From Byron Bay to Port Macquarie, the northern NSW coastline has more ‘heads’ than you can poke a stick at, offering a blissful mix of activities, beaches and vistas – all easily accessed from spectacular waterfront campsites. The back roads to the busy coast wind off the A1 all directions, it’s hard to know where to start. So to help, we've share our favourite headland camps, found in pristine national parks and tiny coastal fishing villages, each with its own unique appeal and worthy of adding to your NSW coastal ‘heads’ touring itinerary.
Evans Head is a classic fishing town, perched on the banks of the Evans River. Up on the headland, Razorback Lookout gives the best vantage over the rivermouth breakwalls and the beaches below. To the north, the beach forms an endless white ribbon towards Ballina. To the south, lines of waves hug the points and at the lookout car park vans idle as surfers pull in to check conditions. Reluctant paddlers can otherwise soak in the beauty, dining on barbecue at nearby picnic tables.
Evans Head’s picturesque harbour houses a small fishing fleet and the local Fish Coop is the for takeaway fish and chips, or fresh seafood for your campground barbecue. If you enjoy throwing in a line yourself, there are plenty of options on the river and beaches.
For long lazy beach days, choose from the numerous beauties, including Chinamans Beach and the patrolled (in summer) Airforce Beach, where you can drive your 4WD onto the beach for your own quiet spot of paradise.
Around 3000 people call Evans Head home and it has basic essential services, and caravan park close to the river and within walking distance of the main street. The family-friendly van park has powered and unpowered sites, to accommodate larger rigs, and a children’s playground.
Evans Head is flanked by the Broadwater and Bundjalung National Parks and the Black Rocks Campground in Bundjalung NP offers an out-of-town alternative with basic facilities, accessible to 2WD vehicles and RVs. There are also plentiful stunning beaches and excellent walks to explore within the national parks.
Woody Head is one of those spectacular spots where you can truly kick back and relax. The excellent national park campground is perched on the edge of the headland where you can happily while away the hours between your campsite and the protected beach out front, perfect for kids to splash about. Contented campers set up camp chairs along the breakwall under the shady sheoaks and watch the tide roll in.
This large, grassy campground has numbered sites that can be booked online or at the rangers’ office on-site, and modern amenities including coin-operated showers, drinking water, firepits and firewood. There are no powered sites, but the unpowered sites are suited to a range of rigs with shade cloth providing flat bases.
Adjacent the camp area is a beautiful day use area with plenty of picnic tables, barbecues and communal fire pits, with a stunning outlook over the water. It’s no wonder this campground, located in the Iluka region of Bundjalung National Park, is such a popular spot.
Fisher-folk will appreciate the boat ramp here, as well as the easy access to numerous fishing spots off the rocks and beach. If you enjoy beach strolls you can venture south around the headland, exploring the rock pools along the way, and wander onto the long stretch of beach where the kangaroos graze under the shady trees.
Tucked in among the busy hub of the Northern Rivers, Broken Head is an ideal base for exploring the area in and around Byron Bay. Perfect lines of waves peel around the headland here, making it a popular spot for surfers. The wide beach stretches off toward Cape Byron, with views of Cape Byron Lighthouse and the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Behind the beach is a spacious picnic area with covered barbecues and picnic tables, perfect for a family feast after a day touring the region or relaxing on the beach out front.
Broken Head Holiday Park is nestled behind the beach on the edge of Broken Head Nature Reserve, making it ideal for laid-back coastal camping holidays. Powered and unpowered concrete slab and grass sites are available for rigs of different sizes, including larger rigs, and some sites have views over the ocean.
From the caravan park, follow the 1.6km return Three Sisters walking track along the cliff top to a lookout on the grassy headland offering vantages of the rainforested coastline, secluded beaches and hidden rocky outcrops. The undulating gravel track meanders through archways of native hibiscus and banksia, with views over Three Sisters Rock just off the coast and the surfers below. In season, this is a good place to spot whales on their annual migration.
There are no shops at Broken Head, aside from the small van park kiosk, but it’s just three kilometres up the road to Suffolk Park, where you can stock up at the local supermarket and bakery.
The tiny hamlet of Hat Head on the mid-north coast is surrounded by the spectacular national park of the same name, stretching south from the town of South West Rocks. Make your way to Hat Head village via the winding back road which crosses, then skirts Korogoro Creek, as you follow Gap Road to the headland proper. From the Gap car park, the Korogoro walking track takes you on a circuit around the headland, while Connors Track follows the coastline south – both offering impressive coastal scenery.
Back across the creek, Hat Head is a sleepy village with a general store and cafe, as well as a bowls club and Surf Life Saving club. Right in town, Hat Head Holiday Park offers RVers unpowered and powered sites behind the beach, with plenty of space for kids to play in the grassy grounds. From here you can take the footbridge across to the Gap for coastal walks or explore the long beach right out front.
The clear waters of Korogoro Creek lend themselves nicely to bobbing about in a kayak or fishing from the banks where tiny fish feed and oyster-encrusted rocks line the edges. There’s a public boat ramp accessible from the holiday park, allowing you to get out and appreciate the clear turquoise waters of the bay.
If sleeping among the trees, basic facilities and budget-friendly campgrounds are more your thing, you can make the most of Smoky Cape Campground in Hat Head NP 30km to the north, where sites are dotted through the rainforest just behind the beach. Just 5km south of town, Hungry Gate Campground has open, grassy sites in a clearing behind the sand dunes, albeit a bit more of a hike to the beach.