Last updated: January 30, 2023
A complete guide to the best things to do in Nambucca Heads, from scenic walking trails and beaches to panoramic lookouts and fun water sports.
Nambucca Heads is a tourist-friendly town on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, located north of the Nambucca River estuary, and forms part of the Nambucca Valley.
The Nambucca Heads area is known for its many beaches and unique estuary setting, with a beautiful hinterland characterised by a landscape of mountains, valleys, and rivers. It’s no surprise that Nambucca Heads has long been a popular holiday destination, with so many things to see and do.
Read on, as we reveal the top 15 attractions and activities in and around Nambucca Heads.
Top 15 Attractions and Activities
In no particular order, here is our top 15 things to do in Nambucca Heads and the surrounding area.
1. Lions Riverfront Walkway
First opened in 1988, the Lions Riverfront Walkway is a raised walking path above the water of the Nambucca River between Anzac Park in the west and Gordon Park in the east.
Popular with the locals, the walkway is a well-built structure that offers lovely views over the river. It also includes a couple of platforms for fishers.
To get there, it’s best to park your car at the Anzac Park jetty, the local RSL Club, or the public parking area at Gordon Park.
2. Nambucca River
While the Lions Riverfront Walkway offers great views of the Nambucca River, it’s much more fun to be on the water with a kayak, a stand-up paddle board, or any other water vessel.
You can hire a kayak or board locally or bring your own gear. It’s even possible to enter the water with a jet ski or motorboat from one of the jetties or ramps along the river.
The Nambucca River estuary is quite extensive, with many interconnected waterways, so there is a lot to explore while on the water.
3. The V-Wall
The V-Wall is essentially an outdoor art gallery consisting of painted rocks along a coastal walking path on top of the breakwater, where the Nambucca River flows into the ocean.
The painted messages on the rocks are created by locals and visitors, and are a mix of memorials for loved ones, funny quotes, and one-liners.
Nearby Port Macquarie has a similar walking path called the Breakwall, which is a popular local attraction and gathering area.
4. Wellington Rocks
Wellington Rocks can be found at Wellington Beach at the eastern end of the V-Wall walking path. A lookout offers excellent views of the rock formation.
The beach is a tiny, isolated strip of sand at the southern end of Nambucca North Head, perfect for a quick swim in the ocean or to get your feet wet in the rock pools.
From the beach, you can go and have a closer look at the rocks and even climb on top for a unique perspective of the ocean.
5. Rotary Lookout
The Rotary Lookout is a panoramic lookout point overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Nambucca River, and the two headlands.
The lookout can be accessed via Parkes Street, just north of the big holiday park. It’s signposted and also has a well-sized parking area.
6. Captain Cook Lookout
A few hundred metres up the hill, at the very end of Parkes Street, is the Captain Cook Lookout, perhaps even more impressive than the Rotary Lookout.
From this lookout, visitors can get the best views of the greater Nambucca Heads area from different angles.
The lookout is located right behind and above Shelly Beach, so it’s the perfect quick stop before going for a swim.
7. Shelly Beach
Shelly Beach is a family-friendly, northeast-facing strip of sand that is perfect for a quick swim and a bit of sunbathing.
The beach comes with toilet and shower facilities, a car park, a public boat ramp, and a grassy area with tables.
Shelly Beach isn’t very suitable for surfing. Better surf breaks can usually be found further north at Beilby’s Beach and Main Beach.
8. Lions Lookout
The third lookout in Nambucca Heads that is worth visiting is the Lions Lookout, which offers fantastic views of the ocean and Main Beach.
The Lions Lookout is located along a small side road off Newry Street and comes with a large parking area and a small picnic area.
9. Main Beach
Main Beach is the biggest strip of sand in Nambucca Heads. It’s less sheltered than Shelly Beach, and it’s important to stay between the flags when swimming.
The beach is patrolled by the Nambucca Heads Surf Lifesaving Club, located at the southern end of the beach.
Ample parking is available at the end of Ocean Beach, but on warm and sunny days, this parking area fills up very quickly.
10. Nambucca Heads Island Golf Club
If you’re an avid golfer, the Nambucca Heads Island Golf Club alone is more than enough reason to spend a short holiday in Nambucca Heads.
The club is located on Stuart Island, surrounded by the pristine water of the magnificent Nambucca River, the perfect setting for a quiet game of golf.
The Nambucca Heads Island Golf Club is a par 69, 18-hole Championship golf course designed by Ross Watson, suitable for experienced as well as developing players.
