Iluka Big Day Out

A ferry ride across the Clarence, riverside path, beach, rock platforms and rainforest track

Trail information

Iluka Big Day Out

You could drive to Iluka Bluff and walk 150 metres to the lookout, but why would you do that when you can catch a ferry from Yamba across the mighty Clarence River, then enjoy a nice long (but thankfully flat) walk along a riverside path, across beaches and rock platforms, and back through littoral rainforest? If 20 kilometres is too far, turn around at Iluka Bluff, after a swim and lunch, for a shorter 12 kilometres circuit.

This walk, as with most coastal walks, is best at low tide so that you can explore the rock platforms, find the rusty tramway relics, and enjoy easier walking on the hard sand.

Clarence Riverside Path to Iluka Bluff

Catch an early ferry (we took the 9:30am) from Yamba. Then follow the river down to the mouth, walking first through the caravan park until you join the concrete walkway around Iluka Bay. After passing the Fishermans Co-op, a wooden sign points to “Alt Bush Track”, a delightful walk that emerges at the Marine Rescue Station and the Moriarty breakwall.

There are a number of interpretive panels on the river path. Various harbour engineering efforts were made to build training walls over the years, starting with Moriarty from 1862, then Coode from the 1890, and later works in the 1950s. A panel at the terminal wharf tells of the large cranes that lifted rocks quarried at Ilarwil off barges, while another panel describes efforts to stabilise shifting sand dunes.

We walked first up Andersons Beach, then the long curve of Iluka Beach to the Bluff. Spinifex seeds were dancing across the sand, fishermen were watching their lines patiently. Below the bluff are some remnants of the old tramway and quarry that transported rock for the breakwater in the 1860s. Then we climbed up for the lovely views of the rock platforms, north to Woody Head and south to Yamba.

Iluka Bluff has a beautiful beach to the north for a swim (patrolled in season) and a nice picnic shelter for lunch, we were joined by two inquisitive blue faced honeyeaters.

Woody Head and the Iluka Rainforest Walk

In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. You can turn around here, but we continued for another 4 km (8 km return) up the beach first to Middle Bluff, then Woody Head. North Arm, a branch of the Clarence, is thought to have once flowed to the sea at Middle Bluff. You can see Saltwater Inlet on the map, and imagine how it might have flowed to the wetland in a small depression on the north of Middle Bluff.

A dense layer of shells on the beach crunching underfoot as we walk, and gorgeous tessellated and coloured rocks to explore below Woody Head.

Woody Head campground was very busy, with sunburnt kids tearing around on their bikes. We didn’t stay for long, although there are some nice picnic tables overlooking Woody Bay, where the beach is bizarrely covered with fallen trees – the sea has been eroding the beach by 2 metres each year since the 1940s. Return by the beach.

Back at Iluka Bluff, we took the easy Iluka Rainforest walk back into town. We made it back to the wharf with plenty of time to catch the 4.00pm ferry to Yamba. Sadly, the wharf shop was closed, so our dreams of a nice cold Mango Weiss Bar at the end of our long walk were frustrated.


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Best Walks on the NSW Mid-North Coast has 40 walks from Port Macquarie to the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley.

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