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The new Byron – that’s what connoisseurs will whisper when describing Yamba.
The parallels with the world famous seaside town 90 minutes’ drive away are obvious. There is a brilliant food scene, the subtropical subtropical climate of northern New South Wales, exquisite beaches and lush hinterland, and of course a village that feels like it is surrounded by the sea.
Yamba, however, remains relatively unknown. You can usually find a rental, it’s easy to get around town and Instagram hasn’t quite caught on. It’s old Byron – brilliant surf, no-frills locals, and a life that is what you make of it.
And a stay here doesn’t start and end with the city. Yamba is also the major center of the wider Clarence Valley – an underrated part of the country that rewards exploration. There is the exquisite riverside charm of Maclean, the iconic breaks and swimming spots in Angourie, and the seaside bucolic tropical forests of Iluka Nature Reserve.
Here’s a guide to the area – what to eat, drink and do, and where to stay.
In this little beer garden in the city center, owner Sevtap YÃ¼ce serves regional produce and seafood from local trawlers. YÃ¼ce has also written many cookbooks (so you know you’re in good hands), and many of his dishes are inspired by his Turkish heritage, including menemen roe, local shrimp spiced with garlic, Turkish sardines and Turkish beef. sausage with hummus, olives and pickles.
Coffee is Allpress, and Turkish wine, beer, and Turkish soft drinks are available at lunchtime.
This old storefront transformed into a joint restaurant and bar-boutique is all in original brick, local reclaimed wood, custom lighting and gilt-framed mirrors.
It feels like you’re in a frenzied dive bar – and it plays that role well with an evolving list of fresh, fragrant cocktails – but just as many people come for the excellent food. This includes Pan-Asian sharing platters such as Yamba shrimp wontons, Cantonese crispy duck, and red-braised Wagyu beef brisket – all served on polished concrete tables in a dimly lit dining room.
Beers are turning to imported Asian beers, and the wine list relies on minimal intervention Riesling and white and red blends of Sigurd Wines.
Get there early on a summer evening when the open windows catch the sunset shining through the nearby Norfolk pines, or stay for a late night drink.
This cafe is indicative of the rapidly changing Yamba culinary scene.
Just steps from Spooky Beach, it’s the perfect place to grab an espresso before hitting the waves – or enjoy a slap-up brunch afterwards. You could eat shakshuka; broke; a chilli and Meredith goat cheese scramble; or go one-handed with a bacon and egg roll. There are also freshly squeezed juices and a long menu of smoothies, with coffee provided by Single O.
These are also some of the most beautiful excavations in the city. Take a seat outside on a white picnic table with the sound of crashing waves in the distance, and this place will soon become your second vacation home.
It’s hard to imagine Yamba without the Pacific Hotel. For 86 years, this iconic white building with its red-tiled roof has sat like a lighthouse high on the hill overlooking Yamba Beach. It is a favorite watering hole among locals and an irresistible magnet for visitors.
The thing to do at the Pacific? Perch at one of the tables at the front window with a sparkling wine or three and watch the sea crash onto the beach and the surrounding headlands below. But Thursday through Sunday you’ll find live music, and the restaurant offers food well above your average pub fare.
The on-site accommodation has also just received a nice renovation, in case you want to park for the night.
The Sanctus brewery
You will find this modern brewery in a former industrial district about a 20-minute drive from the city.
Beers from Sanctus head brewer Banjo Hillier lean towards affordability, with the core lineup including a lager, pale ale, XPA, and medium strength – but there’s also a sour Blueberry Crush and a huge 10 percent ABV stout (yes luckily there is a courtesy bus). There’s also an excellent selection of pub fare that includes fish tacos, a Cuban sandwich, and lager breaded fish’n’chips, as well as a menu of wood-fired pizzas.
The location itself is a handsome corrugated iron and brick building with a high ceiling with tall wooden tables and lots of greenery. The main feature is the adjacent lawn, which means that Sanctus is a welcome place for dogs and groms.
Yamba River Market and Yamba Farmers and Producers Market
If you’re in town on a Wednesday, take the time to visit the Yamba Farmers and Producers Market. It has 40 permanent exhibitors – farmers, manufacturers, bakers, artisans and producers – selling everything from seasonal produce to sourdough and pastries, to pasture-raised pork and beef and free-range chickens.
The market runs from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the parking lot between Whiting and Turners Beaches at the mouth of the Clarence River.
