If you are heading to Nambucca Heads in NSW you will be in for a delightful surprise.
Nambucca Heads is one of the most scenic areas to visit on the North Coast of NSW. With 23 kms of stunning coastline, there are beaches for families, for surfing, swimming, and fishing and the Nambucca River estuary is great for kayaking and canoeing.
Where did the name Nambucca originate from? It is an aboriginal word meaning ‘entrance to waters’.
There is nothing better than taking a break from Nambucca Heads beach and heading into the scenic hinterland for a day’s road trip visiting Beechwood, Bellingen, Sawtell and Raleigh. The Nambucca Valley is well known for its beauty, the Nambucca River and Estuary and its pretty seaside villages.
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Good to know: If you are travelling from Sydney to Brisbane the halfway point is Nambucca Heads.
A frequently asked question: Is Nambucca Heads worth visiting? We would definitely return for another visit to Nambucca Heads. There is so much more to explore around Nambucca Heads and the surrounding coastal villages.
Now, if you are a golf lover you have to try out the Nambucca Heads Island Golf Club. Yes, it is situated on an island – Stuart Island, it is surrounded by water.
Where is Nambucca Heads NSW
Nambucca Heads Map
Nambucca Heads is located on the mid-north coast of NSW.
Distances from major cities:
Sydney to Nambucca Heads – 485 km driving time 5.30 hours
Brisbane to Nambucca Heads – 432 km driving time 5.05 hours
Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads – 120 km driving time 1.20 hours
Tweed Heads to Port Macquarie – 333 km driving time 3.25
Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie – 48 km driving time 36 minutes
Things to do in Nambucca Heads
Nambucca Heads Foreshore Walk
The Foreshore walk starts at Gordon Park, meanders through mangroves where you can see many varieties of birds e.g. Sacred Kingfisher and Lewin’s Honeyeater towards the entrance to the Nambucca River.
Along the Foreshore Walk you can learn about the history of the area.
Copenhagen Mill & Shipyard Nambucca Heads
From the 1870’s the Copenhagen Timber Mill and Shipyard was located just a short distance back from the mouth of the Nambucca River. You can still see the logs in the water that supported the keel of the ships that were being constructed. You can also see the concrete foundations of the mill.
The Sailing Ship Royal Tar
On the 4th December 1876, the 598 tones, 52.1-metre sailing ship the Royal Tar was launched from the river frontage. She was constructed by shipbuilder John Campbell Stuart for Sydney merchant William Marshall to trade between Australia, Japan and North America. She was the largest vessel built on the coast at that time. In 1893 she was refitted for passengers by her new owners the New Australian Settlement Association where she made two voyages to South America carrying Australian emigrants who were making their way to Paraguay. In 1894 she was converted back to a cargo ship and unfortunately sunk on 26th November 1901 after hitting a rock in Hauraki Gulf New Zealand.
Timber Mills on the Nambucca River
The Foreshore Walk was the site of a number of timber mills. Upriver tree fellers and bullock drivers cut the native timber which was loaded onto punts and floated downstream to the mills. Many varieties of trees were cut e.g. Blackbutt, Tallow-wood, Ironbark, Red and White Mahogany, Turpentine, Box and Red Cedar.
Around the turn of the 19th century, the largest mills were those that belonged to the Copenhagen Mill of Nicolas Christensen in 1874, the Eichmann’s Mill in 1886, Butler’s Mill and Buckman’s Mill.
The Nambucca V Wall
Address: 1 Wellington Drive Nambucca Heads (at the entrance to the Nambucca River)
Wander the V Wall and enjoy the messages painted by locals and visitors. These messages are inspirational as well as memories of their time spent in Nambucca Heads.
Kayak Hire Nambucca Heads
Enjoy the Nambucca River on a kayak. You can hire a canoe, kayak, a motorboat, stand up paddleboards and fishing equipment from Nambucca Boatshed at Riverside Drive Nambucca Heads.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 08.00 to 4.45 pm Sunday 8.00 am – 3.00 pm
Enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Nambucca Boatshed Cafe opening hours Monday – Sunday 7.30 am to 2.00 pm.
