pack was uncomfortable the next day. Poor boy.
- Walking down wind of the beached whales L
- Running short on water on the third night. We were ok, but we had to ration what we had.
- Eli carried a beach rod all the way and didn’t catch a fish. He lost 2 metal lures on the first day and then by the third day, the reel was broken. Of course, he still had to carry the rod.
- Camping at Sandon River it was super windy and Scott couldn’t set up his hoochie. So we had 2 people in the small 2 man tent and 3 people in the bigger 2 man tent. It was cosy, but when the wind escalated through the night, Scott was very thankful he was in the tent!
Transport- We left our car at Yamba and caught the bus to Angourie. When we finished, we caught the bus from Red Rock to Grafton and then to Yamba. You have to call the bus company to book the Red Rock to Grafton journey. Details Here.
Sandon River – (At the time of writing this) At Sandon River there is a boat that National Parks has chained up and you can use that to get across. Call the National Parks number to get the pin code to unlock the boat. You just lock it up on the other side when you are finished and the campsite manager retrieves it later. Not advised to attempt on an outgoing tide.
Wooli- Bruce from Wooli Boat Hire does the river crossing, for $10/pp. He was great, very reliable. We called ahead to let him know we were coming.
Creek south of Pebbly Beach – You could get your feet wet crossing here at low tide. We had to get across close to high tide, so we waded through chest deep water with our packs over our heads. This was a highlight of the trip for the boys. This is where we came across the flooded abandoned car, watch our Facebook video about it.
Just one of the many highlights of the Yuraygir Coastal walk!🤣 Came across this unlucky vehicle at a river crossing (we crossed on foot)
Posted by Sons of Adventure on Friday, 22 September 2017
Red Rock- It’s possible to cross here at low tide but it might be deep for kids. It was high tide for us, and the guy who normally does this river crossing wasn’t available, so we considered swimming but we would have got all our stuff wet. Luckily for us, some people turned up on a boat and we got a lift across. Red Rock was a stunning spot to spend the day while we waited for our bus.
The benefit of this walk is that you go through the coastal villages of Brooms Head, Minnie Water and Wooli, so you can restock with food rather than carry five days’ worth of dehydrated meals. At each village, we stopped for lunch (hamburgers and chips) which was a great motivator for the boys. The towns have very small convenience stores and we bought food to cook for our next dinner, some breakfast and snacks. The store at Wooli was a couple of kilometres out of town, which was a pain. I recommend you get a map of Wooli when you pass through Minnie Water, it’s really spread out along the river and you don’t want to walk extra distance that isn’t necessary.
Water was our biggest challenge as the 3 boys used a lot more water than they could carry. We filled up in the villages as we went through and at the campsites, we often resorted to filling up from the tanks at the toilets, see below. It wasn’t hot when we did the hike, but water would definitely be even more of a concern in the heat. I suggest taking a small water filter so that you can use whatever water you find on the way. Obviously if you camp at the caravan parks in the villages, this would minimise the water problem on most days.
If you want proper facilities where you camp, you can organise your walk so that you camp at caravan parks at Brooms Head, Minnie Water and Wooli. Or stay at a B&B in these villages for even more luxury. We wanted to camp in the National Park Campsites, so here are our thoughts on each of those:
Shelley Headland Campground – Really beautiful spot and the only access is walking in, so it’s quiet. There was no one camping there when we went through. No toilets, water or any facilities. No fees apply.
Red Cliff, Grey Cliff and Lake Arragan (Night 1)– These 3 campsites are close to each other and it’s a really nice spot. Lake Arragan was really busy with lots of caravans etc. We camped at Red Cliff and there was a drop toilet there, no other facilities. The tap for drinking water was a couple of kilometres from the campsite, out at the entrance to the park on the main road, which is a real pain. The caretaker who collected the camping fees was really great and he gave us a 20L container of water, which we really appreciated. Before he came around, we just got water from the tank at the toilets, but it’s not really drinking water, so you could treat that water before drinking.
Sandon River (Night 2)- This campsite reminded us of a busy caravan park, but without the facilities. The sites were all gravel and squeezed in tightly. There are only drop toilets. At least there was water in abundance, as there were a couple of big rainwater tanks. There are signs saying not to drink the water, but that’s just because it’s tank water.
Illaroo– We didn’t camp here but it looked like a nice spot. It’s a really big campground and it was fairly busy when we hiked through. The campground is only 1 km to the village of Minnie Water.
Boorkoom (Night 3)- We were so glad we pushed on to camp here. It was absolutely stunning with amazing views! There are drop toilets here, but literally no water, not even a tank for hand washing at the toilets. In the morning, we went back to Diggers Camp to fill up our bottles from the tank at the toilets. (Again, it’s tank water, not for drinking so you could treat it.)
Pebbly Beach (Night 4)- This was such a lovely spot, a really nice campground at a beautiful beach. There were tanks at the toilets, but they were nearly empty. There were quite a few campers here and a couple of people offered us water, which we accepted.
We all enjoyed the challenge of the multi-day hike and Scott and I were most pleased by how the boys watched out for each other and helped each other, growing closer together. Of course, the boys had some fights and arguments along the way and sometimes made bad decisions that they learnt from. But overall, it was a great time together as a family and we would recommend it to families who are experienced hikers and are looking for an extra, multi-day challenge.
If you like the sound of this trip but you are worried about doing it unsupported, there is a company that runs commercial tours on the walk. Check out Yuraygir Walking Experiences.