If you can’t book your trip for the middle of the week, try lining it up for the fourth Sunday of the month to catch the Yamba River markets instead. Located in Ford Park on the Clarence River foreshore, this is a much larger business, with 120 stalls (more during peak season) selling fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, used furniture , books, jewelry, clothing and crafts. There is also always a stack of food stalls. The Yamba River markets run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (remember the event has a break in December).
Surf on Spooky Beach and explore the blue and green pools
Spooky Beach – or Spookies as it is often called – is one of the most well-known surf spots in northern New South Wales. It’s a nice, narrow stretch of sand with a break powerful enough for intermediate riders, but nice enough for an advanced beginner to jump in and challenge themselves. If you’ve packed your board, this is where you need to head.
If surfing isn’t your thing, head south of the beach to the blue and green Angourie pools. These ancient quarry sites were mined in the 19th century (to provide rock for the Yamba rupture wall) until workers hit a spring and managed to fill them with fresh water. Nowadays, they are populated by locals who jump into the water from the old quarry walls or simply cool off in the summer months.
Keep in mind that pools sometimes close due to algae growth (which is completely normal) – if so, the beach is a short walk away.
This riverside town just 15 minutes west of Yamba is known as the gateway to Australia’s sugar cane industry. The streets of Maclean’s are lined with historic pubs and churches, and it’s a nice place to hang out and explore – perhaps sipping specialty coffee in Botero, or making a mousse on the shaded veranda by the waterfront. the river at the Maclean hotel.
The city also has a strong arts scene. Meet Julie McKenzie and Malcolm King’s Kingstudio see some local works.
Maclean Lookout offers stunning views of the area, which will help you familiarize yourself with its geography. It is also the location of the Pinnacles, a spectacular rock formation and an important cultural site for the local Yaegl.
Hike in the Iluka nature reserve
It’s across the river from downtown – about a 40 minute drive – but the Iluka Nature Reserve is worth a visit. The Gondwana rainforest strip boasts over 180 unique plant species and is the largest remaining seaside rainforest in New South Wales.
The best way to appreciate it is to take an easy hike along the 2.6 kilometer long Iluka Rainforest Trail. There are 144 species of birds living in the forest, which makes it a great place for birding, or maybe just a bit of self-reflection shinrin-yoku (forest bath). Pack a picnic and have lunch at the end of the trail at Iluka Bluff – there is an ocean view gazebo and access to Bluff Beach.
The Black Ace
You’ll need to book well in advance, but it’s worth landing a few nights at this fully restored 110-year-old cottage in the heart of Yamba village (and a short walk from the main beach).
This humble beach house – which can accommodate up to 16 people, if you really want to cram them all in – has been given a makeover with black VJ wood walls and white wood floors. There is a full kitchen, a huge deck with a barbecue, and a game room with a pool table that converts into a ping pong table. If you have a crew or are traveling with extended family this is the place to be.
Angourie seaside resort
Angourie Resort, a short drive south of town, is surrounded by lush subtropical rainforest. It separates the difference between Yamba and Angourie, a sleepy village known for its fabulous beaches and swimming pools.
One bedroom apartments and two bedroom villas are ideal for families. These are casual digs rather than luxurious ones, with tiled floors, airy living spaces, and large enclosed verandas. Each unit has its own kitchen, so you can stay there as much as you want.
There’s a pool (and pool bar), restaurant, barbecue area, and day spa on-site, plus a playground and indoor play area for kids. If you are taking your young family on vacation to North New South Wales this is the place to stay.
Riptide Wooli Holiday home
It’s 50 minutes from the freeway, but try to book at least two nights to stay at this quaint and painful beach house in the small two-pub town of Wooli.
Right on the dunes, there’s not much to do here other than read, drink, swim, surf, cook and rehearse – or maybe jog with the dog on the relatively deserted beach, which is suitable for doggies. But Riptide has everything you need: three bedrooms (two queen-size), a full kitchen, and a comfortable living room, plus a few lounge chairs at the top of the dune to sit and watch the sea.
The house even has a Tesla Destination Charger, if that’s how you ride.
This article is produced by Large format in partnership with Tourism Australia. Whether you are looking for a quick getaway, a lazy vacation or an epic trek, Australia is a land of endless adventure. There has never been a better – or more important – time to get out and explore. Take a vacation here this year.