11. Valla Beach
Valla Beach is the name of a small coastal town just north of Nambucca Heads, popular with holiday-makers looking for a quiet, somewhat remote holiday experience.
There are two beaches to be found along the coast; the small strip of sand just south of the headland, and the much bigger North Valla Beach, with various rocks and caves to explore.
Also worth exploring is Deep Creek at the southern end of town, with a fun boardwalk crossing the creek and connecting to South Valla Beach.
12. Dangar Falls
This cascade waterfall on the Bielsdown River is located in the town of Dorrigo, about an hour’s drive northwest of Nambucca Heads.
A lookout platform at the car park offers fantastic views of the waterfall, while a well-maintained walking trail leads to the base, where visitors can swim in the pool.
13. Day Trip to Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour is a city on the North Coast of New South Wales, approximately 230 km south of Byron Bay and just under 50 km north of Nambucca Heads.
The city forms part of Coffs Coast, a beautiful coastal area that is home to beaches, rainforests, mountains, valleys, and small hinterland villages.
Top attractions in the greater Coffs Harbour area include the Big Banana Fun Park, the Forest Sky Pier, the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, and the Waterfall Way.
14. Day Trip to South West Rocks
Only a short drive down the Pacific Highway from Nambucca Heads is the small coastal town of South West Rocks, a popular, family-friendly seaside holiday escape.
The area, including the nearby national parks and beaches, is home to various holiday parks and beaches, with Trial Bay Front Beach as the most popular beach.
Top attractions in South West Rocks and the surrounding area include the Captain Cook Lookout, the Trial Bay Gaol, and the Smoky Cape Lighthouse.
Read our guide with the top attractions and activities in South West rocks for a complete outline of the best things to do in that area.
15. Day Trip to Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie is just over an hour’s drive south of Nambucca Heads, located at the mouth of the Hastings River, and makes for a great day trip.
The town is well-known for its beautiful beaches and scenic hinterland, and with a perfectly moderate climate, the Port Macquarie area is a popular spot for a short holiday.
Top attractions in the Port Macquarie area include the Koala Hospital, the Coastal Walk, the Sea Acres Rainforest Boardwalk, and the Tacking Point Lighthouse.
Read our guide with the best things to do in Port Macquarie for a complete outline of the most popular attractions and activities.
About Nambucca Heads
Nambucca Heads is a coastal town in the Nambucca Valley region on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. It is situated just north of the extensive Nambucca River estuary, approximately 500 km north of Sydney and 430 km south of Brisbane.
The Nambucca Valley is known for its many beaches, unique river estuary setting, and beautiful hinterland characterised by a landscape of valleys and rivers. With a perfect subtropical climate, the area is for many the ideal spot to live or to spend their holiday.
The traditional owners of the land on which Nambucca Heads is located are the Gumbaynggirr people (also referred to as Kumbainggar, Gumbangeri). The name “Nambucca” comes from an Aboriginal word and is often translated as “entrance to the waters” or similar.
Nambucca Heads has a population of approximately 7,000 people, it has the postcode 2448, and is part of the Nambucca Valley Council.
How to Get to Nambucca Heads
Driving to Nambucca Heads from Sydney, Gold Coast and Brisbane is very easy, with the town centre being very close to the Pacific Highway.
From Sydney, you can drive to Nambucca Heads in around 5 hours (excluding breaks), and that drive is almost entirely via the Pacific Highway.
You will find that holiday parks and camping sites are quite popular in the Nambucca Heads area, but there are also other types of accommodation options available, such as basic motels and five-star holiday resorts.
Since this is a popular tourist holiday destination, it’s important to be very timely with your accommodation bookings as the town fills up quickly during long weekends and the summer season.
Here are some great accommodation options in Nambucca Heads:
- Riverview Boutique Motel (3-star guest house)
- Riverside Rest Nambucca Heads (bed & breakfast)
- Marcel Towers Holiday Apartments (self-contained apartments)
- Ingenia Holidays White Albatross (holiday and caravan park)
Where to Eat
There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and pubs to choose from in Nambucca Heads and the surrounding area to have breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Surprisingly, the cost of food is similar to what you might expect in big cities like Sydney and Brisbane.
Here are some great dining options in Nambucca Heads:
- V Wall Pavilion (casual pub on the water)
- Wharf Street Cafe (friendly cafe on the river)
- Nambucca Boatshed & Cafe (aussie breakfast and lunch)
Hopefully this guide to the best things to do in Nambucca Heads was helpful for you. Here are a few more destination guides you might like:
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