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Yamba, NSW

Popular holiday town on the southern bank of the Clarence River.

Although it is only a short trip across the Clarence River from Iluka, the two towns could not be more different. Iluka lives in a timewarp and is a 1950s holiday town. Yamba prides itself, as the local brochure states, on its "vibrant mix of award-winning restaurants, funky cafes and boutique shopping" and "the wide range of accommodation". In other words it is a prosperous town pitched at holidaymakers wanting to enjoy the "buzzy vibe" while gorging on the famous Yamba prawns.


Yamba is located 674 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway, 19 km down river from Maclean, 29 m above sea-level, and 277 km south of Brisbane via the Pacific Motorway.


Origin of Name

There is considerable confusion about the origins of the name Yamba. In 1864 the town was officially gazetted as Yamba but, at the same time, the government was claiming that the local pilot station, post office, school and police station were all located at Clarence River Heads. To confuse things further the locals referred to the town as Wooli Wooli. Finally in 1885 the town was officially proclaimed Yamba which is presumed to be a local Yaegl Aboriginal word which either means "carpet snake" (yambah) or was a term used for the headland.


Things to See and Do

Clarence River Lighthouse and Pilot Hill
The Clarence River Lighthouse (also known as the Yamba Lighthouse), on South Head, was built as recently as 1955. It stands 41 m above the sea, is 18 metres high, and can be seen 17 nautical miles out to sea. Prior to 1866 there was a kerosene lamp on a platform at the most easterly point on Pilot Hill. In 1866 it was replaced and by 1880 the first proper lighthouse was completed at a cost of £1,097. It was visible for 6 nautical miles out to sea. This lighthouse was automated in 1920. A new lighthouse was completed in 1955 and the light dating from 1880 was dismantled. Today Pilot Hill offers excellent views up and down the coast and is ideal for watching whales in the spring. Nearby is a replica of the original 1879 lighthouse erected by volunteers and used as a community radio station.

Iluka-Yamba Ferry
There is a regular daily ferry service across to Iluka which also includes cruises up the Clarence River. There are also river cruises to Harwood Island on Wednesdays and Fridays. Contact Clarence River Ferries on (02) 6646 6423 or 0408 664 556 for details of departure times or check out http://www.clarenceriverferries.com.

Port of Yamba Historical Society Museum
Port of Yamba Historical Society Museum (The Story House) is a museum offering the visitor a journey through the history of Yamba township and its strong maritime associations. The museum's website explains: "The collection includes objects that highlight the diversity of Yamba’s history, from the telescope once belonging to Francis Freeburn, the first pilot and pioneer in Yamba, to the school room display depicting the historical record of public education in Yamba". The museum is located in River Street and is open Tuesday to Thursday 10.00 am - 4.30 pm and weekends 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm. For more information contact (02) 6646 1399 and check out http://www.pyhsmuseum.org.au.

Yamba Walking Guides
There are two, downloadable walking guides: Yamba Historical Walks: Hill Walk and Yamba Historical Walks: Flat Walk. Check out http://www.pyhsmuseum.org.au/history-tours/yamba-walking-guides. The 3 km, medium grade, 2 hour Hill Walk starts at the Yamba Museum, heads down to the Ferry Wharf and then heads along to Turners Beach, the Lighthouse, the Surf Lifesaving Club, past convent Beach and around to Pippie Beach and back to the museum. It is, by accident, a comment on the nature of holiday towns where historic buildings (notably the famous 1930s guest houses Craigmore and The Ritz) no longer exist. The Flat Walk is an easy, 90 minutes, 3 km walk with twenty places of interest which starts and ends at the Yamba Museum and heads around the harbour and along the banks of the Clarence River to the Marina Wharf, the Ferry Wharf and then heads out to the South Wall of the breakwater.

