Does 65km of coastal hiking on the Yuraygir Coastal Walk sound like an odyssey or what? Well it wouldn’t be the Odyssey without a mighty ship to sail on, but I guess if you’re hiking, a 4kg inflatable packraft will do.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl Nation, the traditional Country of the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl people who have occupied and cared for this land and water for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Cool caves
- Starting and ending each day with a dip in the ocean
- Seasonal whale watching
- River crossings
The Entire Yuraygir Coastal Walk in One Hit
Sometimes a great adventure just comes together like a perfect storm. Having grown up in the nearby village of Woolgoolga, the Yuraygir Coastal walk has been something I’ve always been very aware of.
With the logistics of the various river crossings and time off work required to complete it however, it’s just not something I’d ever got around to doing… until now.
My wife and I were on our way home from a Queensland Christmas with a brand new, two-person packraft Santa had left in our stocking. We had Christmas kilos to burn, some time up our sleeves before New Year, and a brand new toy to test out.
What better way to christen our new raft than by exploring Australia’s longest stretch of protected coastline?
The Yuraygir Coastal Walk is a 65km stretch of linked beaches, day walks, rocky platforms, sandy trails, and lagoons that traverse through Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl country.
It winds down the coast from Yamba to Red Rock on the NSW mid-North Coast, encompassing a large part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park.
There were the odd parts of the trail I was aware of from camping and surfing trips, but nothing could prepare me though for the experience of exploring the pristine coastline in its entirety.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Day 1 – Angourie to Lake Arragan
As we only had one car, a car shuffle was out of the question. We opted instead to leave our car at Red Rock and organise a bus from Red Rock to Angourie, which was easy enough to do.
We left the Red Rock Bowlo at 7:30am and with a little bus changeover in Grafton and a quick coffee at Café Angourie, we were on the sand heading south along Angourie Back Beach by 11:30am.
The start of the Yuraygir Coastal Walk follows the ‘Angourie Walk‘ section of the trail, which meanders through grassy heathland and along Dirrangan Headland.
It’s very well signposted along the way and taking our time we were able to learn a lot about the plants, wildlife and history of the Yaegl people in the area. It was incredible to read about the way they trapped fish in the rock pools at high tide, and to look down and see one of the actual rock pools where this practice took place.
We had a little morning tea at Shelley Beach; here I was able to find a dozen or so oysters for us to enjoy which was quite the treat. After this we explored the caves at Shelleys a little. The tide was coming in so we couldn’t spend as much time checking out these amazing caves as we might have liked.
We set up camp at Lake Arragan in the late afternoon and one thing we quickly learned about hiking this trail during the school holidays was that the camps and towns along the way were very packed.
We were still able to get a little slice of the lake to ourselves though, and after a well-earned swim in the ocean, we spent the evening laughing at the funny little Pied oystercatchers running about and watching the Eastern grey kangaroos bounce on by.
Day 2 – Lake Arragan to Sandon
Day 2 started with a 6am dip in the ocean (something you grow pretty used to on the trail). After this we needed to head through the camping area to get some water. It’s always amazed me how people pour out of cities during the holidays only to jam themselves into campsites like sardines.
My wife marvelled at the cleanliness of the camp long drop before we left; I had a look around and said it was probably because everyone brought their own toilets with them.
After restocking our water at the gate entry we were back on the beach and passing through Brooms Head. We took the opportunity to grab some pies, Coke, and Weis bars from the general store… all luxuries we don’t normally get hiking in the Blue Mountains.
About halfway along Sandon Beach, we cut over to Sandon Road, a dirt track that lead us to the top of the Sandon River, our first river crossing and the first test of the raft. We had some lunch, pumped up the boat, and got ready. After a little feed, we nervously walked the boat out with ALL of our belongings on board, said a little prayer and jumped aboard…
SUCCESS! We were on our way down the Sandon with the only problem now facing us being the ability to coordinate our paddle strokes together. Our marriage has faced many challenges and this was proving to be one of them!
We somehow managed our way 2km or so down the river to land on the southern side of the Sandon channel. This marks the start of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, which stretches from here down to Muttonbird Island in Coffs Harbour.
The Sandon Hamlet is an incredibly beautiful area so we decided to take it easy and spent the rest of the day swimming and lazing about as the sun went into its long afternoon descent.
Day 3 – Sandon to Somewhere Near Pebbly Beach
We rose early to make up for time lost the previous day and hit the trail at 7am. We managed to make our way down the 10km of beach to the town of Minnie Water by about 8:30am.
While we were grabbing some brekkie burgers at the local general store we found ourselves to be minor celebrities. A lot of the 4WDs that’d passed us on the long stretch of beach were also getting breakfast and were interested in finding out just what the hell we were doing.
After refuelling in town and filling up water at the surf club (saves a 2km hike out to the park gate) we were headed back out of civilisation again and on our way down the back beach at Minnie Waters.