Take Surfing Lessons in Nambucca Heads
Head to Trent Munro Surf Academy to brush up on your surfing skills at West Street Scotts Head.
Enjoy the Views from Rotary Lookout Nambucca Heads
Located at Parkes Street Nambucca Heads is the Rotary Lookout where you can get the best views over the Nambucca River, the coast and the mountains. During the whale migration, this is a good advantage point!
Captains Cook Lookout Nambucca Heads
There are two viewing areas at Captain Cook Lookout, one with views to Shelly Beach and to the north of Nambucca Heads and the other lookout shows the coast to the south.
Lions Lookout Nambucca Heads
Located a 2 Newry Street Nambucca Heads is Lion Lookout where you can see the coastline from North to South. There is a raised walkway that leads to a platform, a large car park and a picnic shelter.
What to do in Nambucca Heads – Head to Nambucca Heads Beaches a favourite pastime for everyone
For a summer patrolled beach, head to Main Beach. It is also patrolled on weekends between October and Easter.
If you are looking for a dog-friendly beach Swimming Creek Beach is the one for you.
Other beaches to enjoy are Shelly and Beilby.
Wellington Rocks Nambucca Heads
To the end of the V- Wall is a rocky outcrop known as Wellington Rocks. The rocks were named after the iron-steamer Wellington ran aground in 1892.
Learn about the Gumbaynggir Culture Valla Beach
Head to Valla Beach and book a Dreamtime Tour to hear stories about the Gumbaynggirr people, the traditional owners of the land here.
Visit Macksville NSW
Macksville is located on the Nambucca River in the Nambucca Valley.
Families looking for a family beach in Macksville should head to Scotts Head Beach.
If you have worked up a thirst you must visit the Pub with No Beer. Address: 4 Taylors Arm Road Taylors Arm.
Enjoy one of Murray’s Craft Beer whilst enjoying a pub lunch at the Cowhide Bistro. Do you remember the song about the Pub with No Beer by Slim Dusty – well this is it!
There is a Macksville Discovery History Walk – you can download it here.
Day Trips from Nambucca Heads Town
Head to the Beechwood Hotel – Best Country Pub in 2021
A bit of a distance to travel from Nambucca Heads to the Beechwood Hotel, about 117km, average driving time 1 hour and 15 minutes, but if you want a traditional Aussie pub it is worth the drive. On weekends apparently, the locals ride their horses into town and tie them up out front. We had a laugh with the locals whilst enjoying a typical pub lunch with a cold beer and a wine before heading back to Nambucca Heads.
A bit closer to Nambucca Heads is the town of Bellingen just a 30-minute drive away (37 km).
Head there for a great day out, wander the streets and enjoy the colonial buildings that date back to the late 1880s. If you visit from late October to early November the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom.
Bellingen has become popular recently with ‘tree-changers’ choosing to start a new life in the valley. There are a range of organic cafes and shops to explore. You can even picnic down by the river. There is a short pathway from the town centre down the hill to the skate park and picnic spots by the river.
Visit The Old Butter Factory on The Outskirts of Bellingen
Stop in for a bite to eat and a coffee at the Old Butter Factory at 1 Doepel Street open from 8 am to 5 pm daily. On Friday nights they have Tapas available. There are also boutique shops, art galleries, leatherworks and woodcraft.
Visit Raleigh Winery
You could just go for the wine tasting but we would encourage you to stay for lunch or why not even stay a night or two?
Just 15 minutes from Coffs Harbour, 10 minutes from Bellingen and 20 minutes from Nambucca Heads, Raleigh Winery is a must-do.
They produce a variety of wines e.g. Sparkling white, rose and red, Verdelho, Chambourcin, Chambourcin/Cab Sav and a delightful Passionfruit Semillon, Muscat, Raleigh Creme and a Fortified Wine.
