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Crescent Head, NSW

Beautiful, relatively undeveloped, surfing destination on the Mid North Coast.

There is a simple secret about Crescent Head: people heading north don't like turning south and the only way to access this beautiful stretch of coastline is to drive to Kempsey and then turn south-east on Crescent Head Road. This "obstacle course" presents no problems to surfers - who are mooching up and down the coast looking for the perfect wave - but it has worked as a deterrent to holidaymakers. Thus this delightful, uncrowded and underdeveloped sleepy little coastal village is characterised by beautiful beaches and a headland which features one of the most spectacular cliffs on the eastern coast of Australia. The town is well-protected environmentally with the Goolawah Reserve and Limeburners Creek Nature Reserve edging it to the north and the south. The result: a little piece of coastal paradise.


Crescent Head is located 437 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway and 21 km south-east from Kempsey on Crescent Head Road.


Origin of Name

No one is sure how Crescent Head got its name. It is known that as early as 1833 the NSW Calendar and General Post Office Directory recorded: "From Port Macquarie northerly there is a beaten track and the country may present some obstructions to the formation of a road; travelling is not, however, difficult; the tracks follow the coast which is a succession of sandy beaches extending from Port Macquarie to Point Plomer, thence to Crescent Head and then to Trial Bay…”


Things to See and Do

Crescent Head and Crescent Head Lookout
To reach the headland and the Crescent Head Lookout, turn at East Street, then right into Dulconghi Street and left into Skyline Crescent. Crescent Head is a strange combination of the sublime and the offensive. The headland itself is a deceptive craggy outcrop. And on the top of that headland is a huge, ugly concrete water tower which some enthusiast has tried to modify by painting the base with a nautical-themed mural full of fish and mermaids. To the south, and far below, is a beach with a long, pale arc of sand. Below, on a lower headland, is the solitary grave of Herbert Arnold O'Dell who died on 1 September 1917 at the age of 26 years and 5 months while he was fishing off the rocks at Crescent Head. The views from Crescent Head Lookout are panoramic and spectacular. It is a sheer drop of nearly 100 metres. The view to the south is as far as Point Plomer and to the north it is possible to see Hat Head.

Surfing Crescent Head
The excellent Australia's Surfing Coast website explains the appeal of Crescent Head: "Crescent Head is one of the few places in Australia where the spirit of the 1960s surfing counter-culture lives on, an easy-going “share the ocean” vibe still embraced by the local surfing tribes. Along this magical stretch of coastline north of Port Macquarie are four perfect right-hand point-breaks, tailor-made for malibu riders, grommets and beginners and capable of generating miracle rides of up to 250 metres. Six northern corners along here also produce anything from crazy left-hand wedges to gentle blue fun in the sun. About halfway between Crescent Head and Point Plomer is the brilliantly named Delicate Nobby, a wedge-shaped rock formation that starts just off the beach and spears out into the Pacific. There are rideable beach breaks either side with solid banks that can deliver a fair bit of grunt ... In June 2008, Crescent Head, home of the Dunghutti people, was declared a National Surfing Reserve, the fourth site in Australia to be recognised for its special significance to surfing. Check out http://www.surfthecoast.com.au/CrescentHead for more details and camping suggestions.


Other Attractions in the Area

Goolawah Reserve
Goolawah Reserve is a narrow 10 km coastal strip to the south of Crescent Head which comprises beaches, seaside bushland with predominantly melaleucas and banksias, and significant sites of importance to local Aborigines. It is an ideal destination for bushwalking and surfing. National Parks describe the reserve as having "biological diversity ... with significant Aboriginal heritage. The beaches are secluded and pure, bounded by exquisite native plant life ... A left-hand point break beckons to surfers, while spectacular rocky shores, reefs and a lagoon provide the ideal setting for snorkelling or swimming. Go bird watching or whale watching, spot dolphins and turtles, or scan the bush for koalas or dingoes." Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/goolawah-national-park and http://macleayvalleycoast.com.au/great_things_to_do/crescent-head-beaches.

Limeburners Creek National Park
Located 10 km south of Crescent Head, Limeburners Creek National Park is 9,123 hectares of pristine coastal heathlands characterised by banksias, blackbutt wetlands and small pieces of coastal rainforest around Big Hill. The area is ideal for birdwatching, swimming, surfing, canoeing, bushwalking and fishing. At Big Hill there is a loop walk which winds around the summit and provides dramatic panoramas across wave-formed dunes and over the coastline. The area between Big Hill and Point Plomer is important to local Aborigines who occupied the area for 5-6,000 years prior to the arrival of Europeans. There is an historic Aboriginal fish trap at Barries Beach. There are also shell middens, burial sites, a large stone tool working site and a quarry for stone tool production. The reserve's name comes from the early days of European settlement when oyster shells from the creek were burned to produce lime for mortar. Free settlers moved into the area in the 1830s when the penal settlement at Port Macquarie was closed. The area adjacent the creek was declared the Orara Gold Field in 1881 though returns were insignificant. Check out http://macleayvalleycoast.com.au/great_things_to_do/limeburners-creek-national-park/ for more details.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was inhabited by members of the Dunghutti Aboriginal language group.

* There was a track out to Crescent Head as early as 1830.

* Crescent Head was proclaimed a village in 1894.

* A town slowly developed. It was basically a cheap holiday destination with many fibro holiday homes and a thriving caravan park.

* The S.S. Wollongbar was torpedoed by the Japanese off Crescent Head on 29 April, 1943 with a loss of 32 lives.

* Today Crescent Head is recognised as one of the finest surfing locations on the New South Wales coast. The headland produces exceptional surfing conditions.


Visitor Information

Crescent Head doesn't have its own Visitor Information Centre. For information Kempsey Visitor Information Centre, South Kempsey Park, Lachlan Street, Kempsey tel: 02 6563 1555 or toll-free: 1800 642 480, Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week.


Useful Websites

Macleay Valley Coast tourism have a useful and detailed website. Check out http://macleayvalleycoast.com.au/location_listing/crescent-head.

Got something to add?

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10 suggestions
  • The name Crescent Head comes from the crescent shape between big nobby and little nobby.

    Brendan Graham
  • Crescent Head is NOT underdeveloped! It’s maintaining a perfect village atmosphere which keeps all the visitors returning to soak up the beautiful beaches and surf, along with a relaxed lifestyle which is rapidly being lost in other areas along our beautiful coast!

    • I think it is a question of what we define as “underdeveloped” and “overdeveloped”. I would call Port Macquarie and, say, Terrigal, overdeveloped. Crescent Head is not like either of those. Aussie Towns.

      Bruce Elder
  • Probably called ‘Crescent’ Head because the beach forms a perfect crescent! There is nothing so obvious as the completely obvious!
    Mary Sharah!

  • Is there a car wash in Crescent Heads?

    Bonnie Rae
  • My home town grew up there went to primary school there learnt to surf there my parents still live there gods country just don’t spoil it with development down the back road show some restraint and realise that some things are about more than money

    Dylan Blyth
  • Open your eyes to what is happening now ! Influencers are trying to brand Crescent Head while houses and land can only be afforded by the wealthy !!!

    Robert Dalrymple
  • The whole village turned up one day to paint their bit of the water tower. It was a lovely occasion for the village.

  • “uncrowded and underdeveloped” – a very funny way of describing crescent especially coming from a local it is becoming too busy and too crowded to do anything nice little own be paradise