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The blissful beaches of Bundjalung
  |  First Published: July 2004




BUNDJALUNG National Park is one of the lesser-known parks on the North Coast of New South Wales.

Named after the extensive local Aboriginal tribe, it is about 60km north of Grafton and 50km south of Ballina. Northern access to the Gumma Garra Picnic Area, with associated walks and excellent boating and fishing along the Evans River, is gained from the town of Evans Head, linked by bitumen roads to Woodburn and Broadwater.

Beach access can also be gained via Evans Head to one of the best beach drives in NSW – one can drive north from Evans Head through Broadwater National Park to South Ballina. This beach is renowned for its fishing, isolation and environmental amenity.

Evans Head also allows access to the magnificent Chinamans Beach with its excellent walks and pristine headlands popular with rock anglers. This northern section of Bundjalung is often neglected, partly due to ignorance and partly due to the fact that it is separated from the central and southern sections of the park by an extensive military range used primarily by the RAAF for bombing practice.

Locals are well acquainted with the sudden arrival and departure of F111s flying at extreme low altitude, day and night and in all weather. Suffice to say, this restricted section of the park is closed to the public at all times. Unexploded ordnances from World War II onwards are always a threat and RAAF personnel patrol the restricted area.

Central access to the park is gained via Gap Road, about 5km south of Woodburn along the Pacific Highway. This well-maintained road takes you to Booroora, Yabbra and Black Rocks rest areas and the magnificent, idyllic, placid waters of Jerusalem Creek.

The creek backs Ten Mile Beach and allows for canoeing and swimming. Jerusalem Creek would have to be one of my favourite coastal stream/lagoon areas anywhere on the North Coast, with its sheltered, tannin-stained waters fringed by a combination of rainforest, paperbark woodland and heathland. 4WD access to Ten Mile Beach is allowed to the south only and one can drive south to Shark Bay to access the southern sections of the park. Day and camping facilities in the central part of the park are excellent, although campers should bring their own water.

ILUKA, WOODY HEAD

The southern section of the park lies north of Iluka and is accessed from the main Iluka road. Woody Head Camping Area is an extremely popular destination for locals and holidaymakers and is well-known for its beach and rock fishing. Woody Head, Back Beach, Frazers Reef and Iluka Bluff are all top rock platforms for bream, blackfish, jewfish, tailor, drummer, groper and snapper.

4WD beach access is provided at Shark Bay with beach driving allowing access to Ten Mile Beach and for those wanting to walk the primitive zone dominated by the Esk River – the longest natural and undisturbed coastal river system on the North Coast. Once again canoeing this river is an environmental delight.

Iluka is located on the northern banks of the Clarence River and, with its twin town of Yamba on the southern shore, caters for some of the best estuary fishing and boating on the North Coast.

One can readily appreciate why Bundjalung is such a jewel in the crown of North Coast national parks, with its diverse environments combined with a wide range of recreational activities – all backed up by easy and convenient access to Iluka, Woodburn and Evans Head. It should also be noted that Woodburn provides excellent access to the middle and lower reaches of the expansive Richmond River.

Bundjalung offers a great range of things to see and do. Within its 17,700ha, the variety of environments includes 38km of beaches, sections of littoral (coastal) rainforest, heathlands, coastal cypress, lagoons and swamps on relatively undisturbed coastal plains.

Beautiful sand rock formations abound, especially at Black Rocks and along the Esk River. The park contains a wide variety of native flora and fauna and is a bird-watcher’s delight. A total of 205 bird species, 30 mammals, 38 reptiles and 13 amphibians have been recorded in the park, reflecting its wide diversity.

Fortunately, the park has escaped intensive environmental change associated with agriculture and timber-getting, although sand mining in the coast dunes during the 1960s and early 1970s has disturbed these important systems which are now subject to careful conservational management and rehabilitation.

ABORIGINAL HERITAGE

Evidence of Aboriginal occupation is extensive – middens and camp sites are found throughout the park and a number of stone tool workshops, canoe trees and other artefacts are in evidence for those who know where to look. These are witness to the richness and diversity of the natural habitats which supported the Bundjalung people for thousands of years. Please remove nothing of Aboriginal significance and maintain respect for this unique heritage.

Rest areas provide picnic and simple camping, including fireplaces, pit toilets, tables, garbage pits and firewood. Fresh water is not supplied. Caravanning and camping is provided at the Woody Had Camping Area, which caters for extended holidays with water and all facilities provided.

Private accommodation and shopping facilities are at Iluka, Yamba, Maclean, Woodburn and Evans Head, with Evans boasting the largest caravan park in the Southern Hemisphere!)

For the off-roader, Bundjalung provides an excellent environmental retreat. While off-road recreational vehicle access is not permitted in the park, 4WD access is permitted to the beach between Shark Bay and Black Rocks.

All vehicles must be registered and drivers licensed. Vehicles should carry appropriate recovery gear and restrict driving to the zone between high and low water to minimise disturbance of nesting birds such as the pied oystercatcher.

‘Tread lightly’ is not just a case of words – it must be put into practice if we are to continue to gain access to these magnificent beaches.

Further 4WD opportunities can be accessed south of Woodburn within the Richmond Range to the south and west of New Italy, about 12km south of Woodburn. A variety of tracks cover the Doubleduke, Tabbimoble, Devils Pulpit and Gibberagee forestry areas. The Casino State Forests Map provides a good coverage of this area as well as Bundjalung National Park.

In summary, Bundjalung is renowned for its solitude, isolation and pristine qualities. Environmentally-based recreational activities are limited only by one’s imagination and one can often find one’s self alone in the wilderness.

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