Having generous helpings of sea, sun, sand and space, it’s no surprise that Australia is littered with seaside towns of varying quality. Surfers, fish & chips, caravan parks, local watering holes and an unrelenting sun are all parcels of such places. However, is Yamba, NSW, any different from this pack of sleepy seaside sanctuaries? Well yes, it is.
Word has gradually passed from tree to tree about the talent Yamba has for providing things to do, as well as things not to do (nothing at all), without you feeling anxious about it. This reputation was helped largely by the Australian Traveller magazine, who in 2009 named the town the best place to live in Australia.
It’s probably fortunate for Yamba the cat is well and truly out of the bag, as besides fishing, its main income is tourism. The town also has a clever knack for evading that slightly over-developed feel its nearby cousin Byron Bay (an hour and a half north) fell victim to. In all, Yamba is a good-sized town with excellent cafes, restaurants and shops that both roar mildly and snooze, depending on the time of year.
Things to do
Walking is one of my favourite things to do and Yamba offers some first-rate spots. To get better acquainted with the place I took off from Coldstream Street, in the town centre, and headed east past the Yamba Cinema, a charming little hut that’s been in operation since the 1930s. I continued up the steep hill towards the legendary Pacific Hotel and the Yamba Lighthouse.
From here I zigzagged towards the Yamba Beach Swiming Pool, built in the 1960s, past a handsome stretch of coastline adorned with staggered, rocky flats and a couple of tyre-clad ladies. If you keep going (as I did), you’ll come to Convent Beach, where the Sisters of Mercy purchased a convent in the 1900s. Around the bend lies Yamba Point, a superb dolphin watching spot which is home to some lovely iridescent green rocks.
About 15 minutes drive out of town lies the Yuraygir National Park. Head through the park to Mara Creek car park – the starting point for the Angourie Walk – which is a must do if you’re in the area. The walk weaves through some striking forested headlands along a beguiling array of coastline. I was lucky enough to have a swim at Angourie Point, which hosts some of the nicest sand I’ve experienced.
Places to stay
I stayed at the Yamba YHA, which I’d heard good things about. Now I’ve done my time in hostels and I now have a three-year-old on my team, but I’d still recommend it to families. The staff were super friendly, there’s a kids’ play area, the place is clean and the rooms are great value. There’s a rooftop pool, café downstairs and a staff member named Shane who hosts his ’10 buck tour’ – reputedly one of the funnest tours ever. I didn’t have time. Nice bloke though.
Places to Eat & Drink
The legendary Pacific Hotel, which sits on a rather large hill overlooking Main Beach, has décor that looks like it’s been harboured from the ‘80s. Here the food is cheap, the beer is cold and the sea views could excite even an ageing mariner.
Back in the town centre, is Wato’s Fish & Burger Bar. Here the whiting and calamari are soft, uber-fresh and tasty. Wato’s even brews their own beer for their beer batter, while all their sauces are homemade. Tip – order the crumbed calamari (not the salt and pepper) and ask to go easy on the salt as they are liberal sprinklers.
The YHA serves up a good coffee, however if you’re an early riser, (or you’re forced to rise early, as am I) head to the Caperberry Cafe on the corner of Coldstream and Yamba streets. The atmosphere is pleasant, the coffee is good (wait at the YHA for better) and the food is top-notch. Order the peppered fig breakfast for some sweet spice with soft, moist scrambled eggs.
Yamba is well worth at least a week of your time. Although in Yamba, time is different.
Just don’t be in a hurry.