Nambucca Heads was first settled in 1840, by convicts who were on parole, to harvest timber (mainly cedar) for the southern colony. Timber mills and a ship building industry were subsequently established and relics can still be seen on the waterfront. By the late 1800s, dairy and cropping industries were in their infancy, though the local population numbered only about 50.
There are now around 20,000 people living in the greater Nambucca Valley area and we feel the natural attractions – the Nambucca River and valley, and the great beaches and national parks – are now the town’s greatest assets.
WATERFRONT AT WHITE ALBATROSS
We visited Active Holiday Parks White Albatross several years ago and stayed on a waterfront site. We had a great time, even catching fish right in front of our van, so it was a natural choice again this trip. There is something truly magical about camping beside the water and we were fortunate enough to have a waterfront site again.
This is a lovely park, with sites facing a placid tidal lagoon, looking across to the breakwater. The surf beaches are on the northern side of the holiday park. There is a licensed tavern/bistro at the entrance to the park, as well as a convenience store and cafe, which sells take-aways, light meals, coffee, groceries, newspapers and bait. Both the cafe and tavern look out over the breakwater and inlet.
Roads in the park are sealed and the sites are large, so big rigs can be accommodated. Since our last visit, matting had been laid on many of the sites that were previously gravel. It is easy on the feet, easy to keep clean and warmer than concrete in cold weather (and the reverse in summer). There are ensuite sites and a selection of cabins, from basic to luxury spa cabins, many right on the waterfront. White Albatross takes pets, but check with the office first.
The amenities block is large and modern, with plenty of showers and toilets. A second block near the pool area incorporates a fish cleaning area and has a car cleaning bay beside it – excellent additions that are rarely seen, even in coastal parks. The dump point is near the main amenities block. We had excellent TV and wi-fi reception during our stay.
There is a large, resort-style pool with a waterslide and a water park for the kids. There’s a playground as well as a barbecue area and a large, functional camp kitchen. Both the barbecue and camp kitchen areas are great for family groups to gather at and we have enjoyed happy hour there with friends in the past.
This park backs on to a headland covered in banksia scrub. There is an eco walking track located at the rear of the holiday park, which takes you across the headland to Shelley Beach. The track is less than 1km long and has story boards explaining the topography, plants, Aboriginal history, and local birds and animals. It’s an easy walk and you can return via the flat rock platform to the right side of Shelly Beach. It’s about the same distance back and passes Wellington Rock, a great photographic feature.
For families, White Albatross is a destination in itself. Kids and adults can fish, kayak, paddle and swim in the placid tidal lagoon. Stand-up paddleboards and kayaks are available for hire. Pelicans can be seen frequently and we find it fascinating to watch them landing and taking off in their own, very un-aerodynamic, style.
Fishing is good from almost anywhere around the park and the breakwater is a favourite spot, while the beach at the back can produce large jewfish and sea bream. The calmer water near the van park entrance is also a top fishing area.
The V-Wall, as the breakwater is called, is famous for its painted rocks. You can read all types of messages, even marriage proposals. Visitors are encouraged to leave a contribution, however artistic or banal.
There are walking tracks along the breakwater, beside the lagoon and around the waterfront and a mangrove boardwalk nearby. About a kilometre from the park, there is a rainforest walk to the original pioneer well, unfortunately closed when we visited due to a colony of flying foxes.
Boaties are catered for with a nearby boat ramp and you can travel up the inlet for miles (maybe kilometres is a better word)!
Drive or take a stiff walk to the Captain Cook and Rotary lookouts on the cliff above the White Albatross. The views from here are fabulous. To the north you can see beaches fading into the distance, as well as the breakwater, Nambucca River mouth, the lagoon and the caravan park.
National parks and nature reserves are in abundance in the Nambucca Valley, and we decided to drive to the Yarriabini National Park, about a 30-minute drive from White Albatross. There is rainforest plus a stand of magnificent white bark flooded gums and two picnic areas. Take care on the narrow dirt roads, though, which are accessible to any vehicle except in very wet weather. We then continued on to Scotts Head, with its marvellous beach scenery and views, for lunch.
Visit the Nambucca Valley Visitor Information Centre in Nambucca Heads to obtain information on the area, plus a great little brochure called Nambucca Valley Scenic Drives, which gives you a range of popular drives through national parks with the distances and driving times.
The championship Island Golf Course, situated on an island just off the coast, should keep any keen golfer happy while lawn bowlers also have a top-class club nearby.
Nambucca Heads is not a large town, but it is very hilly. Our GPS directed us down to the waterfront via a closed road, meaning we had to do a U-turn towing the van on a very steep hill. The town has all the basic amenities, including doctors, dentists, chemists, a Woolworths and IGA supermarket, and a Woolworths Caltex service station. This petrol station only has E10 fuel, not 91 octane, and we found their higher octane very expensive. We bought cheaper fuel at the Liberty service station on the south side of town.
There is a great choice of restaurants, clubs and other eating places close to the White Albatross. However, we decided to have dinner at the park’s tavern so we could leave the car at home. We found it very pleasant, looking out over the water, with a good variety of reasonably priced meals.
We think the Nambucca Valley has some of the most beautiful coastal scenery anywhere on the New South Wales coast. There is a multitude of beaches, both quiet and surf, as well as rocky headlands, with hinterland mountains and rainforest as a backdrop. The White Albatross is an idyllic place to stay while visiting the area – it is coastal ambience at its best.
Nambucca Heads is on the mid-north NSW coast, just north of Port Macquarie and about halfway between Brisbane and Sydney.