Towards the end of the beach there was only one other person around, an old man doing some yoga. After stopping and exchanging pleasantries we continued on our way only to turn around and see the old fella had nuded up and was marching towards the ocean.
‘There’s certainly enough coastline for everyone to have a little bit it to themselves,’ I thought.
We arrived in the northern part of the Wooli township and (with something that was becoming all too common on this trip) we were soon chatting to some locals about what we were up to. We politely turned down offers from a nice lady named Tara for water and a place to sleep, however, we weren’t allowed to turn down her offer to drive us to the local pub, so off we went.
After a big pub feed we were pleased to find that the Wooli Wooli River flowed just behind the pub and it was here we were able to find a great point of entry for our next river leg. We were about 6km upstream from the eventual river crossing we were headed for, and with all the coordination kinks being ironed out the previous day, there was no stopping us.
We headed downstream with the tide on our side and a gentle breeze at our backs. We passed the bowling club on our left and boats full of divers returning from a day out at the Solitary Islands passing on our right. Landing on the southern side of the channel at the Wooli Wooli River mouth required lots of caution, the tide was flowing out with pace!
It was now afternoon and we foolishly decided that we would try to press on to Pebbly Beach, rather than setting up camp in Wooli.
Turns out we didn’t study the track notes hard enough on this section and as the sun was now setting, we found ourselves trying to scramble a 5km stretch of rocky platforms in the dark.
Read more: Staying Safe on Coastal Rock Platforms
In a situation that was growing slightly precarious, we had a hunt around and were very lucky to find a tiny little spot up the cliff that had just enough room to pitch our tent. We breathed a sigh of relief, set up our tent in the dark and went to sleep snuggled up like two little seagulls perched up safe above from the crashing waves below.
Day 4 – Pebbly Beach to Red Rock
There’s always something amazing about getting to a campsite late, setting up in the dark, and awaking the next day to find out what’s around you. Waking up to find our bearings we weren’t disappointed.
The sun lit the sky in amazing brush strokes and we were completely submerged amongst rocks, the morning waves, and isolation. We felt a million miles from anywhere, so naturally I took a page out of the ageing hippy guidebook and stripped off all my clothes to welcome the sun.
After saying G’day to the morning we were off on our fourth and final day. After getting through the rest of the rock scramble we made our way past a series of cute little beach coves lined with great pandanus palms. We took our time exploring this pristine section of the trail until we made our way past Freshwater Beach and arrived at Pebbly Beach.
We had a little lunch amongst the millions of holiday campers and made our way across to Station Creek Beach, the final beach of the trail. Along here it becomes pretty obvious you’re on the home stretch as what appears to be a literal giant red rock grows bigger and bigger, a welcome sight.
We were presented with what would be our final creek crossing at Red Rock. Too tired to get the raft out for such a small crossing I decided to try and walk through it. With my pack over my head the water grew deeper and deeper and I was eventually saved by a young boy named Banjo who appeared on a paddleboard and offered to take my gear safely across.
Young Banjo was holidaying in Red Rock with his family from Darwin and was more than chuffed with the $10 he earned taxiing our gear across to safety.
So that was that. We’d walked the whole Yuraygir Coastal Walk in one go. Some curious beachgoers gave us a round of applause when we explained where we’d just arrived from and a British camper at the Red Rock caravan park gave us a few beers that didn’t even touch the sides.
We sat back with the best kind of exhaustion you can possibly have. The mission was a success and it was now time to put our feet up and enjoy the New Year.
- 4-day pack – You could cut down a lot of weight by resupplying in each town you pass, however I’d check ahead with open and closing times as these are seasonal towns
- A packraft – if you wish to be totally self-sufficient like us. The NPWS track notes supplies phone numbers to pre-arrange each river crossing if you’d would prefer that instead
- PFD (personal floatation device) – If you’re taking along a packraft don’t forget it! The river mouths can be treacherous and unpredictable
- Sunglasses – I’m not sure if sand blindness is a thing but I think we almost experienced it!
- Snorkelling gear – If I had my time again I’d have some with me to explore the clear waters along the way
Don’t forget to fill out a Trip Intention Form before heading out! NSW NPWS Intention Form
How To Get There
Red Rock is a half hour drive north from Coffs Harbour and is accessed by turning off the Pacific Highway at Corindi Beach and following Red Rock Rd.
The trail is best walked north to south commencing at Angourie Surfing Reserve 5 minutes south of the Yamba township. Buses run from Red Rock to Angourie via Grafton five days a week and do not need to be pre-booked.
The entire Yuraygir Coastal Walk is generally flat and mellow, apart from the 5km stretch from Wooli to Pebbly Beach which can be quite strenuous and is graded 4. Navigation is quite easy and the trail is reasonably signposted the entire way. Close attention should be paid to the tides along certain sections
Guided walks can also be booked with Yuraygir Walks.
Distance Covered / Elevation Gained / Duration
Approximately 64km by land and 6km by water / 495m gained / 4 days