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The North Coast, NSW: Where the Sea Meets the Forest

The North Coast of New South Wales is a haven for nature lovers, a retreat for families and a hotspot for action seekers. As you partake in your activities of choice, you will likely have sweeping oceanscapes on one side and lush stretches of forest on the other.

The North Coast runs from Sydney’s North to the Queensland border, offering its share of surfing hubs, national parks and coastal hikes. To take a break from outdoor action, check out Newcastle, with its emerging cafe and gallery scene.

Holiday rental options on the North Coast abound, from beachfront apartments to spacious, secluded family homes.

Beaches and Surfing on the North Coast

The North Coast is synonymous with great surfing, no matter your skill level. Experienced surfers flock to Lennox Head, which is a top Australian surf spot for pros. If you would like to learn to surf in calmer waters, sign up for a class on the shores of Newcastle, Coffs Harbour or Ballina.

The North Coast also offers family-friendly beaches. Byron Bay’s Main Beach is well-known for its white sand. This beach is patrolled throughout the summer. If you would like to spend the day away from other humans, head to the secluded stretches of sand in the Pacific Palms area. These quieter beaches are lined by lush forests, adding to the impression of isolation.

North Coast Nature Reserves and National Parks

Visit Dorrigo National Park, a World Heritage Site, to wander along boardwalks amidst age-old rainforests. Bring your binoculars to best observe the forest’s vibrant birdlife. Alternately, explore the largest stretch of undeveloped land in New South Wales when you hike through Yuraygir National Park. This coastal park showcases both forest and oceanfront scenery.

Illuka Nature Reserve is another option for rainforest strolls and birdwatching. Over 140 types of birds call the reserve home. This park also encompasses coastal and hinterland trails. By the waterfront, you will find a seashore with a rock pool. Here, children can participate in a guided tour to learn all about the species who live in the crevices.

Coastal Walks and Hikes

The North Coast is a haven for hikers, with almost endless paths lining the shore.

The most ambitious hikers can undertake the Yuraygir Coastal Park, which links Angourie and Red Rocks. Walk along 65 km of clifftops, untouched beaches and pristine coastal lakes. Hike at the edge of verdant forests and keep your eyes peeled for native species.

Similarly, the Tweed area has 37 km of untouched coastline, criss-crossed by a series of paths leading to some of the region’s best coastal views.

For shorter treks, you can try the Cape Byron Walking Track, a hike with the ocean on one side and the rainforest on the other. This walk is under 4km long and is a popular spot for whale watching.

Then, there is the Bathers Way, starring Newcastle’s beaches. The path leads to Nobbys Headland Lighthouse. Information panels along the way explain the region’s Aboriginal history and heritage.

Arts and Culture on the North Coast

Newcastle is an up-and-coming hub for the arts, with its fashionable galleries and trendy cafes. The city has a number of museums, showcasing Aboriginal art and pieces created by local talents. Newcastle is no stranger to gourmet meals, with its series of award-winning restaurants.

Meanwhile, the Lismore area is known for its artisanal markets, offering the region’s finest fresh produce and homemade crafts. Pick up just-harvested fruits and vegetables and freshly baked treats every Thursday at the Lismore Produce Market.

To meet the region’s artists, schedule in some time at the Channon Craft Market, the oldest of its kind in Australia. This market is held on the second Sunday of the month, and features plenty of art-related activities for children of all ages, as well as carnival rides.

Getting around the North Coast

It is extremely easy to get around the North Coast. A train connects the main towns between Sydney and Tweed Heads. In addition, several regional airports offer convenient connections to Australia’s major cities. If you are arriving by car from Sydney, you can take the Legendary Pacific Coast Touring Route to drive past some of the North Coast’s most beautiful scenery.