Seaside camping at Woody Head
  |  First Published: August 2005

It’s been several years since I reviewed the camping facilities at wonderful Woody Head in Iluka, and given that there have been some significant changes there, I figured an update would be timely.

The entrance to the Woody Head camping area is on the east side of the main road into Iluka around 3km from town. As our vehicle makes its way in along the new bitumen entry road (they have done away with all the potholes and muddy puddles at last!) the rainforest presses in from each side and even overhead. Thick undergrowth is laced with liana vines, tree ferns and orchids and the odd wallaby or scrub turkey is not at all out of place.

Around 200m from the Iluka road the main camping and recreation area comes into view. Few camping areas are as close to the sea as this one and with the small campground situated on the northeast tip of the big rocky outcrop that constitutes Woody Head, the views are simply stunning.

Off to the north is Shark Bay, with its wonderful mackerel and reef fishing, while on the eastern tip of the camping area the main headland offers great rockfishing if sea conditions are right. But more on this later, let’s look at camping facilities.

This unique camping area is established within the Bundjalung National Park, which means that, in line with National Parks elsewhere in New South Wales, you must pay to enter, even if only visiting for the day. Yearly passes are available and priced from $22 while a daily pass is currently set at $7. Passes are issued at the office in the camping area, which has a handy kiosk for basic food and ice. The friendly staff at the office can direct you to just the right sort of camping site depending on your needs. Please note that there are no powered sites at Woody Head, so you’ll need to bring a fluoro or gas light or go to bed very early indeed. When camping though, quiet nights are the norm and many people do retire early with just the rise and fall of the sea to lull them to sleep. The contact number to make a booking is (02) 6646 6134.

Sites are generally quite level with plenty of grassed areas throughout. The entire camping area is sheltered from the strong southerly and westerly winds that prevail at this time of year due to the headland’s mass to the south. A rather interesting and pleasant aspect of Woody Head is that most people seem to favour tents. Many campers come here year after year and this makes for a very friendly, laidback sort of atmosphere that has long gone from some of the more up-market caravan parks of today. Sites at Woody Head are well delineated and quite large. Cabins are also provided but their limited number means that first in is best dressed. Booking well ahead is the go.

Amenities in this well-run park are very clean with plenty of showers in each block and washtubs are provided. Around the park there are gas barbeques for sunset cook-ups and much-appreciated fireplaces (with wood provided) to ward off the winter cold. There are ample picnic tables right next to the water as well. These are great vantage spots from which to enjoy the ocean views or have a nice cold drink while watching the RAAF’s F1-11 jets zoom overhead en route to the practice range at Evans Head.

Let’s look at the fishing around the area, because there sure is plenty to be had. The small surf beach at Woody Head, next to the boat ramp is a prime place to catch whiting and many anglers do just that.

I mentioned Shark Bay earlier and the well-signed beach access point is a couple of kilometres before the camping area’s entrance. You’ll need a 4WD and the Bundjalung National Park access pass to head onto the beach, which extends for many kilometres up towards Evans Head. Catching whiting, bream or dart from the beach is fun for all the family, and worms and pipis can be easily gathered for bait. Tailor are caught in the deeper gutters and holes where conditions suit the fish.

Shark Bay is also great for boaters, although sea conditions will need to be on the mild side to get out there. The launching ramp at Woody Head is not the world’s foremost but is suited to smaller craft given that most launching is going to be into shallow water with wave action a factor. Low tide launches are best as the nearby rock outcrop tends to shelter things somewhat. A four-wheel drive is virtually mandatory to retrieve a boat up the steep ramp. The rewards, in the form of sensational mackerel fishing and bottom fishing for snapper, are certainly there and when conditions are mild it doesn’t get much better than Shark Bay.

Despite the good beach and boat fishing, the fantastic rockfishing is actually what draws many campers to Woody Head. You can grab the rod and be fishing for jew, bream, tailor, drummer, black fish or groper in just a couple of minutes. Another option is floating a livie out under a balloon for a big mackerel in summer. It’s important to remember though, that there are no high and dry ledges at Woody Head. If you want to rockfish in safety, it pays to watch the water for at least ten minutes, or more if you are a newcomer, and only fish where rocks are dry.

That said, there are plenty of little nooks and crannies from which to extract a bream or luderick, and sufficient higher spots to cast a lure or bait for tailor, providing seas are down. Remember, you will need to purchase a fishing licence from one of the bait shops at Iluka.

Whether you are there for the fishing or the unique seaside location and relaxed atmosphere of the caravan park, Woody Head should be able to put a smile on your face.

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