Yamba is known for its exceptional beaches which are ideal for swimming and surfing. There are five excellent beaches close to town. Each caters for a different group of enthusiasts. Yamba Beach, the main beach in town, has a rock pool for safe swimming and is located on the southern side of the Clarence River lighthouse. On the northern side of the lighthouse is Turner's Beach. Whiting Beach is a river beach which is suitable for families with young children. It extends from the western side of the breakwall along the sand spit known as Hickey Island. Convent Beach extends eastwards from the rock pool at the eastern edge of Yamba Beach to Yamba Point. On the other side of Yamba Point is Pippie Beach which extends south to Angourie.

The free Yamba & Iluka Town Guide has a very detailed fishing supplement which details the habitat and likely spots to fish for bream, drummer (rock blackfish), luderick (blackfish), flathead, groper, mulloway (jewfish), sand whiting, snapper and tailor. There are fishing charters from Yamba. Check out http://www.smarterfishingcharters.com.au/charters/details/105 for details of Reel Time Charters which offer both deep sea and Clarence River fishing charters.


Other Attractions in the Area

Yuraygir National Park
Yuraygir National Park is a true rarity. It stretches along 65 km of pristine northern New South Wales  coastline from Angourie to Red Rock. The fact that it is some 40-50 km from the Pacific Highway, and thus removed from the travelling hordes, means that it is a mixture of peaceful, isolated beaches, excellent coastal bushwalking and high quality fishing, surfing and swimming. The Yuraygir National Park was proclaimed in 1980. It covers 3137 ha. Check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0040#YuraygirCoastalWalk for details.

Yuraygir Coastal Walk
This signposted 65 km walk, which is recommended to take four days although it can be done in less, traverses the coast from Angourie to Red Rock. Along the walk, as the brochure explains, "you will encounter vast heathland plains, long sandy beaches, crystal clear creeks and lagoons, rocky headlands and abundant wildflowers and birdlife". Check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/brochures/20100479YuraygirCoastalWalk.pdf which can be downloaded and provides details of the walk.

Lower Clarence Aboriginal Tourist Site Drive
The project was created in 1992 and the information brochure (a single A4 sheet) was published in 1996. It lists 13 significant Aboriginal sites around Maclean and down the Clarence River to Yamba and Angourie. The sites include middens, camping locations, meeting places, a fish trap at Angourie, creation and Dreamtime stories, and the Ulugundahi Island mission site. It includes detailed maps of both Maclean and Yamba. It is available at the Visitor Information Centres in the area.

Angourie Walking Track
The 10 km (5 km each way) Angourie Walking Track starts at Mara Creek Picnic Area and heads south past Woody Bluff, Dirrangan Lookout, Shelley Beach, Shelley Headland, Caves Beach, Plumbago Head and Plumbago Beach to Lake Arragan Rest Area. Considered one of the finest coastal walks in the country, it is best in spring and early summer when the wildflowers are in bloom. The Office of Environment & Heritage website notes of the track: "This superb coastal hike passes through sections of coastland heath and along the seaward side of a ridge with views of sheltered bays and rocky shoals. Keep your binoculars handy for birds in the heath, as well as marine creatures – pods of dolphins, schools of sea mullet and bait fish, and migrating whales – often visible from this amazing vantage point." Check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0040#YuraygirCoastalWalk for information about the Angourie to Brooms Head coastal walk.