For lunch, there is an ala carte menu or a variety of sharing plates. Whatever you choose it will be a great choice. We loved the presentation of each dish on the menu not only ours but of the other diners close by us. There were a lot of aahs and wows! We could not fault the service from the staff. The wine tasting was at our lunch table as we enjoyed our meals. We finished with the Passionfruit Semillon with desert and that was another wow!
Open from 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday to Sundays. Bookings are essential.
You can even spend the night or two at Raleigh House which sleeps up to 7 people, fully self-contained with a swimming pool.
Address: 36 Queen Street Raleigh
If you have time pay Sawtell a visit! Nambucca Heads to Sawtell is only 44 km with an average driving time of 31 minutes.
Just driving down the main street will have you falling in love with Sawtell, with its tree-lined middle pathway and restaurants and cafes lining either side of the street. If you want coffee with a view head to the beach and enjoy a coffee on the beachfront.
We have a great licensed cafe recommendation for you. The Hilltop Store at 114 First Ave in Sawtell.
“Chefs Carla and Richie met back in 2006 working alongside one another at Aria in Sydney. Life saw them work in many different kitchens, but it is their most recent work that really set them apart. Richie opened and was Head Chef at Matt Morans restaurant Chiswick in Woollahra, while Carla was Head Chef and co-owner with Colin Fassnidge of 4Fourteen in Surry Hills. After 4 years in these roles they decided to make the move with their new born son Hudson back to Carla’s home town of Sawtell.”
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 6.00am to 3.00 pm Saturday and Sunday 7.00 am to 3.00 pm
There is a Headland Walk that you can do for stunning views over Coffs Harbour and Muttonbird Island. Boambee Headland Lookout is the starting point and head towards Bonville Headland and take the path to the Lookout.
Where to Stay in Nambucca Heads
Nambucca Heads Accommodation ranges from camping, caravan parks, cabins, motels, B & Bs and unique accommodations.
Our favourite accommodation is the newly opened Beach Rooms, with views over the river towards the ocean, a swimming pool, parking, fast wifi and funky decor! You can read our review here.
Address: 6 – 10 Fraser Street, Nambucca Heads
Good to know: If you have had a big lunch and only want a light snack for dinner, Woolworths is located close by and there is a kitchen/lounge area that you can use at the accommodation.
Where To Stay in Nambucca Heads
Caravan Parks in Nambucca Heads
The Big 4 Tasman Caravan Park is popular with families and travellers. Find out more information here.
Find out more information on the Pelican Caravan Park here
Where to eat in Nambucca Head
Our favourite Nambucca Heads Restaurants are:
V Wall Pavillion – recently opened in November 2021 is located at 50 Wellington Drive Nambucca Heads. Enjoy an array of pub meals and modern cuisine with a focus on local produce and fresh seafood on their sunny balcony with breathtaking water views.
Wharf Street Cafe – 1 Wellington Drive Nambucca Heads. Open for breakfast and lunch. Sit back and enjoy local produce with an exciting menu with a stunning view over the river.
Matildas – 6 Wellington Drive Nambucca Heads. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Open from Thursday to Monday from 2.00 pm to 8.00 pm for the best pizza, oysters and wine in Nambucca Heads.
Nambucca Heads Weather
When is the best time to visit Nambucca Heads?
Spring and Autumn’s months are the best times to visit Nambucca Heads where the temperatures average between 20 – 25 deg C.
June, July and August are the busiest months for tourists escaping the cold from the lower parts of Australia.
General Travel Information for Nambucca Heads
General Travel Information for Nambucca Heads
The closest airport to Nambucca Heads is Coffs Harbour 47 km away.
For the latest flight deals to Coffs Harbour Airport find out more information here.
You can hire a car from Coffs Harbour Airport.
If you are interested in hiring a campervan to travel around the North Coast of NSW – check out the latest deals here
Train services are available in NSW regional areas – click here for bookings and timetable information. The journey takes around 8.5 hours.
For bus travel to Nambucca Heads – click here for more information
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If you are travelling around the area you may enjoy our article on Yamba, Port Macquarie and Port Stephens.
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