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June 25, 2024

Woody Head: cheap fun holiday

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Coastal-banksias, coastal she oaks and coastal wattle are found on the dunes that back on to the beach in the Bundjalung National Park
Woody Head: Coastal banksias, coastal she oaks and coastal wattle are found on the dunes that back on to the beach in the Bundjalung National Park. Photo: Ariel Haslam

By: Simon Haslam

If you’re looking for a cheap, fun place for the family to get out into nature, you’ll probably run into a few Byronians at Woody Head. Only 1.5 hours from Byron, the low-key campsite in the Bundjalung National Park is only five minutes from Iluka and close enough to Yamba to catch the ferry over for a day in the ‘big town’.

In addition to camping and caravan sites, there are also some cabins at Woody Head (some with their own bathrooms) but these sell out fast. The well-run campground has hot showers, outdoor cooking fires, and supplies the firewood, meaning that you can cook outside and concentrate on the good stuff such as looking across the rock pools, swimming on uncrowded beaches and fishing, if you like that sort of thing.

On a recent trip, staying in the original settlers cottage, we were woken before 6am by the crashing of debris against the side of the cabin as an excited brush turkey prepared its nest for the 6.30am mating session. Little brush turkeys, wallabies and kangaroos wander through the campground, and inside the cabin we also found a cute little scorpion (Australia’s 100 species of scorpion are apparently elusive and relatively harmless, and their sting would cause merely a painful irritation).

If you can’t get into Woody Head, Iluka is a quiet town just five minutes drive away, with a number of caravan parks. The Iluka Riverside caravan park is situated on the river, and for those with little kids it has the advantage of a protected shallow river beach adjacent to the park, and a great playground.

The foreshore park at Iluka stretches from the ferry terminal right to the iconic Sedgers Reef Hotel, a ramshackle pub in a prime position overlooking the river. But see it while you can, as real estate prices in Iluka, long the topic of conversation with Byron people planning their next real estate move, are already high. A four-bedroom two-storey house in the ‘much sought-after old part of town’ will set you back $850,000, where your local cafe would be the Sumth’n Tastee, celebrated by visitors for its ‘generous serves’ and ‘variety of food choices from fish and chips, hamburgers and pizza’.

$10m resort for Iluka

Plans for a $10m resort on the site of the derelict service station will soon be lodged by Gold Coast investor Derk Vanderbent of Surf&Yoga Pty Ltd, who has noted the lack of resort facilities in town. The proposed resort would also feature what is likely to be Iluka’s first rooftop yoga deck.

Of course, if you want to take it up a notch, a short ferry ride across the river is Yamba, home of much more upmarket cafes (one favourite is the Turkish cafe) and pubs (the Pacific has great views). Absolutely the best restaurant in the vicinity is Barbaresco at Angourie. Whether you’re looking for a pizza with the kids or cocktails and a bottle of Italian wine, this place has the lot.

Finding a sea cucumber in the coastal rock pools
Finding a sea cucumber in the coastal rock pools

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