Located only 5 km south of Yamba is the famous surfing destination of Angourie which, World Surfing champion, Mark Richards, has described as : "the best right hand point break in Australia and also one of the best in the world. National Surfing Reserves will enshrine these beaches as they deserve to be - jewels in the crown." It was no accident that this iconic surfing beach became the first coastal National Beach Reserve. The website (see http://www.surfingreserves.org/angourie.php) has a sustained eulogy to Angourie: "A range of marine and terrestrial habitats have evolved here over thousands of years creating an environment valued today by visitors from around the world. The rocky boulder reefs of Angourie Point host sea urchins and sea cucumbers, octopus and crabs. The shallow rock ledges of Spooky and Green Point provide stable holds for red, green and brown seaweeds, sea anemone and cunjevoi. Tidal rock pools shelter starfish, barnacles and periwinkles for children to admire. Fish such as silver bream, tarwhine, jewfish and groper are plentiful and healthy. Tailor, salmon and mackerel are our seasonal visitors. Whales cruise past on their journeys north and south. Dolphins and turtles explore the coves closer to shore. Swells from the north and east run into these reefs to provide fast and hollow tubes. Southerly swells sweeping past create gentler and more playful waves. As the coarse sands and pebbles of Point Beach move northward they grade to fine sandy beaches at Spooky and Green Point Cove. These shifting sands of the beaches are inhabited by pippis and enthusiastic crabs that roll sand balls every low tide. Oystercatchers and gulls love to scour these shores for food. The sand banks of Back Beach, Spooky and Green Point shift with the swells and tides. They are a playground for locals and grommets on smaller days when the points are not working so well." Entering the small township there are signs to the Lookout, which overlooks the beach and headland where most of the surfing is done, and the Blue Pool and Green Pool, large rock pools set in bushland behind the beach. The pools were created when a rock quarry was filled with freshwater from a subterranean spring. The quarry supplied the material for Yamba's breakwater. Amusingly Angourie Road was established in the 1890s as a tramway route for the transportation of the stone.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Yaygir/Yaegl group of the Bundjalung Aborigines. European observers spoke highly of their crafts, skills, material culture and intelligence.

* Matthew Flinders investigated the river mouth in 1799. He landed on the northern headland, near present-day Iluka, but found the waters shallow and dismissed the whole area as "deserving of no more than a superficial examination". Flinders did not realise the bay was actually the mouth of the Clarence River. He called the river mouth Shoal Bay.

* During the 1820s and 1830s convicts escaping from the penal colony at  Moreton Bay passed through the area.

* One convict, Richard Craig, reported a big river when he reached Port Macquarie in 1832.

* In 1838 Thomas Small of Sydney, inspired by Craig's reports, sent his brother and two dozen sawyers on board the schooner, the Susan, to the 'Big River'. It was the first European vessel to enter the river.

* Thomas Small took up a large parcel of land on Woodford Island in 1838.

* Governor Gipps named the river the Clarence in 1839.

* In 1854 a signal station was established on Pilot Hill under Captain Francis Freeburn. This was the first permanent settlement in the area.

* The townsite was surveyed in 1861.

* Settlement and the construction of a harbour at the river mouth started in 1862. At this time the population of the town was around 200. That same year the Wooli Hotel and post office were built.

* Yamba was officially proclaimed a town in 1864.

* By 1866 the town's population had declined to 60.

* The first telegraph station was operating by 1870.

* By the 1880s the main section of the town had been subdivided.

* In 1884 the first shipment of fish was sent to Sydney.

* By 1885 there were about 340 in the district. The township had two inns, a police quarters and lock-up, and two stores.

* By 1891 the town was being described as a "favourite seaside resort" with "a large boarding house, two large hotels, two small stores, post, money order, and a telegraph office, gaol, lighthouse and a public school with an average attendance exceeding 24".

* In 1904 an Aboriginal reserve was established at Ulgundahi Island near Maclean and the Yaegl people were systematically removed to the island.

* The railway reached Grafton in 1923.

* By the 1930s the road from Grafton to Yamba was partially sealed.

* Sand mining became a major local industry from 1934-1943 and again in the early 1970s.

* In the 1940s prawn trawling became an important industry in the district

* In 1945 a Yaegl family moved back to Yamba and settled at Reedy Creek.

* Prawn trawling commenced in 1946.

* Additional harbour works were carried out from 1952 until 1971.

* The lighthouse was replaced in 1956.

* The town's reputation for recreational fishing increased with the inauguration of an annual fishing contest in 1958, initially hosted by famous radio personality, Jack Davey, who came to Yamba to relax and fish.

* Today it has grown into an important holiday destination with a permanent population of over 6,000.


Visitor Information

The closest visitor centre is the Clarence Coast Visitor Information Centre, Ferry Park, Pacific Highway, Maclean, tel: (02) 6645 4121. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.


Useful Websites

The official Yamba website, with lots of information about dining, shopping and accommodation is located at http://www.yambansw.com.au.

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